Paris: The Premier League has marked its return to prominence on the European stage as stunning Champions League comebacks from Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur to make the final were followed by Arsenal and Chelsea booking their place in the Europa League final.
For the first time ever all four finalists will come from the same country, prompting concerns on the continent over the Premier League’s wealth and status thanks to huge television rights deals.
The English sweep on the football field comes, ironically, as the United Kingdom wrestles with Brexit, the painful and protracted withdrawal from the European Union.
Only twice before in European football — the 1972 Uefa Cup and 2008 Champions League — had two English teams contested a final. But now two will take place in the space of four days as Arsenal and Chelsea square off in a London derby, 4,500 km (2,800 miles) from home, in Baku on May 29 before Liverpool and Tottenham clash in Madrid on June 1.
Premier League clubs accumulated revenues of £4.8 billion ($6.2 billion) last season, largely thanks to £2.4 billion in television revenue, and have spent over £1 billion on transfer fees in each of the past three summer windows.
Yet, despite bringing in billions from around the globe, English clubs have been out-thought and out-played at Champions League level over the past decade. However, the Premier League now have the world’s best managers to go with the best players. Jurgen Klopp is in his fourth season at Liverpool and Pochettino near the end of season five at Spurs.
Arsenal’s Unai Emery is a Europa League specialist having won the competition three times before at Sevilla and despite being questioned during his first season at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri is still coveted for jobs in Serie A should he wish to return to Italy.
“Here the level is very high. To get to the final in the League Cup we beat Liverpool and Tottenham who are in the Champions League final, and in the final we played against the best team in Europe in my opinion, Man City,” said Sarri.
“At the moment the Premier League is the best championship in Europe and as a consequence, in the world,” he added.
Chelsea needed a penalty shoot-out to beat Eintracht Frankfurt in their Europa League semi-final, while a Pierre-Emerick Auba-meyang hat-trick took the Gunners to a 4-2 win over Valencia for a 7-3 aggregate. Valencia’s defeat ended Spanish participation in both competitions and a run that had seen La Liga sides win nine of the past 10 combined Champ-ions League and Europa League titles.