Recently Tottenham’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto was talking about the importance of qualifying for the Champions League and then made a rather hash referral to the Europa League.
“A few months ago, I said I never wanted to participate in the Europa League, because this competition is useless.”
This seems a rather insulting claim to a major European competition but I can see where this mentality comes from. For a long time the idea of playing in the Europa League, or as previously known the UEFA Cup, was not look at as something to be proud of. Well that seems to be the case in England. Even when Manchester United dropped down to the Europa League this season Sir Alex claimed it was a ‘punishment’ for failing in the Champions League.
Mostly this idea comes from the fact that the Champions League is so highly regarded as the best players and clubs compete in it. And so it rightly should claim to be the best league in the world. If the best clubs play in this competition then surly any other tournament will only feature sub-par sides. I also guess the finical rewards of winning the Europa title is not seen as much of an incentive to risk your best players in matches against teams from minnow nations in the earlier rounds of the tournament. This season Spurs were guilty of fielding weaker sides in their Europa matches compared to the Premier League. But that is not to say that the Europa League is something to dismiss straight away. The next edition of the competition will feature some big clubs and may turn out to a competition that will rival (but obviously not surpass) the Champions League.
Here is a look at the teams that will be involved next season:
- Tottenham Hotspurs
- Newcastle United
- Atletico Madrid
- Athletic Bilbao
- Inter Milan
- Bayer Leverkusen
- PSV Eindhoven
- CSKA Moscow
- Anzhi Makhachkala
If you just judge these clubs by their name and reputation alone then it looks like a good roster of a European Competition. There are four former Champions League winners in the above names mentioned. I included the Russian’s Anzhi in the list as this is the club that has recently been involved in some big transfers (Eto’o, Roberto Carlos, Chris Samba) and have a huge financial backing so many eyes will be on how they preform.
Of course no neutral is going to watch the Europa League over the Champions League. But the point is that people shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the League as a sort of amateurish league thats not worthy of our viewing time. Even in the tournament just passed Athletic Bilbao turned out to be a great surprise for the viewing public. They became the neutrals favourite after their impressive displays against Manchester United. Their style of play came was a breath of fresh air. It was refreshing to see a so called ‘smaller’ side defeating a traditional European super club.
So fans of the clubs listed above should be optimistic about some exciting ties that are sure to come up. While it may not have the prestige or reputation of the Champions League that is not to say that the quality of standard of football will be any poorer. Who knows, this league just might surprise you.