Here’s something to ponder in a week when Brazil are expected at Wembley for a friendly international: for more than half a century, the canary-shirted Brazil playmaker has been the embodiment of all that is best about the game that conquered the world; yet, as the sport has grown rich, the home of o jogo bonito has been reduced to a dusty outpost of the shiny multinational that is Planet Football.
For a decade or two now, the leading national cup competitions in Western Europe have been losing their grip on the public imagination.
You might think this would leave the second-string competitions – the league cups – in a seriously bad place.
But for one at least, 2012-13 has brought something of a revival – to the great good fortune of its new sponsor.
The recently released edition of the Deloitte Football Money League raises a few points that are worth taking a harder look at.
The first is about the slipperiness of statistics.
While in euro terms, year-on-year revenue growth among Europe’s 20 highest-earning football clubs is an impressive 10%, a very different picture – of stagnation, basically – emerges if the reference currency is sterling.
I can’t tell you exactly why Pep Guardiola, the hottest property in football management, decided this week to hitch his wagon to Germany’s Bundesliga.
But I don’t think it would have happened had it not been for a choice made by an obscure New Zealand football administrator in Zurich on 7 July 2000.
I hate to be a wet blanket, but I have the tiniest sliver of sympathy for football administrators in the predicament they face following the actions of Kevin-Prince Boateng and his Milan team-mates.
The powers-that-be now have to decide how they are going to respond when a similar walk-off happens in a competitive match – as assuredly it will.
Some thoughts on Euro 2020:
● Yes, a 24-team tournament is too unwieldy for most European countries to take on; but it is simplistic to suggest that this alone forced UEFA’s hand, necessitating the adoption of Michel Platini’s Grand Experiment – a competition spread around the great arenas of the European continent.
Turkey, pipped at the post for Euro 2016, could have coped with the expanded format and would, I’m sure,
Suddenly the 2018 World Cup bidding campaign seems a very long time ago.
At its conclusion in December 2010, relations between the world’s oldest Football Association – whose candidate, England, was among the losers – and FIFA, world football’s governing body, were at a low ebb.
Yet today finds Joseph Blatter, FIFA’s long-serving President, dropping in on St George’s Park, the FA’s new national football centre at Burton on Trent in the English Midlands.
Now that I’ve seen the pictures, I am ready to believe it: Cardiff City are playing this season in red shirts (Heiðar Helguson, pictured below left, in the new shirt).
It feels wrong – like archery at Lord’s or Usain Bolt doing the polevault.
My personal image of Cardiff will always be caught up with Jimmy Scoular’s team that so nearly made it into the top tier of “English” football in 1970-71.
Two years ago, it looked odds-on that the 2020 European Championship would be staged in Turkey.
An impressive campaign for Euro 2016, in which the Turks were edged out by France, many thought unluckily, allied to a vibrant economy and the scale to cope with the tournament’s expansion to 24 teams, left the strong impression that Ankara’s claim to Euro 2020 (pictured below, logo) would be all but irresistible – if they decided that they wanted the competition.
Michel Platini once bemoaned to me the extinction of the old-style ‘Number 10’, a position in which he, of course, excelled like few others.
“They have practically done away with le Numéro 10,” he said, sitting in a large office across the street from the Comédie Française.
“There is practically no longer an organiser.
The latest Premier League television deal may have given some BT and British Sky Broadcasting shareholders the jitters.
But the alarm-bells will have been ringing much, much louder in non-English citadels of European footballing excellence from Barcelona to Munich.
The new tide of money that the £3 billion ($4.7 billion/€3.7 billion) settlement will send flooding into English Premier League club coffers from the 2013-2014 season should do much to restore the competitive advantage of English clubs in the top European competitions.
European football is proving more resilient than many businesses in the face of the fiscal and economic shadows hanging over Europe.
But, as the new Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance* makes clear, not everything is rosy in the rose-garden.
Take Spain, home of arguably Europe’s two leading clubs – Barcelona and Real Madrid.
An era may be about to end in French football.
As I write this, AJ Auxerre sit 20th and last in Ligue 1, the French First Division.
There is still time for them to save themselves, but they are three points adrift, six points from safety and the days are getting longer.
On February 29 at the bijou Bonifika Stadium in Koper, Scotland take on Slovenia in one of those rather pointless friendly internationals.
The match takes place with Scottish independence high on the UK news agenda and a referendum expected in 2014.
You might think the fortunes of the Tartan Army have little if anything to do with the complexities of Scotland’s constitutional arrangements with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Here we go again.
England needs a new football manager, setting off a new cycle of speculation, unrealistically burgeoning expectations and disillusionment, as surely as, well 55,000 Twitter-users follow the Anfield cat.
Actually, the speculation bit looks like being much diminished this time, since everyone thinks they know the new man’s identity: step forward Harry Redknapp, cheekie-chappie manager of Tottenham Hotspur, surprise package of the 2011-12 English Premier League season.