MADRID: Easy to see why record European champions Real Madrid are understood to be enthusiastic supporters of Gianni Infantino’s determination to pursue a massive offer to expand the Club World Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Madrid are among seven clubs – along with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester City, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain – to have been invited to share direct talks with the FIFA president over a $25bn offer from a consortium being led by Japan’s Softbank.
The project, if adopted by the world federation, would see not only a reordering of the club event but the launch of a biannual global nations league.
FIFA’s Club World Cup is staged annually over a fortnight in December but, importantly, attracts little interest from European broadcasters and commercial interests. Hence the likelihood that Infantino will obtain FIFA Council approval to create a study group to examine converting the cup into a 24-club event every four years in June in years between the World Cup and continental national team championships.
Revenues would offer Europe’s giants a massive bonus on top of their multi-million annual earnings from the UEFA Champions League.
Objections have already been sparked from UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, international players’ union FIFPro and two international league groupings.
More reticent has been the European Club Association which represents more than 200 leading clubs and whose present and past presidents are Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli and Bayern’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
The financial outlook is particularly enticing for Madrid at a moment when president Florentino Perez and his advisers are in negotiation to bring Brazilian superstar Neymar back to Spanish football from Paris Saint-Germain.
Neymar’s father and agent has reportedly informed the French champions’ media mogul president, Nasser Al Khelaifi, of his son’s intention not to return after the World Cup finals.
The player has been disappointed by the standard of French football, by PSG’s problems making significant progress in the Champions League and by personality issues in an ego-packed dressing room.
All these factors have hindered his ambition to emulate Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo at the individuals’ pinnacle of the world game.
This is Madrid’s third attempt to land Neymar. He had an inconclusive trial with the club as a 14-year-old in 2006 and then Madrid’s transfer offer to his club Santos in 2013 was gazumped by Barcelona.
Prising Neymar away this year – or even, possibly, next – will not be easy even for Madrid.
First there would be political ramifications in a visible footballing setback for PSG’s owner who is, in reality, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani through the Qatar ??.
Secondly, there is the money. PSG would not want to lose money as well as face so the fee could escalate further to €260m, maybe even €300m, before taking into account a signing-on fee of around €40m even before sorting out the pay rate beyond the annual €23m being paid to Cristiano Ronaldo (whose reaction is another issue altogether).
The saving financial grace for PSG might be the ability to straighten out the club’s accounts to the satisfaction of UEFA.
The European federation is being nagged – above all by the Spanish league – to sanction the French club for alleged breaches of financial fair play regulations arising from the Neymar purchase.
Neymar’s transfer could suit both sides and hand Madrid a specific financial reason for helping Infantino ‘sell’ his brave new world to the game at large and to his FIFA Council and stakeholders in particular.