Amid the noise ahead of our Champions League duties the most important news in European football went largely below radar. Angel Maria Villar Llona pulled out of the race to become Uefa president ahead of next week’s election. This leaves former Ajax chief, Michael van Praag and Slovenian FA president, Aleksander Ceferin, left in the race.
This is good news. The big Spanish clubs have been prime movers in clawing as much power for Europe’s richest leagues, their cause would have been boosted if Villar Llona was elected. By contrast, van Praag’s Ajax heritage reflects those marginalised by smaller TV deals, including Celtic.
We don’t want an inextricable slide towards a Champions League where meritocracy is replaced by the rich looking after themselves. This is the desire of rich clubs in Spain and Germany, who worry about the commercial drift towards the FA Premier League.
Instead, regionalisation of Europe’s leagues is a far better option, even for the Spanish, who if they want to earn commercial deals comparable to the English and Welsh league should team up with Portugal and France.
Every month I’m asked by an 11-year-old, “Will Celtic win the Champions League in my lifetime?” If we want to be champions of Europe again we need to end the national league structure which has disenfranchised more than half of the continent already, including many former powers in the game.
News that Leonel Messi has returned to light training after injury means he is almost certain to start against Celtic on Tuesday. His base fitness and lifestyle is such that a few days training is all that he’ll need to be match ready.