Lineker: English clubs still behind in Europe
The BBC Match of the Day presenter has all but ruled out any success for the Premier League on the continent in the near future – though England's third-highest scorer does welcome the thought of Leicester City competing in the elite club competiton.
Despite having this exciting league we’re not producing teams to challenge in Europe
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo at a Walkers promotional event for the Choir of Champions to get the world #GAMEREADY, the former Everton and Tottenham striker explained that English football should look to reduce fixtures over the winter period to help their fortunes aborad.
On the English clubs failing to impact in Europe, with just Manchester City remaining in the Champions League, he said: “There’s no question that English clubs are a bit behind in Europe. These things go in cycles. Despite having this exciting league we’re not producing teams to challenge in Europe, which is surprising.
“We don’t help ourselves though. The knockout phases are just after the Christmas period when we’ve exhausted ourselves from FA Cup replays and various other competitions, and the league – it’s quite draining – so our sides don’t perform as freshly as other sides do.
“It’s always been like that, and we have had success before and been through a bit of a tough spell, but Manchester City will hopefully continue to fly the flag in Europe. Although they’ve been inconsistent themselves, so it’s hard to have too much hope.
“I don’t envisage our fortunes in Europe improving too significantly in the near future.”
Lineker is backing his former club Barcelona to retain the Champions League, something that hasn’t been managed before.
“I think Barcelona will be the first team to retain the Champions League title,” said the former Blaugrana. “If there’s any team that can do it it’s this wonderful, magical Barcelona side. They’ll take some beating; Bayern Munich will be tough and competitive but I think that realistically they’re probably the only other side that can win it.”
Is he convinced that Leicester will win the league, and can they make a mark in the Champions League next season?
I’d love to see it happen. It’s a stunning story, considering where they were a year ago
“I’m not convinced [that Leicester will win the league] at all. Obviously they’ve kept going and going, and progressing, but I’m going to stick with my policy of saying that I don’t think they’ll do it because obviously it’s worked so far.
“I’d love to see it happen. It’s a stunning story, considering where they were a year ago when they were an absolute shoo-in to get relegated. Then they’ve staged this remarkable Houdini-esque comeback to stay in the division and they’ve just kept that form going.
“It’s amazing, and goes to show what you can do by bonding a team together with a never-say-die attitude, who are well coached and with a great spirit. It’s now very conceivable that they could win [the league]. I think it would be brilliant for the Champions League if Leicester were to win the league and be in it. At least it would be something different.”
Gary Lineker was part of the Walkers Choir of Champions, helping Europe to get #GameReady for the UEFA Champions League.