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The Roar


Fascinating and open Champions League draw just what the competition needs

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19th March, 2023

Criticism has recently been aimed at top European clubs blessed with endless funds and ridiculous wage bills to assemble the most talented and expensive squads in world football.

The discussions around a potential Super League format between massive clubs in England, Spain, Italy, and France epitomised this. Although not UEFA’s fault, their own policy of Financial Fair Play has continuously been clouded with questions and controversy since its inception in 2011.

Would we ever see another fairytale run as the one witnessed in 2004, when Jose Mourinho guided Portuguese underdogs FC Porto to European glory?

Quality will undoubtedly outshine and prevail more often than an underdog story, but this Champions League campaign is teaching us once again that money and financial power don’t always translate to success on the pitch.

Over the past decade, French giants Paris-Saint-Germain have spent almost €1.5 billion in transfer fees, yet there is still nothing to show for their investments as they’re still waiting on their first Champions League title. Three consecutive exits in the round of 16 haven’t eased the pressure as well.

Manchester City is another example of being overtaken by wealthy Qatari ownership and no European cup to their name. A tough quarter-final matchup against Bayern Munich for Pep Guardiola’s men could spell for another disappointing and underachieving campaign.

So no, the Super League is not at all necessary to create an even competition.


As much as it’s important to possess huge financial resources to attract the best players, it’s also worth noting that sometimes, knowledge actually triumphs over wealth.

On Friday night, the draw for the quarter-final stage took place in Nyon, Switzerland, where the winners of Chelsea and Real Madrid will face either Manchester City or Bayern on one side of the bracket. The opposite half sees the winner of Inter Milan and Benfica play against AC Milan or Napoli, in what is no doubt the easier side of the draw.

It may be easier as all four teams can rightly feel as though they can progress all the way to the final, but they are not pushovers and deserve to be competing at this phase of the tournament.

The separation of the favourites and the outsiders was what UEFA and the neutrals were crying out for. It’s a stern reminder that success doesn’t just come from what’s in the pocket, but more importantly the planning, structure, and strategies put in place to achieve long-term goals.

Hirving Lozano of Napoli, Daley Blind of Ajax (Photo by Patrick Goosen/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Napoli envisioned a clear plan before the start of this season. They surprisingly sold their three most influential players Lorenzo Insigne, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Dries Mertens which gave Neapolitan fans no choice but to feel pessimistic about the future.

Instead, president Aurelio De Laurentiis along with coach Luciano Spaletti and the hierarchy identified some hidden gems, no more impressive than Gerogian sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, bought for only €10 million.


Now, they’ve transformed into arguably the most exciting team to watch in Europe and are rightfully the dark horses to win the Champions League.

Seven-time European winners Milan have experienced a similar path since the appointment of club icon Paolo Maldini as sporting director, implementing the strategy of less spending, smart purchases at bargain prices, and more emphasis on youth to develop over time.

An expansive brand of football, albeit having to revert back to defending recently, saw them win the Scudetto last season. A quarter-final appearance in Europe demonstrates their incredible rise and how their intelligent planning is paying dividends.

Cross-town rivals Inter Milan have also shifted their approach and planning by hiring an attacking-minded coach in Simone Inzaghi while finding the right balance within the squad.

Let’s not forget about Benfica who are criminally flying under the radar. The Portuguese giants have only lost one game in all competitions this season, scoring 86 goals and using their scouting knowledge and youth academy to keep successfully producing and replacing former players such as Darwin Núñez and Enzo Fernández.

The Champions League draw is incredibly open, and that can only be a good thing for the competition. We can celebrate the unpredictability of the sport once more and remind ourselves just why football is the greatest sport on the planet.

Some will argue that this is just a one-off in terms of the openness of the draw, but you could also argue that it might just provide the blueprint for other clubs with less money to follow.


Success is not immune to any club.

Unbelievable results can be achieved with limited funds and resources, just ask those four clubs. One of them is going to be a Champions League finalist.