After Liverpool’s win on Tuesday against Internazionale, the quarter-final participants are now set and the draw will be held on Friday. Torres struck a lovely goal to win the second leg 1-0 for his team and insure that they would progress with a 3-0 aggregate score.
It is interesting to note the shift in power in the last few seasons. In 2003 three Italian teams reached the semi-finals, with Juventus and Milan ultimately contesting the final. Now in 2008, four English clubs are in the quarter-finals.
What has caused this shift in power to the English-based clubs? Certainly, the domestic league TV money has helped but the top four in England have had very little in the way of challengers for their Champions League spots. This has not been the case in Spain, Italy or Germany where the domestic leagues are much more competitive on a game-in, game-out basis.
Success in the Champions League is certainly helping to increase the gulf between the “Big Four” and the rest of their competitors. Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool earned between 15 and 27 million GBP from the cash fountain that is Europe’s premier club competition. With a new television deal bids ongoing, the Premier League elite are set to cash in even more, with speculation pegging each club being able to earn between 20 and 35 million GBP in a single Champions League season, including sponsorship money and prize money.
That money allows them to attract the top talents of the world but the composition of their rosters will again raise concerns for the English national team. Only two English players started for Liverpool, four for Chelsea, none for Arsenal and four for Manchester United.
Beyond the national team concerns, is the English Premier League really the strongest/best league at the moment? Or are the “Big Four” English teams merely able to cash in on a weaker domestic league? Can there even be such a thing as a “best league”?