UEFA chief Michel Platini has won rare praise from Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho for allowing broader European representation in the Champions League. Seven countries including Cyprus will be represented in Friday's quarter-final draw.
AP - More accustomed to criticizing UEFA, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho praised president Michel Platini on Wednesday for changing the format to allow a wider European representation in the Champions League.
Mourinho guided record nine-time champion Madrid into the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow. There will be teams from seven countries in Friday’s draw, including APOEL, the first Cypriot side to progress to the last eight of the competition.
Mourinho said Platini, who won the presidency in 2007, deserved much of the credit for countries with lower-profile leagues being awarded more places. The Madrid coach described the move as giving the competition a better overall “representation.”
“This is happening because of the decision from when Platini was (elected) president.
Now you see some teams reaching this level, you have to give him credit," the Portuguese said. "Some great teams are not there, like Manchester United, Arsenal or Inter Milan, and instead of big teams there are some surprises.”
England’s leading two teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, failed to progress out of the group stages, with Swiss club FC Basel and Russian team Zenit St. Petersburg among a number of unlikely last-16 qualifiers.
While neither of those teams reached the quarterfinals, Marseille reached the last eight for the first time since winning the trophy in 1993, joining defending champion Barcelona, AC Milan, Benfica, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
“I think it’s good for football and good motivation for these countries to invest in their game,” Mourinho said. “I remember playing a group-phase game with Inter in Cyprus, and that was fantastic atmosphere. So you can imagine what Cyprus can be like playing a quarterfinals.”
Mourinho’s kind words are in stark contrast to his previous criticism of European football’s governing body. The two-time Champions League-winning coach was banned last season for accusing UEFA of mounting a conspiracy to help Barcelona reach the final after Madrid had lost in the first leg of the semifinals.
Date created : 2012-03-15