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DUTCH LEGEND BACKS EURO CELTS

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EDWIN VAN DER SAR, the legendary Holland international goalkeeper who is now chief executive at Ajax, is backing Celtic in Europe.

The former Manchester United No.1 has called on UEFA to improve the Hoops’ Champions League qualification hopes by taking into account the Parkhead club’s standing in the game rather than Scotland’s co-efficient.

The Scots face four qualifying rounds just to make the group stages and Van der Sar insists they are being punished for the failure of the country’s other representatives in Europe.

Van der Sar revealed he has held talks with Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell as they try to find a way to ensure the voices of big clubs outside the top five leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France are heard by UEFA.

Champions League shocktroops Ajax, who dumped holders Real Madrid out of the competition with an incredible 4-1 triumph in the Bernabeu last week, had to come through three qualifying rounds before overcoming Celtic’s conquerors AEK Athens to reach the group stages.

The ex-international shotstopper admitted it is getting tougher for teams outside the so-called Big Five to even get into Champions League group stage.

Van der Sar, speaking in the Daily Record, said: “That is the difficulty for the smaller and mid-sized countries. Celtic and Ajax are great names in history. They both have great followings, all over the world, not just in Holland and Scotland.

“They are historic clubs, they have both won the European Cup, but that is why it is difficult not to be involved. We see the Champions League running away a little bit.”

Hoops supremo Lawwell and Van der Sar have a shared vision from their roles on the European Club Association, an independent body representing 232 clubs from 54 countries.

Senior club execs from across the continent met several times last month to try and shape UEFA policy about the Champions League and Europa League, and especially entry to the group stages.

The Amsterdam club’s chief added: “I have been talking to Peter Lawwell for some time. The ECA is talking to UEFA, trying to make sure there is more participation and more possibilities for clubs from medium and smaller-sized countries, so we can develop and play football at this level.

“Many of us are looking at a different way of how teams are set up and how the competition is set up.

“Maybe to look at the co-efficient of the club, see at what the club has done in Europe, than only looking at the national co-efficient. And not just recent years.”

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