Money and power

If you really want to set the cat among the pigeons…

Photo: PA

FORGET THE World Cup, throw the gauntlet down and create a World Cup for clubs. Not the half-baked FIFA Club World Cup, but by replacing national teams with clubs. The World Cup has become dull, devoid of real quality and an “event” rather than a showpiece for the world’s elite football talent.

Today’s uber-clubs are arguably stronger, more interesting and more creative than national teams. The club versus country argument has long been lost by the nations – clubs run football and have the power, and it’s the select band of top European outfits that really rule the game.

Some might argue that a proper world club championship is a logistical nightmare, but it should be no more difficult than a 48-team FIFA World Cup. But is it really worth it?

On paper, the idea of the best clubs in the world coming together is one that would make TV executives salivate, but it is possible that the differential in quality would be so enormous and, in all probability, the final stages would be dominated by European clubs.

Strongest team?

Germany 2014 Real Madrid 2017
Neuer Navas
Lahm Carvajal
Boateng Ramos
Hummels Varane
Höwedes Marcelo
Kramer Casemiro
Schweinsteiger Kroos
Kroos Modrić
Müller Isco
Özil Benzema
Klose Ronaldo

The globalisation football has brought many pluses, but it has also destroyed the old order and marginalised a lot of football leagues and clubs. What do we mean by that? For a start, we’ve created a set-up of multi-national clubs that are driving the economies of football. They’re clubs which have squads of hired guns drawn from all over the world. This plays perfectly to global media companies that can leverage the presence of star names across regions. It also damages domestic markets – just count the number of Barcelona shirts you see in any random European capital city. Why watch Rapid Bucharest when you can see Ronaldo later on TV.

If players are said to be the drivers of world football, media companies are very high on the list of the major influences on the game. Leagues like the Premier and La Liga have global appeal because they’ve got top players from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. This is hard currency for TV broadcasters – and their corporate “partners”.

Barcelona and Real Madrid, for example, are a far more attractive commercial proposition than the French or German national teams. Arguably, a club competition featuring these clubs will have more commercial appeal than the FIFA World Cup.

I think it is only a matter of time before somebody – other than oil-rich businessmen from the Middle East – comes up with the idea. It may already be on someone’s agenda in Zurich.

What could it look like? We’ve been playing around with a concept, hypothetical of course, and a 32-team competition could be along these lines:

Group A: Al Ahli (UAE); Bayern Munich (Germany); Napoli (Italy); Atletico Nacional (Colombia)
Group B: Ghangzhou Evergrande (China); At. Madrid (Spain); Tottenham (England); River Plate (Argentina)
Group C: Tigres (Mexico); Barcelona (Spain); Monaco (France); Al-Ahly (Egypt)
Group D: Herediano (Costa Rica); Chelsea (England); Santos (Brazil); Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia)
Group E: PSG (France); FC Dallas (USA); Dortmund (Germany); TP Mazembe (Congo)
Group F: Al-Hilal (Saudi); Juventus (Italy); Feyenoord (Netherlands); Boca Juniors (Argentina)
Group G: Jeonbuk (South Korea); Manchester City (England); Palmeiras (Brazil); Al-Merrikh (Sudan)
Group H: Auckland City (New Zealand); Real Madrid (Spain); Benfica (Portugal); Nacional (Uruguay)

Whichever way you look at it, Europe’s top clubs would be too strong for the vast majority of these participants, including the South Americans, who have certainly declined over the past decade. Why? Firstly, football is about high finance these days and Europe will always be able to outgun Latin America. And secondly, there’s no doubting there’s quality coming from South America, but the best players will line-up for top European teams. Hence, countries can compete but clubs from the likes of Argentina and Brazil cannot. Europe’s dominance could be challenged in the future – but maybe from Asia, and in particular China.

Just supposing the above format represents a typical line-up, how would it end up? My hunch is that the last four would be Bayern, PSG, Chelsea and Real Madrid. Looks startlingly familiar doesn’t it? And there’s our answer: the UEFA Champions League is, effectively, the world football championship.

Without wishing to emphasis the European dominance of world football, this is how it has evolved – the top players from across the globe head to Europe. We’ve greatest an all-star world league and it is being administered by UEFA. Whisper it quietly in the streets of Zurich, Luque, Nyon and Miami.

By the way, Real Madrid would be my guess as world champions. Another trophy for CR7’S museum.

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