Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has suggested a reformed Champions League could see clubs who reach the latter stages “protected”.
His proposal could see last season’s semi-finalists Ajax placed in the 2019/20 group stage, despite their nation’s poor coefficient ranking.
As things currently stand, the newly-crowned Dutch champions are not guaranteed participation in next season’s extravaganza and will have to navigate two qualification rounds if they want to reach the group stages. Erik ten Hag’s men, incidentally, last year became the first side to come through three qualifying rounds and make the final four.
Because of how modern football is economically structured, reaching the Champions League doesn’t ensure Ajax will keep hold of their key players, but it would make life easier, and the same goes for other sides who overperform. A recent example is AS Monaco, who saw many contributing to their 2016/17 run, notably Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva, leave the following summer.
Ceferin, since assuming the Uefa presidency in 2016 following Michel Platini’s fall from grace, has been hellbent on levelling the playing field of European club football, which sees the concentration of power in the hands of a few clubs.
One area which has turned into a battlefield is the Champions League, with Ceferin keen for it to be reformed, as a means of staving off renewed talks of a super league and helping those clubs that overachieve by guaranteeing a spot in the following season’s competition.
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“We would like to protect teams like Ajax this year, or Monaco and Leicester City before,” he told the Times.
“Ajax played the semi-finals this year and now they will have to sell all their players because they don’t know if they will qualify for the Champions League next year.
“I don’t think we should protect too many clubs, because then it’s too closed, but I think we have to protect some clubs. One idea is that those clubs who succeed at a certain stage of the competition can compete the following year too. But it is a discussion only. We have a meeting on September 11 to debate it with leagues and clubs.”
Ajax’s plight and the state of UCL qualification: Five key things to know…
- The Netherlands are currently ranked 12th in Uefa’s country ranking.
- It means last season’s UCL semi-finalists and Dutch champions Ajax must qualify for the 2019/20 tournament.
- Erik ten Hag’s men begin in the third qualifying round with success moving them into the play-off round.
- The present four best-ranked nations – Spain, England, Germany and Italy – have four teams in next season’s group stage.
- 26 of the 32 teams have already been confirmed with six places up for grabs.