Bartomeu backs evolution, not revolution of Champions League

The Barcelona president insisted "no one's talking about a closed league" as he outlined changes to the Champions League.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu   -  Getty Images

Barcelona supporters want more games against Europe's top sides, according to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who outlined his vision for the "evolution" of the Champions League but ruled out the idea of a closed competition.

Bartomeu's term as president runs until 2021 and the 56-year-old promised to drive Europe's top competition forward during the remainder of his time in charge, saying: "We're going to change it for the better."

The European Club Association (ECA) is set to meet in June to discuss proposed changes to the Champions League, with promotion and relegation from the competition on the agenda set by chairman Andrea Agnelli.

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On the morning after his side's 3-0 semi-final first-leg win over Liverpool, Bartomeu told The Guardian a major overhaul of the Champions League is not going to happen.

"When we played Manchester United [in the quarter-finals], it was the first time they'd been here in 11 years," said Bartomeu. "Last night against Liverpool was the first since 2006.

"It can't be that we play many games but not against teams like Liverpool and United.

"No one's talking about a closed league or a Super League. It will be an evolution, and attractive. It won't be a revolution."

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Bartomeu continued his push for LaLiga matches taking place in the United States, despite the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) blocking plans for Barcelona's away fixture with Girona to take place in Miami earlier this season.

While admitting he would not want Barcelona's home matches to take place anywhere other than Camp Nou, Bartomeu claimed the presidents of other LaLiga clubs were positive about the proposals.

"We want to continue 'footballising' the United States," said Bartomeu.

"I want there to be three games abroad every year to promote La Liga – one in the US, one in the Middle East, one in Asia. They watch us on TV and it's a way of getting close to those fans."

Asked why other clubs should have their matches moved but not Barcelona, Bartomeu replied: "Ask the president of Girona.

"Other presidents rang me and said: 'Hey, why didn't you call me?'"

''Messi is in a different dimension"

Barcelona will pay tribute to Lionel Messi with 10 statues at Camp Nou when the Argentina star hangs up his boots, joked club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is the highest-scoring player in Barca's history, netting his 600th goal for the club with a magnificent free-kick in a 3-0 Champions League semi-final, first leg win over Liverpool on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old - contracted to the club until 2021 - took his tally of trophies with the Catalan giants to 33 by sealing LaLiga glory last weekend, the first piece of silverware in a potential treble for Ernesto Valverde's men this season.

Asked if a statue of Messi will join the one of Ladislao Kubala at the modernised stadium, Bartomeu told The Observer, "There will be 10 of them!

"I wouldn't even give him the Ballon d'Or. He's beyond that now, in a category of his own.

"There are great players, but he's in a different dimension."

Barca will no doubt hope Messi is still around when the renovation and expansion of Camp Nou, which will see a roof added and the capacity reach 105,000, is completed in 2023.

 

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