I love the Uefa Cup now the Europa League.
As a Celtic fan the happiest days in my childhood were those spent in anxious anticipation on cold Thursdays waiting to see the next chapter in the historic Road to Seville unfurl.
Watching heroes like Thompson, Sutton, Petrov and above all Henrik Larsson compete against sides from England, Portugal, Spain and Germany was about as good as life got for a football loving eleven year old.
It is a tremendous shame then to see the governing officials at UEFA; mutate the sleek, competitive and most importantly desirable knock-out tournament into a sad, sickly, pale imitation of the Champion’s League. Combine this with the riches now on offer in the Barclay’s Premier League and you have a tournament that no one in this country takes as seriously as they could.
Mauricio Pochettino falls, albeit reluctantly, into this bracket. Despite showing the competition more respect than most, you get the impression that if Spurs can continue to compete with the upper echelons of the league then the continental adventure will be quickly jettisoned.
Spurs have found, after October’s 1-1 draw in the Stade Louis ii, that this is a hugely different Monaco side to the one that made it to the Champion’s League quarter finals, eliminating Arsenal en route. The Principality based club have adopted a similar strategy to the likes of Porto and Sporting Lisbon, a strategy in which their aim is to buy young talented gems for reasonable prices and sell for vast swathes of cash. After a season in which they surprised the majority of football fans they have sold Martial (Manchester United), Kondogbia (Inter Milan), Abdennour (Valencia), Kurzawa (PSG) and Ferreira Carrasco (Athletico Madrid) for a grand total of around £105.7million. In an attempt to repeat the cycle they have signed young prospects such as Cavaleiro, Traore, Lopes and Fabinho, as well as the loan signings of more established stars El Shaarawy and Coentrao.
With such a large churning of players a transition was always going to be difficult and so it has proved; Monaco sit 4th in Ligue 1, resting behind minnows Caen and Angers. Europe has shown to be not much of a sanctuary. Currently sitting 3rd Monaco require a win in North London as well as Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag avoiding defeat at the hands of Anderlecht if they are to enjoy European football after Christmas. For Spurs the permutations are much simpler; they are already guaranteed a place in the knock-out stage whilst a point would also ensure finishing as group winners.
Pochettino has turned down this as an opportunity to rotate his squad ahead of the notoriously hectic Christmas schedule, saying “there may be one or two more changes but not much.” Spurs fans are quite right to be elated at the current situation they find themselves, however, it saddens me that young fans will probably be denied the feverous excitement that can only be supplied by a run in Europe, when the domestic season begins to heat up.
Having said that in Pochettino Spurs have a manager that often bucks the trend and with a Champion’s League place on offer for the eventual winners it is an avenue to success that the Argentine may opt to travel, I sincerely hope he does.