It’s a strange world in which Juventus can be cast as an underdog, and yet modern football has achieved it. When the other three teams comprising the last four of the Champions League are all in their third consecutive semi-finals, though, it was the 31-time Italian champions who flew the flag for the little man, or at least for the giant who’s not quite as big as some of the giants. When The Blizzard began in 2011, it was apparent that the age of the super-clubs was upon us; as we begin out fifth year, and so welcome our fifth different cover, the only surprise is that the coagulation of money at the elite and the consequent stratification of the club game has happened so quickly.

On the one hand that means that the quality of football in the latter stages of the Champions League is probably the best football that has ever been played: all four legs of the semi-finals this year were of an exceptionally high standard. On the other, it means predictable domestic league campaigns – the inevitable march of Juve, Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain to victory, the eternal tussle of Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Chelsea-Manchester United-Manchester City carve-up. It’s possible that domestic championships in Europe will soon become as meaningless and wearisome as the state championships in Brazil: leagues that once were the priority that become almost irrelevant alongside the continental/national championship.

There are those to point to the examples of Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid, and it is true that they show how a team from slightly below the elite (but only slightly: they’re still along the 20 wealthiest clubs in the world) can challenge, and the successes of both are remarkable, but both have then found their best players snaffled by the true elite. The process of regeneration can be sustained for only so long before they inevitably fall back into the second tier again; where the elite can spend and spend, replacing players who don’t fit in with new purchases, the second tier cannot afford mistakes in the market.

What that means is that, rather than national elites who then meet in European competition, there has emerged an international elite of six to eight sides. If the process carries on for another five years, it’s hard to see how, for those clubs (and for fans and thus TV networks) domestic tournaments could retain their appeal. 

Whatever happens, hopefully The Blizzard will be there to see it and offer the sort of in-depth analysis we’ve been providing since we launched. It seems vaguely incredible that we’re still here and for that I – again – thank all our writers and editors and the various other people in the office whose jobs I don’t really understand, as well as you, the readers. And again I ask that you tell as many people as you can about us. We may be in our fifth year, but we’re still not wealthy enough for a marketing budget: word of mouth is all we have.