Most football fans know that sustained success at the highest club levels today generally comes from a wealthy owner, a friendly banker or bags full of revenue. Not too many teams have the unwavering philanthropic support of Man City’s deep pocketed owners or even the risk immune bankers of Real Madrid. Most club boards dream of revenue generated by winning trophies and playing deep into Champions League competition regularly. Getting into Champion’s League is so important that Liverpool had UEFA rules changed in 2005 to permit their re-entry into the Champions League as Holders even though they didn’t qualify by placing in the top 4 in the Premiership (granted UEFA changing rules on the fly is not really news and for some reason there weren’t too many voices of protest on that issue).
Anyhow, in this sense the UEFA coefficient is critical because this points/ranking system based on 5 years worth of UEFA club competition results helps determine how many teams your nation of choice gets to send into the lucrative Champions League and this year we may have a change. While Spain and England are firmly set in place to retain their maximum 4 entrants in Champion’s League, Italy has a narrow lead over Germany and could lose its fourth entrant to the Germans which could be devastating. As a Juventus fan this is something I have been watching with interest for some time, something which I considered in anticipation of the recent Juve – Bayern fixture and something which concerned me after the match.
For now, however, let’s take a step back. I’m sure there are numerous places on the web where you can find how this points/ranking system works but let’s boil it down to this for the purpose of moving this discussion forward: UEFA club results in UEFA competitions (not including Intertoto Cups) over the last five seasons for each country are accumulated and calculated with 2 points for wins, 1 point for draws and no points for losses; additional points are awarded for each advancing knockout round in the Champions League and from the quarterfinals onward in the Europa League, and; 3 extra points are awarded for Champions League participation. The points each nation accumulates are then divided by the participants from that country to determine the coefficient. (The numeric values were picked up from the UEFA web site but other sources had varying numbers to some extent so if anyone has more information about this byzantine formula I’d appreciate hearing about it ).
Bayern essentially knocked out Juve in what could have been a determining game because a Juve win would have made it 4 Italian teams to 1 German team in Champions League. That said, only Fiorentina, Milan and Inter advanced in Champions League while the Bavarian giants are accompanied by fellow Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart. At the Europa League level, Juventus and Wolfsburg enter that competition having finished third in their respective Champion’s League groups joining Serie A teams Roma, Genoa and Lazio and the German clubs Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen and Hamburg. Nevertheless, the coefficient requires you divide the points accumulated by the actual entrants so while Italy appears to have the early advantage by having 3 Champions League teams much could also be determined by success in the often maligned Europa League competition. Then the strength of each team has to be considered as well as their competition.
Just as important as this year’s games are, so is the 2004-05 points that will be lost after this season. Germany has out pointed Italy in each of the last 2 seasons and from my understanding Italy will lose roughly 3.5 coefficient points more than Germany from the 2004-05. This will bring Italy down to something like 48.9 points plus the 2009-10 season results, with Germany at around 46.1 plus the 09-10 season.
This translates into a lot of meaningful soccer on a number of levels that will be played by German and Italian clubs and wouldn’t it be something if these German and Italian clubs continue to match up with each other going head to head for victory, trophy and Champions League places.
PS – Keep in mind that even if Italy manages to scrape through this season, Italy will give up about 5 points to Germany when they lose the 2005-06 season results so this could be a continuing saga for a little while longer in any event.