With Britain (briefly) boasting five clubs in this year’s Europa League, we should have been enthralled as a nation of football fans, as we anticipate our representative’s chances of bringing back the glory.
But instead, high percentages of supporters, even of those four English clubs (Tottenham, Liverpool and previously West Ham and Southampton) look at the competition as a mere nuisance that could deter their chances of success in the Premier League.
Now, with Celtic appearing to have been demoted to the Europa League after their aggregate defeat to Malmo in Champions League qualification, let’s hope the Scots don’t follow suit by adopting the same attitude.
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So although I am one of the majority who feel that, since its restructuring (and renaming) from the traditional UEFA Cup, the Europa League has lost a great deal of prestige and respect amongst supporters on our shores, I certainly do not support the argument that the Europa League is simply a support act to the Champions League that hinders a club's domestic progression.
And it is at this stage where the focus must surely turn to Southampton. Almost from the moment when manager Mauricio Pochettino left St Mary’s last summer and the inevitable influx of players left the club from the south coast, many have labelled Pochettino’s former employees as a ‘selling club’.
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As the Mirror reported in June last year in the midst of Rickie Lambert’s departure to boyhood club Liverpool, the Saints bosses were quick to state “we have no need to accept any offers”.
However star man Morgan Schneiderlin has continued the trend as the latest to leave St Mary’s for a sizeable price tag and surely the failure to succeed in Europe will have substantial implications to Koeman’s chances of keeping his star names.
If we turn our attentions further North, the importance of European competition has been evident. Even when looking at arguably the largest club in the country, Manchester United and Louis van Gaal struggled to bring in the calibre of player that United needed last season to even begin to come close to the kind of expectations that a club of United’s size holds.
Ask yourself, would Van Gaal have succeeded in bringing in Dutch winger Memphis had it not have been for last season’s fourth-place finish and therefore the opportunity of Champions League football?
The same has to be said for Liverpool and Spurs and Celtic. If the fore-mentioned clubs join West Ham and Southampton (sorry Hammers and Saints fans) with early exits from the Europa League, as we saw with Manchester United last season, then what are their chances of bringing in top quality talent from across the continent and beyond?
Look no further than last year’s winners Sevilla and their signing of Adil Rami from AC Milan to see the kind of player that European glory can bring to a club.
There is also that small matter of automatic Champions League Qualification for the winner.
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