Champions ‘deserve to automatically qualify for the Champions League,’ Van der Sar

AJAX’S CEO Edwin Van der Sar’s comments about the gross unfairness of the different routes open to clubs simply based on which country they are from is something every Celtic supporter will support. Indeed supporters of clubs from countries that make up over 60% of Europe’s population would all agree with the Ajax boss.

“We won the league, we won the cup, and we were very close to the final of the Champions League,” Van der Sar noted.

“Yet we still have to play two qualification rounds to qualify for the CL. This can’t be good. Someone needs to explain why number four of La Liga does qualify.

“The champions of Holland, Turkey, Portugal, etc (that include the Champions of Scotland). They deserve to automatically qualify for the Champions League. It’s a European Tournament.”

Ajax like Celtic, Porto and many other clubs out with the big nations – England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and France – every year get the short straw from UEFA and it appears that it gets shorter still as the year’s go by.

Ajax have two qualifiers, Celtic four – the Dutch Double Winners were seconds away from the Champions League Final, while Celtic won an historic Treble Treble. Both sides are former winners of the European Cup.

If we stick with Ajax, Dutch league Champions and probably the biggest story in the Champions League last season, their lot of two qualifiers for the next Champions League is contrasted with our old friends Inter Milan, fourth in Serie A and straight into the group stages.

Or Bayer Leverkusen, fourth in the Bundesliga thus they go straight through to the Group stages no questions asked. Maybe Valencia, who got the better of Celtic under Brendan Rodgers last season in the Europa League? Yes, you’ve guess it, they finished fourth in La Liga and sale past Ajax straight into the Group stages, remarkable really.

Last year Celtic were playing qualifiers when some of our players were still involved in the FIFA World Cup in Russia. We currently have players – McGregor, Forrest, Ajer and Lustig who are all still playing international games at the moment while Celtic’s pre-season starts in just over a week from now. These players (in the case of Lustig, new deal permitting), will get a little extra time off to have a holiday.

The Celtic players enjoyed a two month break in the summer of 1967.

When Celtic became the Champions of Europe in May 1967, the then played Real Madrid in a friendly a week or so later then had TWO MONTHS off before playing Tottenham in a friendly at Hampden at the start of August 1967. Today’s Celtic players, the ones carrying the heavy load of minutes played, the likes of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest, Callum McGregor as well as the veterans Lustig and Scott Brown have all shown signs of being worn out by the intensity of the relentless action.

When you see those lists of the players in European football who have played the most minutes Tierney, Forrest and McGregor are always up there topping the list.

Tom Rogic’s form dipped last season, that is often the case in a post World Cup season when players don’t get the break that they need. Look back to the last time Scotland made the World Cup Finals in 1998 when Celtic had plenty of players in the side. Their form the next season dropped off, particularly at the start of the season.

So more power to Edwin Van der Sar’s elbow. Maybe he will consider leading the charge to create a new European competition excluding those so called big nations who really only want to play among themselves.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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