Jose Mourinho Says Champions League More Important Than World Cup!
Inter coach Jose Mourinho is renowned for making controversial remarks, for using the media to hammer his point and for manipulating the press to engage in psychological games against his toughest opponents. The focus here will be on Mourinho’s latest statement which is actually inaccurate if one is to consider the many factors associated with the World Cup and involved in the buildup to the biggest sports tournament in the world. The outspoken Portuguese claimed the Champions League final is the most important game in the world and even more important than the World Cup.
There is no doubt Mourinho is a capable coach and is probably one of the best at motivating his players, preparing for games and disrupting the plans of opponents through various means including psychological ploys. However, in this case the Portuguese has erred andone only needs to look at Brazilian legend Pele to understand being a great player does not make you an expert on football (whether predictions or various assessment of players & teams) and in Mourinho’scase a number of his outrageous remarks have really little ground to stand on. Below is a brief summary of small scale comparison between the Champions League and the World Cup to make it easier for the public to make their own judgment:
- Most-Watched & TV Audience: Unfortunately we have to go back to 2006 since this was the last time the World Cup and the Champions League were contested in the same year. The World Cup Final in Germany 2006 which featured Italy taking on France was the most watched event in 2006 ahead of the Super Bowl while the Champions League Final (Barcelona vs Arsenal) was actually in fourth place.
- Duration: The qualification process for World Cup 2010 actually begun in August 2007 and ended in November 2009. As for the Champions League the qualifying phase began in June 2009 and the tournament ends this Saturday, May 22nd in Madrid. This might be an unfair comparison but this is part of the process which gives a better assessment of the scale of the respective tournaments and which is bigger.
- Number of Teams: Less than 100 total in the Champions League compared to 204 national teams participating in the World Cup qualifying rounds.
- Matches Played: The World Cup qualifiers alone witnessed 848 matches while the Champions League as a whole features 124 games.
- Prestige: Winning the World Cup is by far the most coveted achievement of a football player’s career. Some of the best players over the decades became legends and cemented themselves in the history books by winning the World Cup. Winning the Champions League is the greatest achievement on the club level but to triumph in the World Cup is to reach the peak of football at all levels.
- Talent on Display: The Champions League and the World Cup are an elitist competition with the best clubs andteams qualifying to main draw (the group stages in both competitions) however the World Cup is even more selective since teams in Italy, Spain andEngland can still make the Champions League despite finishing 3rd or even 4th (after the qualifying stage). This means the Champions League leaves room for some of the less competitive teams. In the World Cup this is balanced by having the different Confederations yet these limit the number of qualifiers to the best teams from most of these Confederations. This allows for a great diversity of talent to be on show. The Champions League does not have the same number of surprise players emerging as stars since Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (Ronaldinho and Kaka before them) have shown time and again they’re the best. In the World Cup, there have been a number of unexpected surprises such as Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci in World Cup 1990.
- Emerging Talent: Again the World Cup often serves as the perfect stage for the supporters to watch emerging players (such as Roberto Baggio in World Cup 1990) or even hear about future stars (Brazil’s Ronaldo did not play in USA 1994 but was in the squad). Stars are made in the World Cup and careers are often ended as well with many players retiring after participating in the World Cup (Note: Zinedine Zidane of France retiring after Germany 2006).
- Major Controversies: The controversies in the World Cup continue to be discussed for generations and the most notable examples in recent decades are Zidane’s headbutt on Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the Germany 2006 Final in Berlin and Argentina star Diego Maradona’s “Handof God” against England in World Cup 1986. These events continue to be discussed by fans.
- The Money Factor: Mourinho says the Champions League gains the edge over the World Cup because the rich clubs can afford to buy the best talent while national teams pick from the best players available from their country. The logic here might be counterproductive as Barcelona’s Messi will be in the World Cup representing Argentina yet teammate Xavi Hernandez will play for Spain. While the talent might be further dispersed, it does ensure a more competitive tournament while in the Champions League the top teams such as Barca, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Inter and Real Madrid continue to have a monopoly over the best players.
- National Pride: While at the club the salary of the player is a decisive factor, the same players seek and try their best to play for their country at the World Cup. While there are financial rewards offered by a country’s Federation to the players who achieve certain objectives, the competing players in the World Cup are after the prestige and the experience of playing in the World Cup. Players who excel at the World Cup often become national heroes and lift the spirits of their fellow compatriots.
- Social Role: While football in general unites fans whether poor or rich, and of any race or background, to watch the games, the World Cup gets the nod here because of the global presence and coverage it generates.
- World Cup vs Champions League: Simply put winning the World Cup is Marcello Lippi’s greatest achievement and not winning the Champions League with Juventus in 1996. Zidane’s greatest honour was leading France to triumph in World Cup 1998 and then comes other honours such as Euro 2000 with Les Bleus and the Champions League triumph with Real Madrid (Zidane might pick winning the Champions League with R. Madrid over Euro 2000 but he certainly considers France 1998 as his greatest achievement).
- Mourinho Factor: The Portuguese is simply the type who does not rate anything high unless he is the main benefactor or the driving force behind it. Some might argue that when Chelsea won the domestic double (Premiership and FA Cup) in Carlo Ancelotti’s first season in charge one of those who were not really impressed was Mourinho because he used to try and instigate the Italian into a verbal war when Ancelotti was still in charge of rivals Milan. Mourinho considered beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge one of his greatest moments only to retract his statement after eliminating Barca in the Champions League semi-final not because the Catalans are the most talented team in the world (which they probably are with Messi & Xavi leading the line among others) but because he assisted Bobby Robson when he was in charge at the Camp Nou before leaving the club (he was bitter at not being offered the chance to coach the team in the years after). This is one additional motivational factor behind his strong desire to take charge of Real Madrid in order to make Barca suffer on the domestic front.
- Main Focus: The Champions League is on Saturday yet many supporters are preoccupied with the provisional teams and the cuts made by the national team coaches while Mourinho is desperately trying to engage in mind games with BayernMunich. Admittedly the Bavarians did start this round of psychological warfare when they accused Inter of being a defensive team and not entertaining which prompted Mourinho to sarcastically taunt Bayern for the decisive refereeing errors which helped the German club overcome Fiorentina in Munich as well as the sending off of Rafael of Manchester United at Old Trafford which helped turn the tide in Bayern’s favour.
There are a number of other factors which can be considered but once again nothing really surpasses the feeling of winning what is recognised as the world’s greatest honour in sports and the most watched event in the world. In addition, the Champions League is played on a yearly basis while the World Cup is a major event played every four years which gives it even more emphasis and makes it more exclusive. Only seven countries have won the World Cup at one of the 18 total events played so far while the Champions League is in its 55th season (and ironically in its 18th under the current format) and has been won by 21 different clubs.