Graeme Souness believes there will again be Premier League clubs in the latter stages of the Champions League this season, claiming Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s reign as the kings of Europe is over.
Both major European finals were all-English affairs last season, with Liverpool beating Tottenham in the Champions League final after Chelsea had beaten Arsenal in the Europa League final.
And Souness believes it could become the norm over the next few years.
“There are two big reasons why Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated the big competitions over the last decade and that is Ronaldo and Messi,” Virgin Media Sport pundit Souness told Planet Football.
“Those two are still great players, but we saw last season that they are no longer the force they were in terms of carrying their teams to wins single-handedly and that is no surprise given the fact that both are in their 30s now.
“Juventus believed they were signing a player who would win them the Champions League when they brought Ronaldo to Turin last summer, but I said from the start that he would not be able to do that on his own at the stage of his career and I was proved right.
“Messi was incredible at times for Barcelona last season and his performance in the first leg of the semi-final against Liverpool was fantastic, but he was kept quiet in that incredible second leg at Anfield and I’m not sure that would have been the case a few years ago.
“Those two guys have been the difference for Real Madrid in the case of Ronaldo and Messi at Barcelona, but the English teams have improved now and they believe they should be competing in the final stages of the Champions League once again.”
Furthermore, Souness says Liverpool and Manchester City are undoubtedly the two best teams in Europe at the moment and both stand every chance of making this season’s final in Turkey.
“I expect to see more of the same,” he says. “Real Madrid are not the force they once were and they are in a period of transition under their coach Zinedine Zidane, Barcelona were shown up as being too reliant on Messi to dig them out of holes, and Bayern Munich were well beaten by Liverpool in the Champions League.
“It feels like this is a time when the English clubs are ready to dominate again and there are a few reasons for that. Firstly, we have the best managers in England at the moment, the quality of players in the league has gone up a few levels and finally, the tempo that is the norm in the Premier League takes European teams by surprise.
“Most of the top English teams are filled with foreign players, but they play with a high tempo and you could see Barcelona didn’t know how to cope with that when they played against Liverpool at Anfield.
“The Premier League may not be as technical as Italy or Spain, but the public demand and expect a certain type of football in England and the players and managers adapt to that.
“When you see Manchester City or Liverpool playing at their best, there’s no doubt in my mind that they are the best two teams in European football right now and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both of them playing in next season’s Champions League final.”
Graeme Souness is a pundit on Virgin Media Sport, the home of the Champions League and Europa League on Irish television.
By Kevin Palmer