Barcelona recently won the FIFA Club World Cup for the second time in three years. But what does winning this cup really prove? The only thing it proves is that only the rich European clubs can win it.
The purpose of the FIFA Club World Cup (formerly the Intercontinental Cup) is to showcase samples of soccer as it is played by clubs on the different continents around the world, namely, Europe, South America, the rest of the Americas and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Oceana. But that is not what is happening.
Since the 1990’s when “big money” got into the game in Europe the rich Vclubshop clubs have been going overseas and buying the best players that money can buy. This particularly hurts countries in South America like Brazil and Argentina as it has drained away the best talent those countries have to offer. For example, in Argentina between 2009 and 2010 some 1800 players were recruited by foreign clubs (mostly from Europe) and in Brazil the number was 1440 (Gerardo Molina- Euroamericas Sports Marketing).
It is therefore not surprising that the last four Club World Cups were won by European clubs. But this was hardly a sampling of the indigenous game. In 2010 Inter Milan won but only 5 players on the squad of 23 were Italian, the rest coming predominantly from South America (Wikipedia). I am amused to hear TV commentators refer to the Inter Milan team as “the Italians.”
In 2011, Barcelona won the Cup again and their squad of 23 comprised 10 foreign players, again mostly from South America (Wikipedia). In contrast, the other finalist Santos of Brazil included players who were either in decline and had returned from playing in Europe like Elano and Leo or very young and just about to get onto the conveyor belt to Europe like Danilo (20 years old) who immediately after the final game left for Porto in Portugal.
In 2012 Corinthians from Brazil were Vclubshop the victors but the runners-up Chelsea included 3 Brazilian internationals, namely David Luis, Ramires and Oscar.
This influx of foreign players benefits not only the European clubs but also national teams as a lot of them end up playing for the country where they ply their trade.
Another way in which the exodus of players hurts South America is that when the Copa Libertadores (the regional championship) ends in June the European clubs immediately sign up the best players on the winning team so that the team that plays in the Club World Cup in December is different from the one that qualified.
South America needs to adopt measures to stop this exodus. It is not only hurting their clubs but also their national teams. Cash-strapped clubs have to export players to make income which deprives the leagues of the most attractive players resulting in less spectators and revenue and a decline in standards.
But there is a silver lining. Some countries have already taken measures to improve the situation. So in 2009 the Argentina government Vclubshop nationalized TV broadcasting rights because the previous holder of the rights would not pay more to the clubs. Now the government will pay clubs more than twice what the private company had previously paid. This increase in revenue will enable the clubs to offer more lucrative contracts to their players and the fans will benefit because soccer is now broadcast on TV for free (Reuters “Argentina government to pay millions for soccer TV rights”).