It was a goal that left Cristiano Ronaldo red-faced and sent Juventus crashing out of the Champions League. But now the ‘winner’ that put Porto into this season’s quarter-finals could be the last of its kind, with Uefa considering scrapping the away goals rule for ties that go to extra-time. Barely a month after Sergio Oliveira’s 115th-minute free-kick went through Ronaldo’s legs to settle Porto’s last-16 tie with Juve, it has emerged formal discussions are taking place over changing the regulations for Uefa’s flagship and other tournaments. Scrapping the away goals rule entirely has been rejected but it could be limited to the end of 90 minutes of the second leg of knockout ties from next season. A final decision on any change would be taken by Uefa’s executive committee, which includes Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of the powerful European Club Association – and of Juve. The away goals rule has been in place for 56 years but the coronavirus crisis, which has seen one or both legs of several Champions League and Europa League ties played at neutral venues – including those involving Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea – has compounded concerns it is no longer fit for purpose. Arsene Wenger repeatedly questioned the merits of it while manager of Arsenal, telling a conference back in 2008: “I believe the tactical weight of the away goal has become too important. “Teams get a 0-0 draw at home and they’re happy. Instead of having a positive effect, it has been pushed too far tactically in the modern game. It has the opposite effect than it was supposed to have. It favours defending well when you play at home.” Ironically, Wenger has also suggested the rule should only apply after extra-time, which was the case in the League Cup until it was scrapped entirely three years ago. That was the same year in which other top managers, including the likes of Jose Mourinho, Unai Emery and then-Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, joined Wenger in calling for Uefa to review the rule. Giorgio Marchetti, the governing body’s deputy general secretary, said: “The coaches think that scoring goals away is not as difficult as it was in the past. They think the rule should be reviewed and that’s what we will do.” The coaches’ view is supported by data that shows more Champions League games have been won by visiting teams in recent years and that fewer clean sheets are being kept by home sides. A European away trip is also a far less daunting prospect than in the 20th century, with advances in travel and accommodation, the quality of pitches, and in scouting and match footage meaning clubs are fully prepared for what awaits them.
Questions have been asked over whether Juve are getting full value for the forward’s services, but the club appear keen to keep him this summer