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Juventus president suggests Atalanta don't belong in Champions League

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

15:28 5 Mar 2020

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has courted the ire of fellow Serie A side Atalanta by suggesting they weren't deserving of their place in this season's Champions League. 

The Bergamo club have won plaudits from across Europe for their attacking flair in this season's competition that leaves them on the verge of a place in the quarter-finals.

Atalanta are due to take a 4-1 lead to the Mestalla for the second leg of their last-16 tie with Valencia. That game is due to be played behind closed doors as per the orders of Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa.

The Nerazzuri have been on a generally upward curve in Serie A in recent years with a 17th place finish in 2014-15 followed by finishes of 13th, 4th, 7th and then the 3rd place last season that led to their Champions League qualification. They're currently 4th in the table.

But speaking at the FT Business of Football Summit in London, Angelli claimed Atalanta were unworthy of their place at Europe's top table.

The Juve president told attendees, "I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition.

"Is that right or not?

"Then I think of Roma, who contributed in recent years to maintaining Italy’s ranking.

"They had one bad season and are out, with all the consequent damage to them financially."

Agnelli's position echoes that of a "senior figure" from a Premier League club cited in Miguel Delaney's recent Independent piece, 'How modern football became broken beyond repair'.

The person in question is quoted as saying "We don't want too many Leicester Citys" in reference to the Foxes' unlikely Premier League triumph of 2015-16.

An attempt to remodel the Champions League that would have given 24 clubs special ringfenced rights to places in the competition was thwarted earlier this year.

Agnelli is chairman of the European Club Association (ECA) who were behind that proposal.

But speaking at the FT event in London, the Juventus president appears kean to rekindle those plans in some shape or form, "We must also protect investment and costs. So would Atalanta therefore have less chance of playing at a high level? I don’t have the answer to that, it’s just about setting up a transparent process to make this decision.

"There are teams who won the league or cup and achieve qualification just on the basis of their country’s ranking.

"The point is how we balance the contribution to European football and the performance of a single year."

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