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Champions League

Man Utd legend and current Ajax chief Edwin Van der Sar wants TEN group matches in 36-team Champions League revamp

AJAX chief Edwin van der Sar has proposed a new format for the Champions League with 36 teams and TEN group stage matches.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper, 50, has been credited with coming up with the new format which Uefa will implement from 2024.

Edwin van der Sar won the Champions League with Man Utd in 2008 after a heroic penalty shootout victory against Chelsea


Edwin van der Sar won the Champions League with Man Utd in 2008 after a heroic penalty shootout victory against ChelseaCredit: PA

Uefa will do away with the eight groups of four in the current format, pitting every team against each other in a league of all 36 clubs, adding four more teams to the current 32.

Everyone will play ten matches against different teams, which will be drawn based on their seeding, with five games will be played at home and five away.

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Where teams sit in the overall table after all ten matches are played will determine who progresses to the knockout round, with the top eight going through automatically and the next 16 competing in play-offs.

Van der Sar was credited with proposing the model by Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli, with the Dutchman’s model offered up as an alternative to another a new system which Agnelli had previously backed.

It was suggested that there should be four groups of eight, who would each play each other twice, meaning each team would play a total of 14 games in the group stages alone.

Agnelli, 45, was president of the European Clubs Association until he was relieved of his duties following his involvement in the formation of the controversial European Super League last year.

Van der Sar’s ‘Swiss model’ has been preferred by Uefa, but the humble Ajax chief refuses to take sole credit for the idea.

“I wasn’t the only man, you always speak to advisors and look at how we can do something new,” he said.

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“It was about playing more meaningful European matches and how can you do that without denuding the quality in the group stages.

“A couple of guys came up with this system and I was happy to send it to Uefa and for this to be a way forward.

“We also wanted something that would be good for clubs from mid-sized countries who may be big brands but are still coming from a small market.”

In this new Champions League shake-up, clubs will not play each other both home and away, meaning fans get to watch their team play ten different European sides.

It also means that every game will count right up until the last round of games, with places in the league table always at stake.

The Dutchman has admitted that it wasn’t easy to get the idea approved, claiming: “initially there was some scepticism.”

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“But it used to be just knockouts until 30 or so years ago, and then group stages came in so this is an evolution of the system we have been playing in for a long time and trying to create more possibilities for games without creating dead games.

“Sometimes if you win four games and have 12 points you are already done. Under the new system you really have to keep on going, to reach the top eight or the top 16.”

The new format won’t be instated until 2024, so fans will have a while to wait before getting to experience it first hand and comparing how it stands up against the current system.

Chelsea are the current holders of the Champions League after beating Man City 1-0 in the final last season


Chelsea are the current holders of the Champions League after beating Man City 1-0 in the final last seasonCredit: Getty

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