While patriots and traditionalists across the globe would be disgusted at such a statement, they need to face facts. The football played in the Champions League is of a higher standard than anything at international level, and there are a number of reasons for this. For a start, pretty much of all the world’s best players appear year in, year out, in Europe’s premier club competition. If a player is good enough, the chances are he will be bought by one of the top sides – nobody misses out simply because of their nationality, unlike George Best, Ryan Giggs and George Weah, none of whom had the opportunity to appear at a World Cup
It also stands to reason that a group of players who train together every day, and play together 50-60 times a season will develop more of an understanding than a team who meet up a handful of times over the course of a year. That’s before you consider that some big names only appear for their country when it’s a competitive fixture and give the friendlies a miss, meaning they even less chance of gelling with team-mates.
The Champions League is now an incredibly difficult competition to win. The old knockout format, containing only the league champions from each country was replaced by group stages with more top teams. This year’s winner’s, Inter Milan, entered the competition knowing they would be competing against three sides from their own country as well as the top four sides from La Liga and the English Premier League. That’s before you even start to think about sides from Germany, Holland, Portugal and Russia.
Slowly but surely, club football has become more important than the international game. The amount of money now earned by the top professionals is obviously a huge factor – it’s natural that someone earning £100k per week is going to put their club first. Due to the demands of the modern game, more and more players retire early from the national side in order to prolong their club careers, something that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago.
The World Cup is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, bringing people together and nations to a standstill like no other football tournament. The fact that it’s only held every 4 years adds to it’s appeal. No doubt there will be moments in South Africa, good and bad, that will remembered for generations.
However, times have changed. The rise of the Champions League, and the level of football it produces, means that the World Cup is no longer the pinnacle of the game.