So, failing to qualify for the Champion’s League is not the disaster that all the “experts” predicted it would be. In fact it appears to have had little or no impact on the two main “failures” in England. These are the two teams who contested the final only eight years ago in Moscow! The ability of Manchester United and Chelsea to sign top players and managers does not appear to have been diminished at all.

It is probably true to say that a prolonged absence from the competition would begin to have a negative effect at some stage as a considerable amount of money can be made by appearing in Europe’s top competition. The loss of this money over a sustained period would prove harmful to the clubs trying to attract the best players and, by doing so, make qualifying again the following year a more difficult proposition. In this respect it is a vicious circle.

Arsenal are prime examples of the merry-go-round. They qualify for the competition every year, sometimes in fourth place, sometimes in third. They recently qualified in second place but it is a long time since they won the Premier League and qualified as champions. For this reason Arsene Wenger is accused of lacking ambition. It is said that he is happy to qualify for the competition even though they generally get knocked out in the first knock-out stage, having scraped through the group. Judging by the lack of money spent by the club, it is hard to disagree with this opinion.

So perpetual qualification is the requirement. Forget winning the thing, that would be a nice bonus, but Arsenal prefer the old cliche which says that “taking part is more important than winning.” Taking part every year is certainly far more lucrative than winning it once then failing to qualify in three out of the next five years!

Short term absence appears to have little effect on a big club. N’Golo Kanté, for example, has just left Leicester City who have qualified for the Champion’s League as Premier League winners. Where has he gone? Chelsea! A club who finished TENTH last season therefore not qualifying for a European place in any competition.

In fairness, Kanté probably does foresee many more seasons of European involvement at a club like Chelsea than he is liable to get by staying at Leicester so, in that respect, he has sacrificed the short term so as to benefit in the long term.

Manchester United, who have failed to qualify for two of the last three seasons, have fared even better than Chelsea. They attracted Angle Di Maria and Falcao after the first failure and, up to date, have attracted Henrikh Mhkitaryan, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the second. It looks as though they will also acquire Paul Pogba from Juventus in the near future and what do all these players have in common? Yes, you’re quite right! They would all be playing Champion’s League football next season had they stayed at their previous clubs.

Is the Champion’s League losing some of it’s glamour? Or are players just gambling on only being absent for a very short period. If it is the latter then they will be extremely well rewarded for their time away from the competition.

An alternative theory put forward has been the strength of the Premier League thanks to the money from various TV packages. This means, in theory anyway, that the Premier League attracts the best players because it is the best league with the most money. On this basis, Champion’s League football should be considered a bonus as the holy grail is playing in England.

This is a theory I don’t completely support because Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and Suarez play in Spain , not England. Granted they are all of a Latino background so Spain will be more familiar for them than England, especially the language and the weather. But where is their ambition? How much of a challenge is it to play for a team which will finish first or second every season and often win the Champion’s League. In fact, the only time these teams face any real competition is for a few games in Europe. This, however, is a different discussion, one which was had in an article last year which you can read here, if it is of interest to you.

The conclusion is that, whatever the effect of Champion’s League non-qualification, it is better not to leave it too long before returning to the competition as the argument ceases to exist if your club qualifies every year, just ask Arsene!


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