Is UEFA Champions League Still Fun?

As we move toward another finish of the UEFA Champions League and the crowning of another champion, I find myself continually less and less interested in the matches.

The Champions League, which grew out of the old European Cup, began its current rendition in 1992, when a group stage was added. The UEFA Champions League is widely considered the most prestigious club tournament in the world – allowing in only the top teams in European nations to take part.

There is no denying it features the top clubs in the world, but in 2019 is it actually still any fun?

It seems year after year, the same few clubs are left standing in the final four, with even fewer hoisting the trophy when the dust settles.

Growing up, I used to rush to the computer lab and dial-up internet to watch the latest Champions League matches. I watched clubs like Marseilles, Porto, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax make runs to the title.

The days of a club like this winning it all seems ancient history and the tournament has a feeling now of a foregone conclusion.

I broke down the numbers to see if parity really had departed as much as it has seemed to me:

  • Since the format change in 1992, only 12 clubs have won the Champions League (22 total clubs have won a European title)
  • 8 of these clubs won their title prior to the year 2009-2010.
  • Which means in this decade, only 4 clubs have won the Champions League trophy (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Inter Milan).
  • In this decade, Barcelona and Real Madrid have 6 of the 9 available Champions League trophies.
  • If you expand to semi-finals it doesn’t add much parity either – only 14 clubs have made it to the final four in this decade. (Out of a possible 36 semi-final slots).
  • Compare this to the years prior to 2010, 26 different clubs made it at least as far as semi-final.
  • No team from outside the countries of Spain, England, Italy, Germany or France has made a semi-final this decade.
  • Compare this to the years prior to 2010, in addition to the five countries above, semi-finalists also came from Portugal, Netherlands, Greece and Ukraine.

The numbers seem to show that the ability to reach the final four and ultimately win the whole tournament is something a very small number of clubs can afford.

Parity has never been a huge facet of international club soccer, but it seems it is less now than it has ever been. Perhaps I just long for the “good old days,” but as a tournament, I struggle to be drawn to watch much Champions League – we all have a pretty good idea as to how it will end.

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