The Champions League is anything but predictable. The last four seasons have given us four different winners, while nine different teams have played the last six finals. But as European football continues to wobble on its axis due to a combination of financial mismanagement and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, that could soon change.

Not sure? Well, here’s a prediction: it will be reduced to a private fight between Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League clubs this season and in the short to medium term. Bayern Munich may have something to say about this, but this summer’s transfer market showed us where the money is in the game: wherever the money flows, the big trophies usually follow.

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This includes the most prominent players, which is why Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo improved their own Champions League chances with transfers to PSG and Manchester United respectively this summer. Messi (4) and Ronaldo (5) have won nine Champions League victories together.

Yet it is not all doom and darkness. Less than six months after Europe’s elite clubs tried to form a breakaway Super League that would have signaled the death knell for the Champions League as we know it, the most prestigious club competition in football is back and the way to the final in Saint Petersburg, Russia in May begins.

PSG has set new standards with its summer transfer business. David Rogers / Getty Images

No doubt the shift in power towards PSG and the Premier League powerhouses – Man United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool – has accelerated. For five consecutive seasons between 2013-14 and 2017-18, either Barcelona or Real Madrid won the Champions League. Atletico Madrid also played two finals during this period.

But LaLiga has not been featured in any of the last three finals, which has signaled a clear shift towards an increasingly dominant Premier League. Two of these finals have been won by English teams, Liverpool and Chelsea, with Tottenham and Man City being the finalists in all Premier League affairs. The exception was Bayern’s 2019-20 win against PSG in Lisbon, which gave us another indication of the direction from which the wind was starting to blow in European football.

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With the biggest clubs starting their Champions League journey this week, it seems you can almost forget that a Spanish or Italian team is winning the competition this season. Barcelona and Real are both lost in a transition period as huge labor costs at the Camp Nou and Bernabeu drain their resources. Barcelona’s debts now stand at € 1.35 billion, ultimately forcing them to accept defeat in their attempts to keep Messi at the club. Real had cash reserves of 122 million euros in June.

Real spent 30 million euros on Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and signed David Alaba from FC Bayern on a free transfer. Besiktas, loan) among the dropouts.

Neither Barcelona nor Real appear in any form this season to compete with PSG or the Premier League giants and while Atletico have always been a constant force in the Champions League, they also lacked the ability to go all the way. Diego Simeone’s team will hardly change that this time.



Steve Nicol examines Liverpool’s group in the Champions League, which includes Atletico Madrid, Porto and Milan.

It’s similar in Italy. Losing the final in 2015 and 2017, Juventus narrowly sneaked into this season’s competition with a fourth place finish in Serie A and relocated Ronaldo to United to try to cut his financial obligations. And champions Inter will most likely not repeat their 2010 Champions League win, having lost coach Antonio Conte and top scorer Romelu Lukaku since winning at Scudetto last season.

Bayern, who won the Champions League only in 2020, have added Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer from RB Leipzig to their squad and signed Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann to succeed Hansi Flick. Serve, but aging stars can go very far again in the Champions League.

Manuel Neuer (35), Thomas Müller (32) and Robert Lewandowski (33) remain the most important cornerstones of Bayern along with younger players such as Joshua Kimmich, Alphonso Davies and Leon Goretzka.

Premier League champions City may have missed signing Harry Kane and Ronaldo to replace Aguero, but they have nonetheless stepped up with £ 100million English midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. Pep Guardiola’s team reached last season’s final by playing without a recognized center-forward for much of the season for their team with £ 97.5million signing Lukaku.

Liverpool have lost midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum to PSG and signed Ibrahima Konate from Leipzig, but although the ins and outs were minimal, Jürgen Klopp’s side still have one of the best attacking units in Europe and they have defender Virgil van Dijk fit and play again afterwards Cruciate ligament tear last season. Liverpool’s squad and European pedigree make them a real contender to win the Champions League.

And while United have yet to win a trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the summer recruitment of Ronaldo, Varane and Jadon Sancho got them talking about potential winners. With goalkeeper David de Gea and midfielder Paul Pogba starting the season in impressive form, United have what it takes to go all the way.

Read the latest news and reactions from ESPN FC Senior Writer Mark Ogden.

But while the Champions League is preparing for the start, the favorite is without question PSG. Coach Mauricio Pochettino has added to his squad with the signings of Messi, Ramos and Wijnaldum – each a former Champions League winner – as well as Nuno Mendes, Danilo Pereira, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi, another man with a Champions League win his résumé at Real Madrid in 2018.

With all this stellar talent added to an already world-class squad – Neymar and Kylian Mbappe also remain at Parc des Princes – it seems that the only team PSG can keep from winning the Champions League this season is themselves are.

PSG have a strong group alongside City and Leipzig – Club Brugge is also in Group A – but this summer they have developed into a team of all talents and experience.

The heavyweights of Spain and Italy will not be able to stop PSG so the Premier League quartet are on the ground to prevent the European Cup from moving to Paris for the first time. And that doesn’t just apply to this season. It’s a reality that we will have to get used to over the next few years, if not longer.