The European Super League is a concept that rears its head every couple of years, usually around the time discussions about changes to the UEFA Champions League’s format are taking place.
Some of Europe’s most powerful clubs, eager to push for a bigger slice of the money generated by the continent’s premier competition, appear keen to remind us that there is always the lurking potential for a breakaway competition – a situation whereby the biggest teams take their ball and go off to play among themselves.
Whether such a seismic power-play ever materialises remains to be seen. But it’s fascinating to consider what a European Super League would look like if it did come to pass.
For example, how many teams would be in it? While there’s the possibility of US-style conferences, it feels more likely clubs would adopt a traditional league approach. With that in mind, you would envisage a maximum of 20 teams taking part – after all, that’s how many sides are in the Premier League, which is the largest top division of any major European nation.
Then there’s the issue of what criteria determines eligibility for entry. Do you need a history of Champions League success or will years of domestic dominance suffice? Should there be a spread of teams across Europe or is it better to have more teams from the most prominent leagues?
With so many questions and permutations, Football Whispers have put together a list of teams that might consider themselves worthy of a place in any future reincarnation of the European Super League based on their history and current standing within the beautiful game.
England – Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Man City, Notts Forest & Aston Villa
Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea have been winners of the Champions League in recent history and the first two clubs mentioned have a long-standing history with European football, so it seems obvious to choose those three clubs as England's representatives in any future European Super League, right? Arsenal have been pioneers during the Premier League era and their history within the English game goes back much, much further, but they have never won the biggest competition in European football before.
The same can be applied to Tottenham and Man City, though many would argue that if it were best on history then neither of these two clubs would get near the ESL. However, Man City have become a Premier League powerhouse since taking on foreign ownership and now play the most attractive style of football, challenge for all trophies and have a superstar squad and manager.
Aston Villa and Notts Forest have claimed three European Cups between them and their impact on the European game has been far more than anything Spurs, Arsenal of Man City can offer to date, so do they deserve to go into the ESL?
Spain – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Sevilla
We all know about Barcelona and Real Madrid's history both domestically and in European competition and you would be hard-pressed to find any football fan that would honestly say they wouldn't have these two giants of football in the ESL. Sevilla have claimed a record number of Europa League/UEFA Cup title in their recent history (6) and have enjoyed success in La Liga and the Copa del Rey over the years, yet they were overlooked for the recent ESL.
Atletico Madrid, who did make the cut for the 12 original ESL teams this month, have claimed three Europa League titles and one Cup Winners' Cup in their history but have only claimed two La Liga title since 1977. Perhaps being in a more important city and currently performing better than Sevilla in La Liga is enough to warrant them a spot in the ESL ahead of their rivals.
Italy – Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan
When you think of Italian football you inevitably think about three clubs first, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan all of whom have won European Cups and dominated domestic football in Italy.
If you were going to choose three teams from Italy to play in the ESL then these would be the obvious candidates but let's not forget about Napoli and Lazio both of whom have enjoyed success in European competitions regularly challenge for the Champions League places. Parma are a club going through some hard times, yet they have secured three European trophies in their history and surely deserve to be considered for any future ESL based on those achievements.
Germany – Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Hamburg
A bit like the top three Italia club, Bayern Munich have made such a mark on European football that an ESL would almost be a joke without their participation, which is just what was going to happen before the latest attempt at an ESL imploded.
The giants of German football have claimed six European Cup/Champions League trophies since the early 1970s and have been a dominant force in the Bundesliga since that very same decade. Dortmund have only managed to win two European trophies in their history, the most recent of which arrived in 1997. However, along with their domestic success, the club have one of the most passionate fan bases in football and this is something the ESL would surely not want to miss out on.
Hamburg might not ply their trade in the top-flight of German football these days but they are another big name from European Cups of the past alongside Aston Villa and Notts Forest. Leverkusen have won the UEFA Cup and finished as runners-up in the Champions League not so long ago, while RB Leipzig have burst onto the scene in recent years with money and the ability to bring in talented young players, so they would be a great addition to any ESL.
France – PSG and Marseille
PSG have been the force in French football for the past decade but when compared to any of the other clubs we have mentioned, they are relatively young and have only managed to win one Cup Winners' Cup title. In terms of money and the ability to attract the best footballers around, PSG are a shoo-in for any future ESL you would think.
While Saint-Etienne remain the most successful club in French football, as things stand, they have never lifted a European trophy and haven't really been a threat in Ligue 1 since the 1980s. Liile currently top the Ligue 1 table but like Saint-Etienne, they haven't made their mark in Europe just yet unless you include the Intertoto Cup. Marseille claimed the Champions League trophy in the competition inaugural season and surely just based on that historic moment it would be nice to see them as a founder member of the ESL.
Other countries and teams to consider
It would be wrong to simply look at the top five leagues from the top five countries in European football, especially as there are plenty of big teams and former European Cup winners from these ‘lesser' countries that might just feel they deserve ESL recognition.
Celtic and Rangers boast one of the most fearsome and fantastic local rivalries in world football and on that basis alone, both might feel they are deserving of a place in the ESL. Let's not forget that Celtic have won the European Cup in the past as well as reaching the final without success. Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon have all won the European Cup/Champions League before and have remained the dominant forces in their respective domestic league.
Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV have also all lifted the European Cup at least once in their history as have Romania's Steaua Bucuresti and Red Star Belgrade for Serbia. Anderlecht remain a famous name in European football as do the likes of Olympiacos, Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas, CSKA Moscow, Dynamo Kyiv and Zenit, yet they are always overshadowed when talk of a potential ESL reignites.