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English contenders sitting pretty in Champions League as cash crisis narrows field


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ess than six months after the Champions League was threatened by a 12-club breakaway Super League, the competition returns tonight amid accusations that it, too, is increasingly a closed shop.

Certainly, the current landscape points to a coming shift towards a more predictable and elitist competition, dominated by a smaller clique of monied super clubs.

Even La Liga’s traditional giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona, begin this season’s competition as rank outsiders, while Italians Juventus have also fallen away from the pack.

The driving force behind the changing landscape is money.

Since the start of the pandemic, Premier League clubs have spent more than £1.7billion combined on transfers, while those in La Liga have actually recouped more than £170million.

English top-flight clubs spent close to £793m more than the next highest-spending league, Italy’s Serie A, over the summer, with City, United and Chelsea all adding expensive superstars to their squads.

PSG were another outlier, spending ‘just’ £75m but swelling their wage-bill with a glittering array of free transfers, including Lionel Messi. Where the money goes, the trophies will inevitably follow.

Barcelona, who last won the Champions League in 2015, have suffered the most dramatic decline, illustrated by Messi’s shock departure.

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The Catalans, who host Bayern tonight, are £1.15bn in debt and surely face a long, difficult road back to the summit of the European club game.

Thirteen-times winners Madrid are in a healthier position but are nonetheless in transition. They were forced to offload defenders Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, who joined PSG and United respectively, in a bid to reduce their vast wage-bill while they finance a £600m redevelopment of the Santiago Bernabeu.


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