While some pundits like Craig Burley may sneer at it, Chelsea completed the set on Saturday. And like many fans, I was very happy with that achievement. Having failed to win it the previous time the club were involved in the competition, everyone in and around the club really seemed to be taking the Club World Cup seriously. And that was no less than the competition and the other teams deserved. In all my years of watching football I have never seen a Champions League winning team take anything less than their strongest squad to the Club World Cup. Real Madrid’s all conquering back-to-back-to-back Champions League winners went at full strength. Barcelona’s tiki-taka Guardiola sides went at full strength. Liverpool decided to just have their under-23s play a League Cup game for them while they took the first team squad to Qatar to claim their first Club World Cup.
However, because of when the competition takes place and how short the participation of the Champions League holders is, many people in the European game do not take it seriously. And I can see why some might think like that. It’s two games, often in Asia or the Middle East. It disrupts your league season as well as any other domestic cups you may be involved in. And by not having some of the teams enter until the semi-final stage, it does show a distinct bias towards those teams and a lack of respect for the other teams that have potentially played twice as many games to get to the same stage.
So, I can see why FIFA may want to revamp the competition and make it something that becomes far important to the clubs participating in it. However, the plans that FIFA have put in place are for a summer tournament with far more teams participating, akin to the international World Cup. And that is yet more games for the players to play. And for all the ridiculous money modern footballers get paid, they are not robots. At the moment, if you play in Europe, you have a summer off every two years. If you add another summer tournament, the players are only going to get a proper break every three years. They will simply burn out, not have time to recover properly, will be more susceptible to injuries and will potentially shorten their career through over-playing.
Moreover, it looks to me like FIFA just want to steal UEFA’s thunder. At the moment, the Champions League is regarded as the greatest club competition in the world. And I would agree with that. But FIFA and UEFA don’t historically have the best relationship, only brought together when both are threatened, like the aborted European Super League. So FIFA wants to have a bigger and better tournament that it can name and claim as the best club competition as well as having the World Cup, which is by its very nature, the biggest football competition in the world.
But FIFA hasn’t exactly been coming up with the best ideas lately. Their proposal to have the World Cup every two years is complete nonsense. And I just don’t think that any more additions to the football schedule is the right way to go. And this also touches on the fact that football as a sport has spiralled out of control in terms of wages. Managers and players continue to argue that the schedule is getting too crowded. The sport’s governing bodies respond that if clubs want to be able to continue to pay the ridiculous wages that the top teams have ended paying, they need to play a lot of games to keep the prize money up at those levels. Both are good points. It will be interesting to see which way it goes.