O’Neill backs league proposal

MARTIN O’NEILL has backed proposals which could see his former club Celtic and Rangers becoming part of a revamped Barclays Premier League.

The league could discuss the possibility of extending to two divisions — including the two Scottish giants — during the summer.

And Aston Villa boss O’Neill believes the duo would become “monumental players” if they decide to move south of the border.

“My personal thought is that Celtic and Rangers would enhance the Barclays Premier League,” O’Neill said.

“Glasgow is a phenomenal football city. Celtic house 60,000 fans and Rangers house 50,000 fans every game. I’m not sure about Rangers but I know Celtic’s capacity could go from 60,000 to 80,000 overnight, without a doubt.

“When I was manager of Celtic a number of years ago, there was some talk of both teams joining the Premier League in some capacity.

“There was mention of them being put in the Championship too, or maybe even lower down than that, and then making them work their way up through promotion.

“If forced to do that they would eventually get to the top and end up as monumental players in the Premier League.

“Of course, the sceptics would say ‘Why do it?’ But I’m talking about


The proposals are likely to face serious opposition and O’Neill conceded: “I suppose Belgian teams could then ask to join the Dutch league and Dutch teams could then request to join the Bundesliga. All of those points would have to be considered.

“But, if you’re asking for a personal opinion, I think Celtic and Rangers joining would enhance the Barclays Premier League and make us all strive to get better. That’s my view.

“There are processes that would have to be observed obviously. It was spoken about a few seasons ago and obstacles were put in the way.

“The idea died at that time and I don’t know how strong the possibility is at the moment. I certainly support the idea. But, then again, I could be a voice in the wilderness.”

Meanwhile, Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez is set to be sidelined for up to 10 weeks with the knee injury he sustained during the game.

Marquez was stretchered off at the start of the second after falling to the floor clutching his left knee, and tests yesterday confirmed the Mexican has suffered meniscus damage.

The 30-year-old centre-back will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Saturday and is set to be out for between “eight to 10 weeks”, according to the Primera Division club.

That means Marquez will play no further part this season, missing Barca’s final five league games, the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao and the remainder of their Champions League campaign.

Barca will also be without Marquez’s fellow defender Carles Puyol for the return meeting due to suspension.


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