Benitez expresses fears over Platini plan

September 4, 2007

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez fears new proposals to allow national cup winners into the Champions League will mean the best clubs and players may not be involved in the competition.

Benitez was reacting to plans presented by UEFA president Michel Platini to allow cup winners into Europe's elite competition at the expense of the fourth-placed team in the major European leagues.

It would mean Europe's top footballing nations - England, Spain, Italy and Germany - losing their fourth league place in the Champions League, while countries who have three entrants would see that cut to two, with cup winners taking the third berth.

The Premier League are unhappy with the proposal, although it has been met with guarded approval by Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick.

Many of football's top brass believe that as the FA Cup is usually won by a teamfrom the top four, a trend now stretching back two decades - the impact of any rule change will be minimal.

But Benitez's experience of domestic cup competitions elsewhere in Europe is that they are treated as lesser tournaments, certainly in Spain and Italy where smaller, less fashionable clubs tend to win them.

He said: 'I do not think the idea is too bad, the new suggestion from UEFA over the FA Cup winners.

'If you win a trophy like the FA Cup you maybe deserve more, and it would be good to play in the Champions League.

'But the problem is that the fourth of the English, Spanish, German or Italian league then cannot play in the Champions League and clubs from other countries will be able to.

'It is something that needs to be discussed and analysed. It is not good enough to have a lot of different teams and a lot of different games, we want to see the best players in the Champions League, the best in Europe.'

Benitez, though, is happier with UEFA plans to give more tickets to competing clubs in the Champions League final and to stage the match at bigger venues.

Liverpool fans were involved in disturbing scenes at last season's final in Athens where ticket allocation and ground security was severely criticised.

Benitez says: 'The new ideas about the Champions League final and 75% of tickets going to the finalists is a much better solution than what we had before.

'Last season the number of tickets for the competing teams was around 17,000, that is unbelievable.

'There were a lot of supporters without tickets and then everyone was blaming our fans for the problems. It is better if the tickets go to the teams participating and not the sponsors.'