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Predictable Champions League has lost its magic —and now faces an uncertain future

As the players return for the Champions League knockouts this week, there’s a question being discussed by their bosses that is more engaging than who might win the competition. The latter, after all, feels even more predictable than last season.

That is why club executives have recently been talking about the potential fallout of December’s European Super League decision and exploring one potential consequence. If someone went to Uefa and came up with a competition that raised half the prize money but guaranteed historic mid-tier clubs such as Celtic, Benfica and PSV Eindhoven had a better chance of winning it, would they take the leap? Should that not be what they are looking to do now?

The latter is something the European Court of Justice ruling essentially implies, since any such challenge would involve Uefa having to do an economic analysis to show their competition benefits the wider European game. That is something that has never been properly done, but a mere glance across this season’s last-16 ties indicates its outcome would be uncertain; maybe more uncertain than many of the matches.

There certainly doesn’t feel like there’s the same anticipation or sense of grandeur about the knockouts as there was even five years ago. It’s as if we’re now waiting for the “real” Champions League to begin in the quarter-finals, that point getting later and later as the top end of the competition gets narrower and narrower.

No club with a revenue of less than €465m has won the competition since 2013, and that was Bayern Munich. Of the last 16, the German champions are now seen as maybe the only team that can get close to Manchester City’s level, and that’s if Thomas Tuchel can sort a defence, and unless Arsenal or Real Madrid can