It was always the purest of the European football competitions, the European Cup-Winners’ Cup was a straight knock-out contest of all the cup winners from each country, who in turn had been victorious in straight knock-out cup competitions. In short it provided the best cup team in Europe.
And then it was deemed one European competition too many, and in 1999 the last final was won by Lazio. The Cup-Winners’ Cup was absorbed into the growing UEFA Champions League competition.
Admittedly the Cup-Winners’ Cup had become the little brother to the other two European competitions: the Champions League and the UEFA/Europa Cup. And it was widely thought that the standard of football was noticeably lower. On top of that the public interest appeared to be on the wane.
But did everyone forget the ‘glory of the cup’? Did everyone forget about minnows and the excitement of giantkilling exploits? Did everyone forget the intensity, the beauty, the thrill of knock-out games? It seems they did.
Now decades on, the popularity of football has never been higher. The almost insatiable appetite for more European games would surely have room for the return of the purest of European competitions.
So here’s a suggestion: bring back the Cup-Winners’ Cup. The winners of each country’s cup competitions would compete in a knock-out competition, with each match being home and away, over two legs.
No seeding, no favoritism, just draw the names from a hat (or balls from a bag) and let the games begin.
Should the cup winner already be qualified for the Champions League or the Europa Cup then of course they couldn’t enter two European competitions, so they would have the choice of which to enter. If they chose not to enter the Cup-Winners’ Cup then the losing cup finalist would be invited to enter, then the best semi-finalist etc. This may well give the chance for an unfashionable team to have the rare experience of competitive European football, even perhaps a club from the second tier. What a fillip it could be for some long-suffering fans.
Since we could be delving quite deep into the league hierarchy for some countries, it would seem fair not to award coefficient points for this competition, and for the coefficient system to retain its status quo.
We could see the return of real cup glory, the magic of the cup, cupsets, and a trophy well worth winning.