The plan to add “wildcard” teams to the Champions League was mooted earlier this week.
AC Milan director Umberto Gandini has a plan to get his club and Manchester United back into the Champions League, without them having to actually win games.
Speaking at the Leaders In Sport conference this week, the director unveiled his odd idea for getting the clubs back into football’s biggest tournament.
“If you are not able to be at the same level in terms of investment in your squad then you pay a big price because to then not play in Europe leads to large reductions in the ability to spend,” Gandini is reported as saying by football-italia.
“Every year there are big teams that lose out on the opportunity to get into the Champions League. There should be some sort of wildcard of play-off for them.
“There should be a wildcard for the teams that have prestige and who have also the stature to compete in the Champions League.”
Gandini’s plan, as much as Manchester United fans might like the idea, is clearly impractical. The implication that certain teams have a divine right to be in the competition through “history” clearly goes against everything the competition stands for.
To an extent Gandini is right – clubs may struggle to get in the competition due to a lack of invesment, but then who is to blame for that? Manchester United make almost £500m a year, whose fault is it that they decided to neglect the squad for several seasons? Milan may not be as rich as that, but they certainly don’t need to subsist on free transfers and loan deals as they have in the last few years.
If UEFA were to implement Grandini’s plan, all that would happen would be that Manchester United and Milan would be able to spend even less on transfers and still get into the Champions League. Their owners would take more from the clubs, and more of the supporters’ hard earned money would be leaving football.
Lucky, then, that UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was also at the conference to immediately dismiss the plan.
“There is no chance that a wildcard will be applied in the context of European competitions. It will never happen.
“The European Cup is not an affair of play-offs and wildcards, but of competitive and sporting merit.”
Unlucky, Umberto, looks like you’ll have to actually buy some players this time round.