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UEFA weighs changes to Champions League seeding

September 4, 2014

NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA is looking to change how Champions League clubs are seeded, though coaching adviser Alex Ferguson thinks that’s not important.

“I don’t necessarily think the seeding plays a great part,” said Ferguson, a two-time Champions League winner with Manchester United.

He spoke Thursday after chairing a two-day UEFA meeting of top club coaches, who were told the seeding format could change next season.

One option UEFA will consider is automatically putting the winners of the highest-ranked leagues and the Champions League title holder among the top-seeded teams.

Currently, UEFA ranks clubs over five years of competition results — leaving national champions Manchester City, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain among No. 2-seeded teams.

In last week’s draw, Man City was drawn into a group with Bundesliga winner Bayern Munich, and Juventus got Spanish champion Atletico Madrid. PSG’s group includes top-seeded Barcelona.

The eight clubs in Pot 1 included Arsenal and FC Porto, who placed fourth and third in their respective leagues last season. They are seeded based on consistency despite neither reaching the Champions League semifinals in the past five seasons.

Still, Ferguson believes the depth of some groups in this season’s draw means there is little difference in quality.

“You take what you get and your performance is the most important thing,” said Ferguson, who led former clubs Aberdeen and Man United to win a combined four European club competitions. “Does it matter if one is the top seed or second seed or third seed?”

Ferguson’s opposition to change was backed by Juergen Klopp, whose Borussia Dortmund team is still only seeded second after being Champions League runner-up in 2013.

Dortmund was only seeded fourth in 2012-13 when, as Bundesliga champion, it won a group ahead of Real Madrid, Ajax and Man City.

“It’s not impossible,” Klopp told The Associated Press. “If you are in the wrong (seeding) group, it’s your own responsibility. You have not had enough success in the last season.”

Ferguson’s former club would have been a top-seeded team but it’s missing from the Champions League for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

Now coached by Louis van Gaal, Man United led a flurry of transfer activity across Europe before the trading period closed Monday.

“Certainly it’s amazing, the amount of money spent nowadays,” said Ferguson, who broke the English record in 2001 by spending 28 million pounds to bring Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron from Lazio.

“My personal opinion is that it’s never going to change, the world is progressing, and transfer fees with it, and I don’t know if there’ll be an end to it. Fortunately, I’m not at the hub of it nowadays,” he said.

The annual coaches’ seminar at UEFA was also attended by Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern’s Pep Guardiola, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.

Ferguson led discussions on ideas to change the game, including the “sin-bin” favored by UEFA President Michel Platini. Football could borrow from hockey and send players temporarily to the sidelines for certain offenses which do not merit a red card.

“We couldn’t get to an agreement on it because it’s such a controversial decision to change,” said Fegurson, who favors the punishment for players who simulate diving. “From UEFA’s point of view it is something they are looking at.”

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