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By ESPN Staff

Rae's Say: Platini's proposals and Beckham's injury

Regular readers of this column will have heard a variation on the same theme before, so pardon me while I repeat a familiar refrain.

Thank goodness for Michel Platini!

Yes, I know there are those of you who feel the flamboyant Frenchman is to football administration what Claudio Ranieri was to managing Chelsea. There might seem to be an excessive amount of tinkering: or at least suggestions of how one might tinker with the UEFA Champions League in particular.

I'm always shocked by those, masquerading as traditionalists, who opine that the Champions League cannot be messed with at all, as if the current format dates back to Jules Rimet.

Rather than getting sucked into the delusion that the big clubs in 2007 must forever rule the European roost for decades to come, should we not be open to ideas that might just stop the inexorable slide towards an elite that can rarely if ever be defeated?

Do we honestly want the winners of the Champions League to come from England, Spain or Italy with virtually no one else getting a look in? I believe European football was far more intriguing and uplifting when resourceful teams such as IFK Gothenburg, Steaua Bucharest, and yes, my own Aberdeen were lifting continental silverware.

While it's doubtful we can ever return to those days, why is it necessary to keep filling the pockets of the same clubs over and over again? Defenders of the status quo will tell you they want to see Arsenal, Barcelona and Milan flourish, as they offer the best football, not Slavia Prague or Rosenborg. But that argument implies that English, Spanish and Italian teams have a divine right to the best players in the world. The Champions League has become a cartel for the wealthy, with temporary member status given to the less well off from time to time.

Platini should be commended for doing something to redress the balance. His proposal that national cup winners must get the chance to qualify for the Champions League group stage has upset the big four in England, who have grown accustomed to the steady stream of UEFA income. This alone tells you Platini is on to something. Also laudable, is a plan to guarantee that the national champions of the top sixteen countries (according to UEFA co-efficients) get into the group stage.

Whether you agree or disagree with the UEFA President on Champions League organisation, one thing we must surely all stand behind is the move to make the final of Europe's premier club competition a weekend affair. While the Champions League final is a truly wonderful occasion, it suffers from lack of build-up due to its Wednesday night date.

David Beckham fans, and I know there are many, will have to excuse what I'm about to say. Beckham's knee injury is a massive blessing-in-disguise for England manager Steve McClaren.

While Beckham's Real Madrid form dictated that McClaren almost had no choice but to pick him for the games against Brazil and Estonia, I feel at this stage in his career, he's more of a liability than an asset.

Why you ask? Well, when Beckham plays he has to be accommodated, catered to. He's going to play on the right and he's not going to bomb past the opposing left-back. No, Beckham is going to be... well... Beckham. For free-kicks and corners, he's your man, otherwise he adversely impacts the flexibility of the England team.

Aaron Lennon, when fit, and Shaun Wright-Phillips present more youthful and exciting options. Even Steven Gerrard on the right (which is not where most Liverpool supporters like to see him) is preferable to Becks, in his current guise.

David Beckham is desperately keen to become only the fifth Englishman to reach a century of caps. I'm not sure giving him three more international appearances is entirely justifiable on footballing grounds.

My early reading of the Spanish League title race is that Real Madrid are going to be very hard to dislodge. I know it's early, but my goodness how dazzling Bernd Schuster's new team have looked in the opening two matches.

It's acceptable enough just to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in a fiercely contested derby and then follow that up by ending Villarreal's nine-match winning sequence in the Primera, handing out a 5-0 thrashing in Castellon. It's another matter altogether when the football is simply irresistible.

Schuster was brought in to to be the anti-Capello, to bring back the Real Madrid style of old. Football with a smile is back in favour. Little did we think Wesley Sneijder would start his Spanish League career in such spectacular fashion.

Real Madrid are going to be well worth watching over the next few months.

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