Barcelona's world crown proves costly | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerBarcelona's world crown proves costly

Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011 | 11:21 PM

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Barcelona player David Villa is stretchered from the field during their semi-final football match against Al Sadd of the Club World Cup in Yokohama on Thursday. Villa faces at least six months out of the game after fracturing his left shin in the first-half of the European champions' Club World Cup semi-final. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images) Barcelona player David Villa is stretchered from the field during their semi-final football match against Al Sadd of the Club World Cup in Yokohama on Thursday. Villa faces at least six months out of the game after fracturing his left shin in the first-half of the European champions' Club World Cup semi-final. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

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Tell us something new. We already knew Barcelona was the best club side in the world. They didn't have to go traipsing off to Japan to prove it. The locals loved it but few others shared their passion or interest for a competition lacking in credibility or heritage.
Tell us something new. We already knew Barcelona was the best club side in the world. They didn't have to go traipsing off to Japan to prove it. The locals loved it but few others shared their passion or interest for a competition lacking in credibility or heritage.
 
Barcelona's return to Spain will coincide with a reality check. Their fiercest rivals have stolen a march and their World Cup hero is out for the season. While they were gone, Real Madrid returned to the top of La Liga and boosted their goal difference in the process, while David Villa faces months of rehab after breaking his leg in the Far East.
 
The European Champions are being punished for their success. Flying half way round the world for a pre-season promotional tour is one thing. Doing so in mid-season makes no sense for a team trying to focus on retaining its domestic crown, then adding another European trophy to its array of silverware.
 
FIFA's awkwardly named Club World Cup is the wrong event at the wrong time with most of the wrong teams. World Cups are for nations, not for club teams with as many, if not more, foreigners on their payroll as domestic players.

Profit trumps prestige
 
Football's world governing body has put profit ahead of prestige. Once upon a time there was real competition, involving just two clubs. The Intercontinental Cup used to be an annual home and away challenge between the Champions of Europe and South America to determine the unofficial world champions.
 
When the world was a bigger place and air travel was still seen as something of a thrill ride, the Intercontinental Cup represented heady times. We saw exotic teams from South America playing a different brand of futbol against their European counterparts.
 
More seasoned Manchester United fans will recall the infamous 1968 series against Estudiantes. The bad blood which began in Buenos Aires spilled over into the decider at Old Trafford. Players from both sides were ultimately to blame but when the dust finally settled, the Argentines had silenced the European Champions in front of their own fans.
 
It was rivalry at its most raw. Who needed corporate sponsors when you had unrehearsed, no holds barred theatre? As a young, impressionable boy I remember my father using words I had never heard nor understood. But I sensed they were words not to be used in front of my mother.
 
FIFA assumed control in 2005. They have transformed it into a global event - or at least they think they have. Its six Confederations are now invited to send a representative to battle it out for the Club World Cup accompanied by the host J-League champions in a 10 day competition.
 
It is neatly packaged but it has lost its soul. I understand the concept and the reasoning behind the revamped tournament but there is no way on earth you can convince me FC Barcelona should be competing in the same competition as Auckland City FC.
 
The two will never actually meet of course. The plucky New Zealanders are eliminated long before the heavyweights take to the field in Japan which is probably just as well given the ease with which Pep Guardiola's men swept to victory in both their semi-final and the Championship game itself against Santos of Brazil.
 
Every club must have ambition to be the best. If it doesn't it is cheating its fans, and without the fans there is no point turning up in the first place. I have no problem with continental championships but I draw the line when these proud winners are used as makeweights in a manufactured event to satisfy FIFA's global sponsors.
 
If we want a true Club World Cup, it must involve the world's best teams. What we have now is an odd numbered competition based on geographical supremacy, featuring the crowd pulling European champions, conveniently allowing FIFA to spread its gospel and ensure global awareness for its platinum partners.

Flawed concept?
 
What if the unthinkable happened? On the basis that every dog has its day, let's assume Auckland City went above and beyond and managed to beat Barca. Ergo they would become Club World Cup Champions. But it wouldn't make them the world's number one team or even the 101st best team. It just wouldn't.
 
In a year from now, Toronto FC could be taking part. Aron Winter's team is just 6 games away from booking its berth at the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup. Unlikely as it seems, Canada's lone representative has the chance to rub shoulders with soccer's giants.
 
It would be a tremendous achievement for the fledgling club and provide a huge shot in the arm for Major League Soccer. The resulting publicity would raise the profile of the league both at home and abroad and might even tempt Nicholas Anelka to rethink his move to China.
 
But let's face facts. Neither Toronto FC nor any of its MLS rivals are competing on a level playing field with Barcelona or Santos. Lumping them together in an end of year Japanese jamboree might make commercial sense to its organizers, but it doesn't excite the fan in me.
 
Winning the Club World Cup has done nothing for Barcelona or its reputation. It has, however, cost them top spot at home and one of their most experienced strikers for the remainder of the campaign. I only hope Barca supporters, who own the club, feel it was a price worth paying.

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