Enjoy the Champions League's last-ever 'Group of Death'! Next year's 'Swiss Model' is going to kill the competition's early excitement

UCL Group of Death GFXGOAL

Silvio Berlusconi always felt that the principal problem with the old European Cup was that "the imponderable prevails''. As far as he was concerned, there were too many variables; just too great a chance of bad breaks or incorrect calls ending a continental campaign.

For more than 30 years, the European Cup was a straight knockout between domestic champions, meaning an unlucky draw could see a heavyweight contender dropped in the first round - as happened in 1987, when Real Madrid got the better of Napoli 3-1 on aggregate.

Berlusconi was present at the first leg at Santiago Bernabeu and was disgusted by the inevitability of either the champions of Spain or Italy being eliminated at the earliest possible stage of the competition. The following year, after Berlusconi's Milan had taken Napoli's Serie A title, he told the Corriere della Sera: "We must transform the European Cup into a continental league, a formula that would afford clubs economic certainties. Imagine that with a couple more players you could play double the number of games. We would go to play in Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon - not in some remote provincial town.

Article continues below

"There is no point in demagoguery: teams of a certain level, capable of counting on a certain audience and consequent revenues, must have the right to compete with one another on a regular basis."