The transfer of Willian to a London club from Anzhi Makhachkala is nearly complete; the question is will he choose to join Tottenham or Chelsea. Obviously the salary the player is offered by each club will effect this decision but many pundits have also cited that playing in the Champions League will ultimately effect his decision.
I'm not denying that this should be the case. The Champions League allows players compete at the highest possible club level, gives them exposure to a greater audience and provides a basis for potentially higher earnings. What I am trying to establish is the valuation system players use to make trade-offs between the Champions League and domestic football.
Once the third qualifying round has been completed, the 32 remaining clubs are drawn into eight groups of four. 800 players are registered for the Champions League group stages (25 per club) and by the end of this group stage half will be removed from the competition. That means that 50% of registered players will only play 6 Champions League ties. Assuming a Premier League footballer played every possible minute of the Premier League Season (3420) and played in just 6 Champions League matches for the group stages, his minutes played (540) would equate to just 16% of the domestic season. If they were to reach the last 16 this would rise to 21% and to 26%, 32% and 34% if the player was to make it to the quarter finals, semi-finals and final respectively. Keep in mind, these are best possible outcomes.
The maximum number of minutes a player can possibly play in the Champions League is 1170 or 13 matches. Only 50 players will get this opportunity and only 22 will be starting in the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal for next years final.
For me, players and pundits alike place an extremely high value on the Champions League relative to an already strong domestic competition. But as John Considine has just asked me - who was the best player never to play in the Champions League? A hard question to answer!