2022-11-25 07:30:00

Europe shows Infantino the way on the pitch now it must do the same off it

Logo The Guardian
The Guardian
By Philipp Lahm

The World Cup began with a Europhobic tone. In his speech the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, attacked Europe. He accused its representatives of arrogance, double standards and self-centredness. He overlooked one point: the centre of football is indeed in Europe: historically, culturally, economically and sportingly. Only in Europe is it possible to have a great career in top-level football.

Europe dominates contemporary football. In the World Cup that is clearer than ever. The last time the final of the tournament was played without a European team was almost three quarters of a century ago. The last four world champions are Italy, Spain, Germany and France and three of their four opponents in the final came from Europe. In 2006 and 2018, the semi-finals were all European.

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The dominance in club football is even clearer. Everything is pointing towards Europe, to the five big leagues, and this trend has intensified since the creation of the Champions League in 1992. The last world-class footballers to really shine outside Europe were Pel and Zico. Diego Maradona spent his best years in Spain and Italy, Lionel Messi went to Barcelona as a child, Neymar at 21. From the starting XI of the last non-European world champions, Brazil 2002, only one never played in Europe during his lifetime: Marcos, the goalkeeper.

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