Mourinho praises UEFA for Champions League changes

More accustomed to criticizing UEFA, Real Madrid coach Jose

Mourinho praised president Michel Platini on Wednesday for changing

the format to allow a wider European representation in the

Champions League.

Mourinho guided record nine-time champion Madrid into the

quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow. There will be teams

from seven countries in Friday’s draw, including APOEL, the first

Cypriot side to progress to the last eight of the competition.

Mourinho said Platini, who won the presidency in 2007, deserved

much of the credit for countries with lower-profile leagues being

awarded more places. The Madrid coach described the move as giving

the competition a better overall ”representation.”

”This is happening because of the decision from when Platini

was (elected) president. Now you see some teams reaching this

level, you have to give him credit,” the Portuguese said. ”Some

great teams are not there, like Manchester United, Arsenal or Inter

Milan, and instead of big teams there are some surprises.”

England’s leading two teams, Manchester United and Manchester

City, failed to progress out of the group stages, with Swiss club

FC Basel and Russian team Zenit St. Petersburg among a number of

unlikely last-16 qualifiers.

While neither of those teams reached the quarterfinals,

Marseille reached the last eight for the first time since winning

the trophy in 1993, joining defending champion Barcelona, AC Milan,

Benfica, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

”I think it’s good for football and good motivation for these

countries to invest in their game,” Mourinho said. ”I remember

playing a group-phase game with Inter in Cyprus, and that was

fantastic atmosphere. So you can imagine what Cyprus can be like

playing a quarterfinals.”

Mourinho’s kind words are in stark contrast to his previous

criticism of European football’s governing body. The two-time

Champions League-winning coach was banned last season for accusing

UEFA of mounting a conspiracy to help Barcelona reach the final

after Madrid had lost in the first leg of the semifinals.

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