Lyon’s defeat means that Ajax are back in the Champions League

By Edikan Akpan - Lyon faces the same test Ajax failed -- to become the longest-shot European champion in a generation to guarantee a return to next season's competition.

After a seventh-place finish in the French league, which ended early because of the pandemic, Lyon will miss out on European football completely for failing to clinched the Champions League following their defeat to Bayern in semi-final — which earns an automatic spot in next season's group stage.

Lyon elimination feeds into a revived debate about how to reform UEFA club competitions ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Before the debate stalled last year -- when domestic leagues and mid-sized clubs opposed plans favoring a wealthy elite -- one idea aired was to reward Champions League semifinalists starting in 2025 with a place in the next group stage.

Ajax’s last-minute loss to Tottenham in the 2019 semifinals won sympathy because it sent the Dutch champion -- a four-time European Cup winner playing in a mid-ranked domestic league -- back to the Champions League qualifying rounds.

“Everybody was excited about Ajax,” UEFA president Alexsander Ceferin said in May 2019 after telling member federations of club-approved proposals to shake-up the Champions League. “It’s a romantic feeling, (Ajax) showed that everything is possible.”

Lyon has repeated the feat by over-achieving with young players at a well-run club trying to keep pace in football's booming era of globalization.

Being in the Champions League is key to business plans of storied clubs and their emerging rivals. Clubs can top 100 million euros ($120 million) in prize money from UEFA each season along with the added revenue that comes from global exposure.

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