England’s time will come again.
That is the view of Gary Lineker, who is optimistic that the days of Premier League clubs being dominant forces in Europe again are not too far away because of their financial power and the presence of some of the game’s best coaches.
That golden period from 2005 to 2012, when at least one English side reached the Champions League final in seven out of eight seasons, has become a fading memory.
Semi-final appearances for Chelsea and Manchester City have been as good as it has got for Premier League clubs in the last five years since the former became the last from UK shores to actually lift the trophy.
Spain has emerged as Europe’s current superpower, with Real Madrid and Barcelona winning four of the last five finals between them.
Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid are targeting what would be a record third successive crown this season and their convincing Super Cup win over big-spending Manchester United this month underlined “there is a big gap to make up.”
But former Spurs, Everton and England striker Lineker, who will host BT’s coverage of the competition, added before the group stage draw on Thursday: “We are creeping closer. There is certainly talent [in England].
“The great players in world football still gravitate towards the big two Spanish clubs. That is undeniable. So you’ve got technically gifted footballers — and don’t forget their league is not as demanding as ours.
“They have a better league than ours in terms of the quality and that is proven in terms of the performances in the Europa League too. It is not just Barca and Madrid. It is Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and one or two other sides. But they do have a lot of comfortable games there and the teams all play at a similar pace. It is all technical.
“Our game is all blood and thunder. so it’s hard for our players to be as fresh as [La liga] players — especially when it comes round to February and the Champions League kicks in again because we’ve had the madness of Christmas and all the games then, the FA Cup and replays, and the weather and all these kind of things.
“So it is harder for us, but these things are cyclical and we have been dominant before.
“It is Spain at the moment, but with the amount of power and money in our league I would be surprised if our time doesn’t come again.
“And we have a lot of the world’s great coaches here so it is only a matter of time before a lot of the great players follow and our teams become stronger.”
Lineker reckons the success England’s youth teams have had on the international stage this year — winning three tournaments, reaching the final of the Under-17 European Championship on penalties and falling by the same method to eventual winners Germany in the final four of the U21 Euros — will also impact English clubs in the Champions League.
He said: “We’ve been through a trough in terms of talent, certainly homegrown talent but that is definitely coming to an end now. Our cycle is coming back round now.
“We’ve started developing young talent properly. We are seeing that come through with our national sides, under 21s, under-19s. All of them doing well, getting to finals, winning competitions. That’s because we train our kids properly.
“That’s going to go through to our club sides, because you have to produce a lot of your own talent. You can’t just buy it in all the time, as we’ve proven.
“So I think we are going to get stronger over the years. You can see our teams getting better and more competitive and that will show through in the Champions League.”
* BT Sport is where the best in sport go head to head, bringing you live coverage of the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Visitwww.BT.com/sportfor more information.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW HOW, WHERE AND WHEN
The draw for the Champions League’s group stages will take place at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on Thursday.
The ceremony begins at 5pm UK time, with the draw itself starting an hour later.
The 32 qualified teams — including champions Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Europa League winners Manchester United, plus Scottish title-winners Celtic — will be divided into four seeded pots.
Pot one is for the holders (Real Madrid) plus the champions from the top seven-ranked leagues, other than that of the holders.
Pots two, three and four are determined by each team’s UEFA coefficient rankings.
Teams cannot be drawn against another from their own national association.
The group stage is played out over six matchdays:
October 31-November 1
The top two sides in each group will advance to the knockout phase, with the draw for the last 16 on December 11.
This season’s final will take place in Kiev, Ukraine on May 26.