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Posted by: | Posted on: November 16, 2019

Wealth of Nations League: Uefa’s rare good idea a wonder to be savoured

first_imgAgainst this backdrop the current manoeuvres at Uefa look disarmingly sane. There was a fairly convincing suggestion this week that the European club Super League really isn’t going to happen any time soon. Plus of course the Nations League looks like a winner, offering a reminder that football is at its best when money and the hoarding of talent play less rather than more of a guiding role; and that when it is allowed to shine the spectacle is still good, the product still vital. Nations League Reuse this content Sportblog Germany may be less enamoured with the Nations League after relegation. Photograph: Paul Currie/BPI/REX/Shutterstock Share on LinkedIn Twitter Well, no one’s laughing now. Except perhaps at Germany, whose relegation from Group A to Group B was compounded by a humiliating late collapse in the 2-2 draw with a reinvigorated Netherlands on Monday night. In fact, given the sheer rarity of those words, it is perhaps worth typing them again just for the sake of it. Germany, whose relegation was compounded by a humiliating late collapse. And once more. Germany, whose relegation was compounded by … Well, you get the idea.One thing is certain. With the inaugural group stage complete, the Nations League has already proved itself to be that rare thing, a very good idea very well executed by one of football’s governing bodies.Odd as it might sound given the man who conceived the Nations League is currently banned from football for taking a “disloyal payment”, the beauty of the new competition has been its basic purity, a reminder that the best part of this poor old beleaguered sport is the spectacle of well-matched teams performing at something close to a level playing field.Shoot the whole thing through with some structural tension and a balanced set of groups. And suddenly a form of the game that was supposed to be dying has managed to completely outshine the increasingly tedious and remote Champions League group stage when it comes to dramatic action.This is a part of a broader trend. Look back and the most engrossing elite-level football matches of the last six months have all involved teams who play for a shared flag not a sack of cash. The World Cup was a five-week summer blast. And this week the group stages of Uefa’s newest competition have provided a series of unusually epic set of autumn internationals. As for Uefa, and indeed everyone else involved in trying to sluice a little extra cash from the world’s great shared sporting obsession, the message should be taken on board. Elsewhere in recent days a report in Süddeutsche Zeitung has suggested the true depth of Gianni Infantino’s mania for selling international football to the highest bidder. Infantino’s “mystery consortium” has been identified as an entirely unsurprising combination of SoftBank Investment Advisers and a London-based company called Centricus Partners, both of whom have ties to Saudi Arabia.This looks to all intents and purpose like a geopolitical power grab, a sell-off that would see Fifa hollowed out, and Infantino himself installed as chairman of a new Fifa outsourcing company. The suggestion is Infantino intends to pursue this project. He may just get it through too given the enduring greed and self-interest at play. Fifa says the document is outdated, and denies any such thing is about to happen. Share on Facebook The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email. Share on Pinterest Share on WhatsApp comment Topicscenter_img Read more Share via Email Switzerland’s 5-2 defeat of Belgium was shot through with a genuine hunger for victory on both sides. England and Croatia provided a slow-burn treat on Sunday afternoon, a game as tense and densely knotted as their world Cup semi-final four months previously. The Netherlands and Germany in Gelsenkirchen was a joy to the end, not to mention a significant moment in the footballing life of both nations. International football needs the Netherlands. Those who have been watching closely say the Nations League campaign might just have helped reignite that sense of shared orange pride in the national team.There is, of course, a temptation to conclude that the history of these things is written by the winners; that England’s success in qualifying for the final stage will naturally create a jaundiced view of the merits of the competition. There has already been some grudging talk of a tinpot trophy, of undue euphoria at crumbs from a competition Jürgen Klopp has called “the most senseless in the world”.Well, here’s another interesting thing about the Nations League. Harry Kane’s late winner at Wembley was worth at least €5m (£4.45m) in bonus payments for reaching the final stage. Which is, it must be said some decent tinpot. Overall England will earn between €9m and €10.5m for competing in this same Mickey Mouse league, a bonus payment equal to around a quarter of the Scottish FA’s complete annual turnover and half that of the Northern Irish FA.Again, those are some sizeable crumbs. Chuck in the £20m England made by reaching the last four of the World Cup and this is now surely the most lucrative year in the competitive history of the England team. Kane, with his golden range of prods and tap-ins and deflections, has more than paid for his own Rooney-style circus game 12 years from now.And so roll on the Nations League, whose only slight oddity from here is a six-month wait for the semis, third-place play-off (yes, really) and final, which will take place over a delicious-looking week in Portugal at the start of June. For England this is all jam, all progress. The brittle gains of the summer have hardened into a progress that feels tangible, given shape by the heat of genuine competitive fixtures. Nations League and international football: 10 talking points Read more The time has come! Oh, new day! The Nations League. They laughed when Uefa announced it had commissioned an operatic anthem for its complex new international friendly fudge; a piece of music that would “symbolise the unity of a very serious competition”, despite sounding like the incidental music from a terrifying 1970s horror film where a seven-year-old Michel Platini sets his demonic Rottweilers on you.They laughed when Uefa unveiled its shiny new Nations League trophy, there to represent “the pinnacle of a nation”, while also resembling a badly rolled joint made out of kitchen foil. They probably laughed too when Gareth Southgate said the Nations League was a good idea and that England would take it extremely seriously because it was “really important”. Share on Twitter Gareth Southgate looks back at past year as he plans England’s future Pinterest Facebook Uefa Share on Messenger Englandlast_img read more