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No repeat of Champions League ‘Final Eight’ in future: Uefa chief

The “Final Eight” format for the Champions League will not be repeated in future, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has said, adding it is “impossible” to find space in an already packed calendar.

“This tournament might be interesting in the future, but I don’t think we can do it, because the calendar is so dense,” Ceferin told AFP in an exclusive interview in Lisbon, where this season’s Champions League is being played to a conclusion.

“I don’t know where I can put a tournament for a week or two in May. It’s impossible,” he said.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Uefa was busy contemplating changes to the format of the Champions League from 2024.

This year, all ties from the quarter-finals onwards are being played as one-off matches behind closed doors in the Portuguese capital, as Uefa rushes to finish the competition after an enforced hiatus of five months because of the coronavirus outbreak.

This season’s final was supposed to be played in Istanbul at the end of May. Now it will go ahead in an empty Estadio da Luz on Aug  23, with the Turkish city having been awarded the hosting of next year’s final instead. But that is subject to the pandemic being under control by then.

“I am optimistic by nature, and that things will get better into next year and we will have normal football back, good old football with spectators, so we don’t have a Plan B,” Ceferin said.

“You have to know that until March, we didn’t have any plan, and then we had a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, so we will adapt but I am sure the world cannot stop forever because of this virus,” added Ceferin, the Slovenian who became president of European football’s governing body in 2016.

“I expect a vaccine, as soon as possible I hope, so no, we don’t have a plan to do the same competition next year.”

Ceferin was speaking the day after Paris Saint-Germain beat Atalanta 2-1 in a dramatic first quarter-final of the competition.

The “Final Eight” is taking place in strict conditions, including regular testing and the number of people entering stadiums kept to a minimum.

On Thursday, Atletico Madrid play RB Leipzig in the second quarter-final, with the Spanish side arriving in Portugal after a scare at the weekend when it was revealed two of their players had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ceferin said he was always confident the Champions League would be completed, along with the Europa League, which is being played to a finish in similar conditions in Germany.

“I was sure that we would do this. I had moments of nervousness, but I never gave up on the project,” he said.

“At the moment, all the teams are in Portugal and in a bubble, I am much calmer, because when they are at home, they meet family and friends, it is always a risk.” – REUTERS

FootballAleksander CeferinChampions LeagueEUROPA LEAGUELISBONPortugalGermany