The Lead

So much (practically all) football news is speculation, and those making the news are often as clueless as those paid to churn it out. So what’s the deal then with this?

Michel Platini has said that expanding the Champions League to 64 teams and scrapping the Europa League is an option amid a wide-ranging debate over the future of its club competitions.

Asked about the possibility of scrapping the second tier competition and doubling the size of the Champions League, the Uefa president said the proposal was under discussion.

“There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018. We’re discussing it, we will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet,” he told French daily Ouest-France.

Platini went on to say that UEFA is also likely planning to at the very least offer Europa League-winners a spot in the Champions League. To my mind that’s really the only viable solution on offer. For one, you’re not really “scrapping” the Europa League under the above plan—you’re effectively lumping it onto the Champions League. A 64-team tournament would dilute what is currently the best football product on the market (and, judging from what the CL games have gone for in rights fees at least here in Canada, one that is wildly undervalued).

Gibson and others speculate this move is a potential sop to the European Club Association, whose board has threatened to form a breakaway competition for its 207 member clubs, in theory allowing the clubs to earn more money from independent TV rights deals and sponsorship agreements. But the ECA is still largely under the sway of a board represented by the old guard of the G14, and it’s not clear they’d be tickled pink by the idea of one, big, fat knockout competition to add another bajillion fixtures to an already busy schedule, with potentially less viewer interest, ratings, and less money to go around.

In the end, all you can do is make the Europa League slightly better, and a CL spot will help. But the competition by its very nature is second tier. The ultimate ideal would be to either scrap or shrink the Europa League, keep the Champions League, and improve financial equity within Europe’s domestic leagues (which Financial Fair Play may or may not yield) so that, in theory, any club on its day has the opportunity to reach the top.

But the genie’s out of the bottle. The Europa League is here to stay.

Canada

Canadian Frank Yallop is MLS Coach of the Year.

England

“I’d certainly not sign that kind of player for that kind of money.” Alex Ferguson on Andy Carroll’s 35 million pound signing.

Aston Villa manager explains why he left Darren Bent out of the line-up.

Everton coach admits his future with the club depends on the team’s ability to keep star players.

Despite the draw, QPR manager Redknapp remains cautious and says his team still has a long way ahead.

Walcott doesn’t appear on Arsenal’s 2012 Calendar.

Arsene Wenger indifferent to fans booing.

Italy

Mourinho says he’s still a huge Inter fan.

De Rossi still linked to Man City move.

Do Inter need Sneijder?

La Liga

Jonathan Wilson argues Cristiano Ronaldo is two contrasting realities in one.

David Villa back in line-up for Barcelona.

Kaka could leave Madrid in January.

Germany

Schalke insist Huntelaar not an option for Arsenal.

Gerd Mueller’s record remains intact as Messi rested for a game.

Hoffenheim faces another hurdle as its goalkeeper Tim Wiese is injured.

Bit and Bobs

A 64-team Champions League and the elimination of Europa League? Platini says it’s a possibility.

Here’s a beautiful goal by Dortmund’s Kuba.

Beckham makes an appearance in Snoop Dogg’s animated Christmas carol.

Vote for your favourite 100 new footballers.

Adriano receives a UEFA CL one-game suspension.