Stubborn, arrogant and dead wrong regarding a number of critical issues facing his club, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger was essentially right about one hugely important issue facing European football: the need for a European Super League.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea, a European Super League is a proposed alternative to the current UEFA Champions League. Instead of grouping top European teams into an elimination tournament, Europe's finest would instead form a "super league" where top teams from each league would compete against each other on a weekly basis throughout the course of the season.
Mirroring the standard domestic league format, the team with the most points at the end of the season would win the league. The bottom three or perhaps four teams would be relegated.
In a 2009 interview, Wenger explained, "I'm not sure 100% that I'm right but I feel inside our game there are some voices behind the scenes coming up to do something about that, especially if the rules become too restrictive for these clubs."
While his reasoning would prove to be faulty, his conclusion is spot on.
Wenger's 8-2 annihilation to (former) rival Sir Alex Ferguson and his sprightly Red Devils proved to be the latest example of a filthy rich club completely dominating a more humble opponent. Despite the 2011-2012 season marking the first monitoring period for UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, the top clubs continue to spend lavishly.
Naturally, they grow continuously stronger than their less wealthy league opponents.
With Manchester City clobbering Tottenham, last season's fifth-place finisher, 5-1, Liverpool unfortunate to only win 3-1 against Bolton, Barcelona steamrolling highly-touted Villareal 5-0 in their La Liga opener and Real Madrid topping their arch-rivals with a 6-0 evisceration of Real Zaragoza, Europe's top financed clubs appear to be playing in the wrong leagues.
Something has to change.
Before you ask, I'm not a football socialist, and I'm not advocating for further financial restrictions to level the playing field.
Also, I'm not a renegade separatist advocating for top teams to split from UEFA and form their own league entirely independent of UEFA.
I'm actually quite moderate.
Yet, as a loyal Manchester United supporter, I'll be damned if I have to watch five one-sided victories over weak opponents for every decent match against a quality opponent.
My Plan for a European Super League
While several other managers and numerous sports journalists have discussed the idea for the past several years, I've not yet seen anyone develop the framework for such a league. With this thought in mind, here's my idea for how the European Super League would work.
Entirely replacing the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super League would initially feature the top three clubs from the English Premier League (EPL), the Bundesliga and Serie A and the top two teams from La Liga and Ligue 1. One club from each Portugal, Holland, Belgium, Ukraine and Russia would combine for five more members, and an additional two vacancies would be awarded to two clubs from smaller leagues which advanced through a qualification process.
Altogether, the league would feature 20 member teams which would play every opponent twice (home and away) for a total of 38 games. In order to avoid forcing players to the point of physical exhaustion or requiring clubs to build a full-strength second team, clubs would not compete in their domestic leagues while playing in the UEFA Super League. However, all member clubs would continue competing in their domestic cup competitions.
At the end of the season, the club with the most points would be crowned the UEFA Champion and the bottom four teams would be relegated to their domestic leagues
At the domestic leagues level, since top clubs could no longer qualify for the Champions League, they would instead qualify for the Europa League where the four semifinalist would replace the four relegated sides in the following season's UEFA Super League.
In order to ensure sides relegated from the Super League would have the opportunity to earn immediate promotion the following season, they would be awarded automatic Europa League qualification.
Why This Plan Would Work
While many of you probably consider this suggestion utterly preposterous, I encourage you to at least consider the idea.
Firstly, the plan would shrink the huge talent gap between top teams and their typical opponents. So, instead of my Red Devils facing Newcastle, Stoke and Sunderland in a random three-week period of the season, they could instead face the likes of Porto, Juventus and Ajax.
Sure, we might miss out on some exciting two-leg series, but I would much rather watch Man U play an entire season of meaningful contests than wait until the Champions League quarterfinals to feature against a world-class opponent.
Opponents argue that while strengthening the competition at the highest levels, such an exclusive leagues would destroy domestic competition. Conversely, I suspect the UEFA Super League would have the exact opposite effect on competition.
For example, with English Premier League sides Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool likely to spend most seasons in the Super League, teams such as Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and Sunderland would have a legitimate chance of actually winning the league.
With a top-three finish promising a place in the Europa League and an eventual shot at cracking into the Super League, the fans of mid-table teams throughout Europe could actually get excited about their club's future prospects.
Furthermore, domestic cup competitions would become increasingly intense. With Super League teams not regularly facing domestic competition, they would be eager to prove their worth by winning a domestic championship. Realizing a unique opportunity to compete against the top clubs in the country, emergent league sides, perhaps vying to complete a domestic double, would be intensely motivated to shock their supposedly superior opponent.
Pretty cool, huh?
Football for Thought
As you contemplate this idea, remember that this plan does not intend to alter the current competitive structure in European Football but instead simply attempts to match clubs with other similarly talented clubs.
Anyway, I'm quite eager to hear your thoughts!