The Europa League is a fantastic competition to win, with dides like Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Porto having all won the competition in recent seasons.
The prize for winning the Europa League is qualification for the Champions League in the following season. Therefore, playing against some of the best sides in Europe with a chance to play in the greatest club competition as the prize is a fantastic opportunity, especially for Premier League clubs who finish 5th and 6th in the league, respectively.
Although the Europa League clearly carries some appeal for English clubs, it can also become a bit of an issue. If a team has a squad that lacks strength in depth, their season will suffer if they progress in the competition. Everton have found life difficult in the Premier League so far this campaign due to their involvement with European football. The Europa League is not the only reason as to why Everton are not performing but it is a contributing factor. Tottenham have also found it difficult, especially at the start of the season. Under a new manager in Pochettino, he had to balance a squad that lacked real firepower in both Europe and the Premier League. It was Harry Kane’s introduction into the side that really paid off for Pochettino and Tottenham, as Kane has an impressive five goals in the Europa League so far. Neither Tottenham nor Everton have experienced a really disastrous season but without the Europa League, the two sides may have been enjoying higher positions in the table if they didn’t feature in Europe.
The appeal of European football will attract some quality players to a club. However, in order to get to the next level, English clubs have to qualify for the Champions League to really cement their place as one of Europe’s elite. The problem with the Europa League is that it can hinder a clubs prospects of qualifying for the Champions League. Although it is possible to get Champions League qualification from the Europa League, it is an incredibly hard competition to win. The fact that teams from the Champions League group stages are added to the competition decreases the likelihood of a team like Everton or Tottenham from winning the trophy. Therefore, would English clubs prefer a season where they can spend big and only focus on a Premier League campaign? That way, a manager can commit a squad to one cause rather than worrying about the potential banana skin that is Europa League football. Teams like Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea can commit themselves to long European campaigns as they have the squad and experience to do so, this is not always the case with teams who qualify for the Europa League.
In football, money certainly talks. In last season’s Champions League, David Moyes’ Manchester United made £36 million from their ultimately disappointing European campaign. Even Manchester City, who failed to get through the group stages, received £28.4 million. Comparing this amount of money to the £11.72 million winnings Sevilla picked up as champions of the Europa League last season, it shows that the Champions League is still very much the holy grail of European football. In the Premier League, the battle for the top four qualification positions is as competitive as ever. For teams like Tottenham and Everton, a season without European involvement could lead them to a serious challenge for the top four. However, the whole point of the Champions League is that is showcases Europe’s elite. Fundamentally, winning the Europa League or qualifying in the top four suggests that a club is good enough to make the next step. The Europa League may not be to everyone’s liking but it does provide a test for European wannabes to really prove themselves as they aim to appear on the biggest stage of them all.