Thankfully Liverpool are remaining silent on the issue of whether they should be allowed to defend the Champions League Trophy next season. There’s one very good reason why they’ve kept quiet too – they’ve not won it yet.
To fans and players at AC Milan it must be starting to wind them up – all the talk seems to be of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ they win in Istanbul. If they pay attention though, they’ll see it’s everybody but Liverpool that’s talked about the situation. Liverpool are not so disrespectful to opponents.
The FA, perhaps trying to divert attention away from their website double standards, say they’ve already taken steps to campaign on Liverpool’s behalf. The man in charge of keeping the public aware of what goes on, who was very quiet about the change in the FA’s position, is their communications director Adrian Bevington. He said the FA have made a formal request on the behalf of the Reds: "We have been very proactive on this matter. We have already submitted a written request to have an additional place, should they win the Champions League."
UEFA’s president, Lennart Johansson has also said publicly that, "the champions must always be given the opportunity to defend the title". It’s believed that UEFA are under pressure from the many sponsors of the tournament to ensure the winners are in the competition next year. If Liverpool did win, it would increase exposure for the sponsors and ratings for TV companies due to the big global following in the club. Bevington said: "If Mr Johansson has said we should put something in writing to the Uefa executive committee then we are happy to send another letter once again requesting an additional place for Liverpool, should they win the Champions League."
This followed Johansson’s advice that the FA should write to UEFA. They will then look at the request – after the final. "If the English FA would like to do so, they should make a proposal that would mean extending the number of teams from England in the Champions League next time from four to five. They cannot just explain their feelings, they should sit down and write a letter to the Uefa executive committee with a request."
Meanwhile former Red Michael Owen has said that Liverpool need to focus on beating the Italians first, but that it would be odd if they then had to go into the UEFA Cup. He said: "I think that if they win then it would be a strange situation if the champions couldn`t come and defend their crown. It`s going to be hard to win and they all have to focus on that, it will be difficult. If they don`t win there will be no complaints, but if they do win I would expect a big campaign in England to UEFA to see them given a place."
As Owen says though, there has to be success for Liverpool first: "We`ll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Owen also spoke about his own first season at Real Madrid. He’s scored 12 goals this season for Real, but has only made 17 starts as various coaches gave in to the demands of other players before realising that what Owen had to offer was important. Real have been on a good run of late, during which time Owen has featured much more in the side. It could be too little too late though, as Barcelona are way ahead on points.
Although 12 goals doesn’t sound too many, it’s a good total by Spanish standards and Owen is pleased: "This season has been a good start for me personally. I`ve met people and I`ve scored goals and it`s been enjoyable. I would have liked to have won a trophy, everything else has been very good and that`s all that`s missing. Let`s see if it changes next season."
Owen has been linked with a return to England, with not just Liverpool named, but he says everything still seems positive for him at Real: "I`ve not had any sit-down talks around a table but the people in charge stop and talk to us in the corridor and in the dressing room and they`ve all been positive, but like I said I`ve not had any sit-downs about what I should and should not do."
Real were linked with Adriano from Milan, but the good form from Owen once he was given a chance seems to have killed those reports – not that Owen is bothered too much: "I don`t think it matters if you`re at a big club they`re always looking to strengthen. If they decide to buy a striker you have to play well to keep your position. If you want to play for a big club you have to handle the pressure and having other players in your position. It never changes and it`s not something to be scared of."
The Spanish newspaper "Marca" has published a pool saying that most Madrid fans would like to see Real sign Frank Lampard. Lampard was signed from West Ham by Chelsea and is unlikely to be in any hurry to move away from the city he grew up in. Owen says that it’s expected for him to be wanted by the big clubs, but doesn’t expect him to leave: "Frank Lampard is a fantastic player, but he`s at a very big club and he`s very happy. He`s from London and he`s at a London club. I`m not surprised the big teams want him but I`ve never spoken to him about Spain although I would tell him if he asked. He`s a fantastic player and a good friend."
It would be just reward for Chelsea if Real started to "tap-up" Lampard this summer – after all they’ve been embroiled in enough controversy themselves in that respect in the last 12 months.