AS Roma is the first Conference League winner: can you call them Champions?

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Published on 29 May 2022 2:31 am (UK Time)

The first season of the Conference League was won by Jose Mourinho‘s AS Roma. Grand celebrations took place along the streets of the Italian capital for an evening that brought a trophy back to Italy after 12 years. It was 2010 when Jose Mourinho‘s Inter won the Champions League final by beating Bayern Munich.
Old times and other football, the Nerazzurri team won their treble, including the Italian Scudetto and the National Cup. In the 2010s, the crisis of Italian football came, with the two Milan teams going through a transition period also due to the change of ownership. And Juventus that touches but miserably fails to win the Champions League twice. In 2020, Antonio Conte‘s Internazionale is again to get closer to an international trophy, deceiving their fans in the Europa League final against Seville. And so, the appointment with the victory of the Europa League that has been missing since 1998 has been postponed (again).

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Conference League: which teams are qualified

In 2021-2022, UEFA created the Conference League as a third continental competition for European clubs, aiming to ensure that the 34 UEFA national federations are represented in the group stage of one or more tournaments. Consequently, there will be a minimum of 14 national championships in the group stage of the Champions League, between eight and eleven national championship-winning teams in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, and between 9 and 12 winning teams in the UEFA Conference League group stage.

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The aim is commendable were it not for the fact that only second or third-tier clubs of the top European leagues participate in the Conference League, eventually making it the cup of the teams that have failed the placements that count. Thus, the most titled team at the European level to participate was undoubtedly Tottenham, inserted in Group G, together with teams with almost absent European experience, such as Rennes, Vitesse, and Mura. Qarabag, Kairat and Omonia in Group H.

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Bodø/Glimt: how they became famous over Conference League

AS Roma first holder of the trophy, is instead in Group C, with the Norwegian Bodø/Glimt, the Ukrainian team of Zorya Luhansk, and the Bulgarian CSKA Sofia. After the 5-1 debut against CSKA and the 0-3 in Luhansk, the path seems smooth and easy. But Bodø/Glimt will be AS Roma‘s worst nightmare throughout this competition. The Giallorossi succeeded in making the fifty thousand habitants town of Bodø (Norway’s Champion, but until a few years earlier in the second league of Norwegian football), famous. Here comes the worst defeat at the international level for Josè Mourinho. 6-1 is the final score in the first leg! The team coached by Knutsen managed to impose a 2-2 even at the Olimpico in Rome as an encore. The two teams cross their path again in the quarter-finals of the cup, where at the Aspmyra Stadion, the miracle is repeated. AS Roma is ahead with Pellegrini, but in the second half, Saltnes and Vetlesen overturn the score to 2-1. However, the second leg will ensure qualification by a 4-0 win.
The stratospheric comeback against Barcelona ​​and the Champions League semifinal against Liverpool where, after the 5-2 at Anfield, Eusebio Di Francesco‘s team tried and touched the mission impossible seem miles away. And it was just 4 years ago.

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The Serie A path has become more complicated recently, with the Milan teams returning to the top, Napoli often qualifying for the Champions League. AS Roma didn’t really take advantage of Juventus‘ latest temporary decline. Remaining out of the positions that mattered, they had to settle for a seventh-place in the table and consequently join the Conference League, where they immediately played the favoured role.

Assuming that commercial needs can justify the creation of new events by default, does UEFA not risk trivialising the conquest of a European trophy that does not really have prestige?

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