Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Alan Green: Platini’s plans are dangerous

Following on from their win away to Roma in the Stadio Olympico, that was another wonderful result for Romanian champions Cluj against Chelsea.

I'm not going to query their participation in the Champions League nor, as some have done, deem them unfashionable.

They're actually the height of fashion in their country where they're owned by the Romanian equivalent of Roman Abramovich. The side is subsequently liberally sprinkled with South American talent. Good luck to them.

However, there can be no question that their name sits too easily alongside others like Aalborg, BATE Borisov and Anorthosis Famagusta as unlikely opponents for the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus and Inter Milan.

That the Cypriots are currently joint top of their group with Inter makes interesting reading.

We shouldn't grumble. They ARE different.

My problem is that, artificially, the UEFA President Michel Platini is intent on more of them being involved with the reduction of places automatically granted to the stronger nations.

I'm against that and I'm not being hypocritical.

I long for the old style European Cup where ONLY true champions competed but there's no chance of going back to those days so I'd far rather we concentrated on making the Champions (sic) League a tournament for only the very best across the continent.

Of course, the old European Cup meant for an infinitely stronger UEFA Cup.

Instead, what we have now is a mush of a competition that no one really wants to be in and it's going to be far worse next season with the 'UEFA Europa League'.

Why don't we just add the word 'Cup' and we'll understand its true status?

That was Platini's idea too, as is the expansion of the European Championship from its present 16 finalists to 24 in 2016.

This is a thoroughly bad development. Anyone who remembers when the World Cup had 24 finalists won't need telling of the complications involved.

Remember 1982? (Yes, I know it was a great tournament for us in Northern Ireland!)

I spoke during the week to the excellent Gordon Smith, chief executive of the Scottish FA, and though Scotland had been amongst those pushing for the change he expressed surprise that it had such strong support across UEFA.

I wasn't. It's about money.

The more nations in the finals, the bigger the tournament and the more money it'll attract from sponsors.

Never mind that the current 16-tournament is taut, of generally high quality and, as such, is a far more attractive proposition than a World Cup.

When do such notions ever intrude on the thinking of the authorities?

And I blame the supposed football intellect of the French president.

As it was during his election campaign, Platini craves support from lesser nations, lesser clubs.

In my view, one of football history's very best players is dangerous for the development of the game.

Rob not up to the job

The point is - how would you feel if Rob Styles was the referee at a game near you this weekend?

Unfortunately, it seems we're stuck over here with one of the worst referees officiating at the top level of English football.

Yet, you'd think given the number of ridiculous high-profile, blatantly wrong decisions that he's made in recent years, someone in authority would 'get rid' butno.

A little over a year ago, Styles adjudged that Steve Finnan fouled Florent Malouda at Anfield and awarded Chelsea a penalty.

He later apologised.

Seven months later, another ludicrous penalty when Sun Jihai, then of Manchester City, legitimately shoulder-charged Birmingham's Gary McSheffrey.

Again, Styles was sanctioned. And, of course, last Saturday he pathetically penalised J Lloyd Samuel's excellent tackle on Ronaldo at Old Trafford. Even the Portuguese didn't appeal for a penalty! - Another 'apology'.

The truly worrying thing about Styles is he's so arrogant he probably wouldn't have consulted video technology had it been available to him.

The man is truly beyond the pale. Go on, please, take him off our hands. You KNOW the Irish League needs Rob Styles.

Moyes can only do so much

Last weekend I got to watch Everton properly for the first time this season and I'm beginning to wonder if, amongst the reasons David Moyes hasn't yet signed an extension to his contract, is a doubt in the manager's mind about how far he can take the club.

They went out of the UEFA Cup on Thursday night and Everton were absolutely shocking in the Merseyside derby.

It's as well they're playing Newcastle tomorrow.

This run of home league defeats HAS to end then. I sat alongside the Blues' boss on a flight to Frankfurt the other week.

He was heading to Budapest, me to Zagreb. He was charming company and very 'open' in his conversation.

I wouldn't think of passing on remarks that he clearly meant to remain confidential but the financial frustrations he endures at the club are hardly a secret.

Moyes' squad is at least five or six players short of what he needs.

Yet, when he went searching in the summer he couldn't attract the right calibre of talent.

Either they didn't want Everton, like Albert Riera, or they proved to cost more than he had to spend.

He's done a great job on Merseyside but, unless there's fresh money at Goodison, and lots of it, I don't see how Moyes or the club can properly compete.

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