Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City’s midfielder, didn’t mince words when he was asked about his upcoming international fixtures.
The Belgium star declared, “For me the Nations League is not important,” before he began a run with four games in the competition.
“We must play those matches, but that’s just a practice campaign. It’s been a difficult season for everyone.”
De Bruyne doesn’t think it is wrong that it is another hump after a long journey. He joined the national team following a 44-game season with games against Poland and the Netherlands.
The Nations League was created to improve the competitiveness of European international soccer. UEFA
We wanted to play fewer rubber qualification games, and we didn’t want soulless friendlies in which full 11s were changed at the half.
Or, to put it another way, the League’s official press release launching said that “the compact format, where any match can be decisive makes for a dynamic competition in which no team can afford not to keep its focus.” Every game is important in the UEFA Nations League.
De Bruyne doesn’t want to play in another round of intense games after he played in a grueling Premier League race for the title, which was down to the very last minute of the season.
“I want to win. He said, “Aside from that, I don’t have much else to say about it.” He added, “As players, you can talk about vacation and rest, but we have nothing to do with it. We do what is necessary and that’s all. Each twelve-months, we have little more than three weeks vacation.
“The outsiders can’t understand what a player feels after a season.”
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager, supports his views, which are not surprising.
The German coach stated that he still believes it was one of the most absurd ideas in football. “Now we are done with a season where players have played over 70 games easily – club games 64 or 64 plus internationals – and then we go straight to 75, which is quite crazy.”
Klopp stated, “We continue to play Nations League games [when] there is not a tournament, who cares that we play four, five, or six games with national teams.”
Are they relegated?
Most critics of the Nations League don’t have a problem with the sheer number of games. It is that there is no glory and most teams are not in great danger.
The competition’s biggest innovation was the introduction promotion and relegation. This matches the international game with the domestic game.
The key difference between the Nations League demotion and something like the Premier League’s is that it doesn’t seem to have much effect in many cases.
This is not surprising, as Germany, the first nation to be relegated in the new format, remained at the top division after UEFA revamped the format.
The governing body wanted to create a larger top tier and more high-profile games.
According to DW, League A will now have 16 teams. This means more revenue for UEFA.
Even worse is the fact that the teams at the bottom don’t seem to be bothered by the prospect of relegation.
Northern Ireland dropped a division in the last Nations League. However, its manager Ian Baraclough suggested that he would use the games to provide youngsters with an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.
He said, “We’ve always used the tournament as an opportunity to give [young] players experience and we still view it as that tournament even though we also understand the benefits of winning games, going for top spot,” before he spoke ahead of matches against Greece and Cyprus.
“It’s all about finding that balance, bringing in new players to the squad, but for us, it’s also the larger picture of qualifying for European Championships or World Cups.”
More tournaments, less interest?
The Nations League format bears striking similarities to the original European Championships format, or Euros, as they are commonly known. The competition’s establishment was in 1960. It was settled by a long qualification campaign that lasted many years. This was similar to UEFA’s second-string competition.
The key difference between the Nations League and the Euros is that the Nations League takes place every other year.
France may be the current holders but few would argue that it even makes up for the European Championships Second Round exit last summer.
International soccer’s greatest problem is repetition when it comes creating new tournaments that bring in revenue.
Because of the geographic limitations of national sports, soccer federations cannot create new things.
FIFA tried unsuccessfully to make up the gap left by the World Cup.
From 1997 to 2017, the FIFA Confederations Cup was held every two years. It included the winners of different continental competitions like the Euros.
The problem with it was that it wasn’t really meant to win the competition. No nation could claim to be the best at winning the World Cup. Although the trophy may have appeared real, it fooled no one.
After a string of delays and changes to the schedule, FIFA announced that it would cancel the entire competition. Instead of focusing on domestic league revenue, FIFA will focus on the FIFA Club World Cup.
CONMEBOL and UEFA seized the opportunity to fill the void created by inter-confederation competition. They revived CONMEBOL UEFA Cup of Champions (or Finalissima) between the Copa America champion and the winner of Euros.
Argentina’s players were happy to have won the crown with a win of 3-0, but it was clear that Italy as an entire nation was disappointed by its inability to reach the World Cup in Qatar.
What should you do?
The European governing body isn’t wrong to take this approach. Anyone who knows soccer finance understands that while the romance and tradition between David vs Goliath may be strong, what really brings in the cash are clashes between side with prestige.
This knowledge is what fueled the efforts to create the expanded Champions League format and the European Super League.
These types of breakaways are difficult to comprehend because of the large church that is the international soccer community.
The problem for organizers is even more difficult.
While a clash between Northern Ireland or Albania might not inspire a global audience, it can have a huge impact on the lives of both countries.
Europe’s political geography has always been a disadvantage to South America, where most countries are smaller and have a love of soccer.
Many mismatches were common in Europe due to the large number of countries with small populations and poor soccer heritage. This often led to tedious situations.
It was time for change, but the governing body may have gone too far in doing so, playing so many games against the largest sides that they were also devalued.
You suspect that the long-term solution is not to try to create new formats, but rather to maximize existing competitions.
FIFA also abandoned the Confederations Cup because it wants a World Cup every 2 years. The Euros has grown to 24 teams, and there are some suggestions of expanding to 32 countries.
It is hard to imagine what Jurgen Klopp and Kevin De Bruyne would think of a biannual World Cup and expanded Euros and Nations League crammed into an already crowded fixture list.