April 2nd, 2013
11:56 AM ET

Pedro's Point of View: Tough at the top of Champions League summit

Ruud Gullit (right), this week's guest on CNN FC, won back-to-back European titles with AC Milan. (Getty Images).
Ruud Gullit (right), this week's guest on CNN FC, won back-to-back European titles with AC Milan. (Getty Images).

How tough is it to win the Champions League? So tough that since the competition's format was changed in 1991, no team has won the trophy in consecutive years.

You may know that the last club to successfully defend its title was AC Milan, and that was a side which had some world class players in its ranks. I am talking about guys like Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten among others.

As I prepare to interview Gullit on the CNN FC show this week, I decided to take a closer look at all the challenges clubs face in winning the competition these days, and I will tell you what, I don’t think any club will win back-to-back titles any time soon.

The modern Champions League is a lot tougher to win than the old European Cup.

Why? The new format is obviously one of the reasons. With so many clubs from the highest-ranked nations in the group phase draw, the odds are high that contenders will have to face each other early in the competition.

Just look at what happened in Group D this season. We had Real Madrid, Borrussia Dortmund, Ajax and Manchester City battling for two qualifying spots for the knock-out stages.

You compare that situation with what happened two or three decades ago, and you can see the difference very clearly.

The Milan side which won back-to-back titles faced the likes of HJK Helsinki of Finland and Vitosha of Bulgaria in the first round, beating them on aggregate 5-0 and 7-2 respectively.

The other reason I believe no team will be able to win consecutive Champions League trophies is the competition you have out there right now.

There are so many big clubs with big money who can become contenders almost overnight. Look at Chelsea, look at Paris Saint-Germain, look at Zenit St. Petersburg.

These are just three teams who paid top dollar for top talent and went from being pretenders to contenders in the blink of an eye.

If we have a quick look at what could be heading our way in the future, we see that the likes of Monaco in France and Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia now have spending power which could seem them join the Champions League ranks very quickly.

Again, this is a completely different landscape to the one we had in the old European Cup. Every year, you had four or five favorites and perhaps four or five underdogs. That was it.

It was quite uncommon to see teams come out of nowhere to become contenders from one day to the next. And if they did it, then it was because they developed slowly into a solid unit, not because they suddenly acquired talent.

Finally, I believe there are a lot more quality players to choose from now than there were in the old days.

Football is a truly global sport and the Champions League is a truly global competition. According to UEFA, there were 68 nationalities represented in last season’s Champions League and do you know what country had the third most representatives? Brazil.

That never would have happened three or four decades ago. There were fewer talented players to recruit, they were mostly from Europe, and they went to the select few clubs who could afford them.

So you know what? AC Milan’s achievement as the last club to win consecutive trophies is going to last for a while.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Christopher Baker

    I agree with all of that but as a consequence of the huge financial incentive of Champions League progress, domestic cup competitions suffer in terms of quality of football and prestige.

    April 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  2. Erskine Sam

    I firmly agree that the new format of the European Cup (Champions League now) is surely harder to win and more harder to defend it now as more clubs tend to indulge all their efforts to their play as long as they are participating in it in order to win it. There are now Clubs from all over Europe who have pumped in large amounts of money into it's players and infrastructure so there's abundant talent mostly interspersed all over

    April 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  3. johnny

    It's crazy that even the current Barca, arguably the most dominant force post-1991, has also so far failed to win the trophy twice... Why?

    April 3, 2013 at 3:19 am | Reply
  4. adebalogun

    It is not impossible. It is just becoming difficult than before which is good for the competitiveness of the game.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  5. adebalogun

    It is not impossible. It's just difficult which is good for the game. If individual country league can be that competitive, football will be awesome. I am tired of a league with one team winning the league titles for 20 times.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  6. Steve B

    This seems like a pretty simplistic argument – "won't happen again in a while?" Not a very definitive description.

    The basis for the argument seems valid – but is this not a "keen eye for the obvious" scenario?

    Are you suggesting that something needs to change to make it easier to win back to back titles?

    I struggle to see the purpose of the article other than to point out something football fans already know..

    April 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  7. Roland

    I would create a true European league from the top teams in Europe and then return either the champions league or UEFA cup into the knock out cup competition it was meant to be.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  8. Imran Fariz

    Winning UCL is getting harder by the season.Teams are getting stronger and wealthier.Competition to win is like never before.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:51 am | Reply
  9. Rory Smit

    I agree, especially because it explains how overrated a team like Real Madrid is. True, they won 9 European Cups but how many of them were in Champions League format?

    April 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  10. Annor Ernest

    UCL is obviously hard to win since teams are getting more resourced with world class managers and players. it is really a competition of champions.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:23 am | Reply
  11. edson

    i also agree with pedro 's opinion because we know that champions leagueis the most competitive league in europe and on each year the club 's desire of wining the trophy increases ,and they invest on that because this is a competition that gives much money and is very respected in europe reason why it has been becaming harder to win and we can see this year we had on third stage malaga, borrusia, galataray teams that worked hard and invested to reach this level and we were not excpeting that they could do it but they did. And this year nobody knows who is going to win the trophy but i hope that real madrid get the 10th,

    April 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  12. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Big players with big clubs that offer big money may not always be enough to win big trophies.

    Loyalty of the footballers to the fans, clubs, fellow footballers in the team are important if players dream of marching to the podium and get the cherished winner's medal round their necks.

    April 24, 2013 at 7:45 am | Reply

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