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Europe-South America gulf widens

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Tim Vickery | 15:32 UK time, Sunday, 21 December 2008

How would the top South American clubs fare in a major European league?

It is a question I am frequently asked. All too often any debate on this subject quickly degenerates into a depressing nationalist slanging match. Regular readers might recall that I have at times been shot at by both sides in this squabble - I've been accused of being a running dog of First World imperialism seeking to undermine South American football, but also of having gone native and turning against the land of my birth - which, I think, puts me in a good space to give an opinion. But that's all it is - my opinion. And as a wonderful South American phrase puts it, I'm not the sole owner of the truth.

The main evidence we can call on is the Club World Cup, which over the last four years has climaxed with a final between the champions of Europe and South America on neutral ground. With Manchester United's victory on Sunday the score now stands at two wins per continent.

So, a parity of forces? I don't think so. Instead I feel that this game is showcasing the immense chasm that now exists between the standard of club football in Europe and the rest of the world.

Until the last 10 years, the South American teams used to look forward to the annual game against the European champions (the predecessor of the Club World Cup) because it gave them a stage to show off their technical superiority. Not any more.

Three years ago Sao Paulo beat Liverpool 1-0. A year later Internacional overcame Barcelona by the same score. But the two Brazilian clubs did it with a tactical approach that recognised that they were outgunned.

Football is a low-scoring sport where the best side does not always win - this unpredictability adds greatly to the charm of the game. Sao Paulo and Internacional used this characteristic of football with great intelligence and application, defending deep, marking tight, hanging in there and launching one decisive counter-attack.

It was a similar approach to the one used by LDU, or Liga of Quito, in Sunday's match against Manchester United - and it kept them on level terms until 12 minutes from the end.

Quito goalkeeper Jose Cevallos is devastated at his side's defeat

It is a style of play that is well suited to a one-off cup match. The stronger side is playing against the clock. As time ticks on with the game scoreless, their anxiety increases and they can leave themselves more open to the counter-attack.

Over the course of a league season, though, this approach is way too cautious to have much chance of success. With three points awarded for a win the only way to challenge for titles is to accept the risks of opening up in search of victory.

In these four years of the Club World Cup, the only South American team to have done this were Boca Juniors of Argentina, who last year traded punches with Milan toe-to-toe. The outcome - Milan won more clearly than the 4-2 scoreline might suggest. Of the four finals this was the most comfortable and the least nervy for the European side.

Boca were unable to cope with the pace, power, technical excellence and intelligence of Kaka. The best South American on the pitch was playing for the Europeans - the inevitable consequence of the undeniable fact that these days South American football has become an export industry.

The recent histories of Manchester United and LDU illustrate the point. United won the Champions League title in May, and since then they have strengthened their attack with the expensive acquisition of Dimitar Berbatov. LDU, meanwhile, have paid the price for success in contemporary South American football. Winning the Copa Libertadores put their players in the shop window, and as a result they were forced to part with two of them.

The lung power of Paraguayan international midfielder Enrique Vera (now in Mexico) was badly missed in Japan. The explosive right-sided attacking of Joffre Guerron (moved to Spain) was irreplaceable, as hugely impressive coach Edgardo Bauza knew it would be. Without some of his stars, against a line-up of world-class players from all over the world, a cautious approach was Bauza's only option.

If Liga de Quito, or any of the top South American clubs were placed straight into, say, the Premier League, they would find it very hard going. A gruelling league season is a very different challenge from raising your game for a one-off final.

But - and this is surely the key point - if they were in a major European league, receiving the same amount of money from TV and sponsorship, then they would be able to keep more of the players they produce. And if the likes of Kaka are lining up for the South American club, it's a different story altogether.

Comments on this piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

I hope that the quality of game and the command with which Liga de Quito defeated your "favourites" from Mexico opens up your scope to realize that soccer is more than big names and sponsors. It is about determination and dedication from a group (not from individuals) to a game and an objective.
No matter that Liga didn't win against Man U, they have proven that even with 1/10th of the resources of other teams from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, they have worked together as a team to beat the greatest odds and have demonstrated the improvement of Ecuadorian soccer making all that nation proud.
Hugo Bonilla

My BBC debut was a radio piece for World Service in 1997 about the rise of Ecuador. I said that they would probably not make it to France 98, but that they were a growing force who might qualify for future World Cups. If only all my predictions were that accurate!

So, no I don't think I need my scope opening - sounds painful anyway!. No doubt about it, Liga's achievement is a fantastic one, and even before the Club World Cup began I was arguing (and voting) for Edgardo Bauza as coach of the year.

Where we disagree is that I think football is about individuals as well as the determination and dedication you mention. I'm a big fan of Bolanos, Manso played well and there are lots of good, steady players in the team. But I think you would have preferred to go to Japan with Guerron and Vera - the final would have been more interesting with them on the field.

While travelling through Brazil in late 2005 I went to a few Corinthians games as they chased the championship. While the big names of the team were Tevez, Mascherano, Carlos Alberto, and Jo I think, a player who stood out ahead of them was Rafael Sobis, when he played for Internacional in a crucial game against Corinthians. He had excellent touch and control, a bit of pace and a very good football brain, and he seemed a fairly robust player as well. I wasn't surprised when he moved to Real Betis for big money shortly after. However very disappointed to see he has now moved to the UAE for Al-Jazira, chasing the money and effectively giving up on his career. Why has he gone down this route? There had been speculation about him making a move to the Premier League which I feel he would have been well equipped for.
Niall O'Rourke

'Effectively giving up his career' might be a bit harsh, but in general I'm with you all the way. I, too, liked him from day one, perky little striker, two footed, lots of talent. Brazil coach Dunga is a big fan as well, and has given him many opportunities.
Fair to say that he hasn't lived up to expectations yet, but what I find hard to understand is this - why give up on Spain after doing the difficult bit? The period of adaptation, the first 18 months or so, is usually the toughest time. What's the point of going through that and then leaving, for what in football terms is clearly a step backwards? Perhaps he's not being well-advised. Still, he's young enough to come again.



  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent, well thought out article. I think you're right.

  • Comment number 2.

    really like this blog, always interesting and insightful easily one of the best things on the bbc, keep up the good work

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Tim

    Good Blog, I was born in the UK, lived there for 34 years now I live in the US.

    I get to see the Argentina games every weekend here and I also watched the Club Chamiponship.

    I believe that the fitness levels even from the completely Jet Lagged Man U players was still more impressive then the South American's.

    Don't get me wrong I agree that they have some great talent in the Latin America region but its the more physical and fitness in which I think they lack - again my opinion.

    Good Article.

  • Comment number 4.

    Spot on Tim, well written, thanks.

  • Comment number 5.

    As always, interesting reading, though not a great blog on what is a mundane subject.

    Manchester United have won the World Club Chamionship, but like Vienna, it means nothing to me despite being a United fan.

    They haven't proven anything going out to Japan. I haven't watched a minute of these games - basically winter friendlies. The thing is, if a German, Italian or Spanish side were in the final, it would be more significant to their respective fans. The Germans have a winter until February, this would be a welcome opportunity to round off the year with a trip abroad and a trophy under the tree.

    Italy also has a break and it would be an opportunity to show the world its elite is a global force.

    Spanish and South American football shares such a long history with so many Latin Americans playing in Iberia. This just would just have more spice: Boca Juniors vs Real Madrid.

    The global financial crisis has shown us that finance and wealth needs fairer distribution.

    I prefer the term salary categories rather than salary caps as a fair and affordable form of remuneration. Whatever happens there must be some kind of FIFA regulation on player salaries.

    This would facilitate South American clubs to retain their burgeoning talent, thus creating more (global) interest and quality in their game.

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't think there is a huge gap between South America and Europe in club football. I think there is a huge gap between 11
    clubs from 5 countries (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Internazionale, Juventus, Manchester Untd, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munchen and Lyon) and the rest of the world, including the rest of Europe of course.

    Does anyone expect Porto, Sporting, Villarreal, Atlético de Madrid, Roma or Panathinaikos to win the Champions League?

    The gap is getting wider not only between Europe and South America, but also between some few elite European teams and all the rest of Europe. The Champions League is getting everytime more and more predictable.

    Do you expect Ajax, Red Star, Steaua Bucuresti or PSV winning the Champions League again as they did in a recent past?

    It's not South Americans only who should worry with the growing inequality in club football.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why do so many Brazilians move to Russia while they're young? Some examples are Jo, Vagner Love and now it looks highly-rated Rafael Carioca will also move there.

  • Comment number 8.

    As a United fan, I have to say that neither of the games we played out in Japan looked to be walkovers. LDU certainly had their dangerous moments, so credit to them.

    I've always liked the idea of the CWC, even if it doesn't always work in practice(Brazil 2000!) or of the bulk of the world's best players play in Europe nowadays.

    I see Stokerambo's point about how it could be seen to be an inconvenience from an English POV, having to do this tournament midseason, but what are FIFA meant to do about that?

    Put it in summer, and it'll clash with the major national team competitions. Put it in Jan, and it would force an English or Scottish team to pull out of the FA or Scottish Cup.

    Put in mid-to-late December, and United(and Liverpool in '05) have to postpone 'one' Premiership game. It's the least of a load of evils from an British POV.

    And why are non-Brits going to care about what are our unique scheduling issues? I remember Brazilian fans saying "who cares about your stupid FA Cup?" circa 99/00.

    Their attitude was(and probably still is) British football, as the minority, should either change it's scheduling to accomodate events like the CWC or put up with the occasional inconvenience without complaint.

    Like it or not, I suspect the CWC isn't going away any time soon!

  • Comment number 9.

    Good article Tim ..

    Latin America is far superior in the talent it produces ... I'd say that SA teams could easily pull their weight in the British Leagues ..

  • Comment number 10.

    What a load of b*llocks!

    You forget that the very best of the "European" talent is actually born and brought up in Latin America!

    In fact the best of the ALL time greats are also from Latin America :-)

  • Comment number 11.

    post 10 - billionpls.

    I suggest you read the article again - maybe this time with your lips moving.

    The fact that the outstanding players in the European teams are South American was the very point of the article.

  • Comment number 12.

    billionpls, ignorance is a dangerous thing.

    The article is about the gap between European and South American CLUBS not individual players. It points out that whilst Man Utd strengthened over the summer by buying Berbatov and fending off Real Madrid, LDQ had to sell two of their players who had helped them win the Libertadores Cup. Its not about where the talent was born, its about where it is playing. Please reread the article. For your own sake if not ours.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with Tim when he says he's in good place to have an opinion on the differences of the 2 continents but the differences have came from non sporting history rather than SA being less quality. To be honest when people talk about the lack of quality in non-European teams theyre comparing the well-taught with the raw skills. Most European players are in Academies very early on in their lives so are taught football by numbers. This is a great system and alot of players have glittering careers but does quality actually mean good? Most of the exciting match-winning players in Europe are South American, the raw talented players who come over for a buck. Maybe there's not a gulf between the continents by player quality, just where the cash is ... total shame.

  • Comment number 14.

    This seems painfully obvious to me

    while some people whinge on that the world club cup is really important and is respected everywhere except europe, which is full of egotistical fascists, the truth is everybody goes to europe to make it big

    why else would all those south americans head for the european leagues and not stay at home?

    That's where the big money is, so that's where the best players go - therefore it's obviously going to have the best teams

    Of course, one advantage is that as an exporter of footballers you are producing a lot of national talent - whereas countries like England, who supposedly have the best teams in the world, suffer to develop young stars

    So Brazil - sell all your best players abroad, but win a load of world cups

    England - create the richest league in the world and house the best teams with heir international stars, but weaken your national side

  • Comment number 15.

    would of been a different if they played in ecuador, remember their final is two legs,

    maybe we should revert to europe v south america home and away in august

    peoples thoughts

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with the article and also with comment #3 where the gap in physical conditioning between LDU and Man U is mentioned.

    Most Latin American teams are cash strapped, even the successful ones while teams in the Premier League are still able to reinforce their squads during the summer and winter periods.

    I think that there is a huge gap in the amount of money received from corporate sponsors and TV revenue between European and Latin American teams and finally, to make matters worse, teams and championships in Latin America suffer from terrible management and administration.

    Clearly the best Latin American players leave for Europe but it is there where they improve as professionals.

  • Comment number 17.

    Personally, I've enjoyed this tournament and would rather see it expanded and the bloated and predictable Champions League cut down in size, than the status quo be maintained.

    The british reaction to this has been sadly predictable - we were even at it 50 years ago when Chelsea were discouraged by the authorities from entering the inaugral Champions Cup and United took their place. I wonder if the media would be a little more encouraging if their darling clubs (West Ham or Liverpool) were the only british winners and not United.

  • Comment number 18.

    Where are most of the best South Americans, in Europe. Where are the best Europeans, in Europe. Where are the best Africans, in Europe.
    Of course European teams are better. They have more cash, better corporate deals and can get the quality players!!
    I dont think one can get overly nationalistic in this arguement seeing that Man U had 3 English players playing.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have to agree about Rafael Sobis, he looked like being a top prospect, and I thought he would eventually do well for Betis and go on to bigger and better things, perhaps going on to be a first teamer for Brazil. I am disappointed he has gone for the big bucks of Asian football.
    My only hope is that he gets motivated enough, and realises he should be playing in Europe (like Mauro Zarate did) and moves back to a decent european team to rebuild his career.

  • Comment number 20.

    Great article Tim! I have to say I'm a fan of you because of your very sensible way of writting.

    I'm Gremio supporter, and because of the globalisation, or as you say, "First World imperialism" we have had loads of losses of important players, such as Ronaldinho, who went to PSG for nothing, Lucas, Carlos Eduardo, Anderson... just to say the latest ones. Of course in our case, there's much more than simply globalisation, there were the stupid deals, corruption, negligence, incompetence and so on... but what i'm trying to say is that i have no doubts we would fight Europe equally if we could keep our stars at home.

    I have thought about that many times, and of course, it's obvious that the business football is not wrong at all. It's just a profession that, who pays more, get it. Automatically, european clubs, because of the economical situation of their countries (which has nothing to do with football :P ) will get the best players. The topic i have is "Is football mainly business?".

    So, instead of superficial discussions, such as "european clubs are better than south american just because south american players are in europe" i propose we discuss how to improve this system, that for me and many on this forum, is wrong.

    And Tim, if you don't mind, what clubs do you support here in South America!? just to know... :P

    any english mistake, i apologize, it's been a bit i'm not in touch with the language

  • Comment number 21.

    There's one huge problem in this talk about measures to stop South American players from going to Europe - the players themselves are desperate to go - especially the new generation who have grown up in this culture of globalised football.

    Admittedly I think that there could be changes in legislation to make it difficult for them to go so early (and also to ensure a bigger fee for the seller), but if the player has reached a level of ability that makes him interesting to a European club, why should he be denied the dream?

    He has the chance to make more money, to grow in professional and cultural terms, and also to prove himself as a truly world class player - we have reached a point of critical mass where it is no longer possible to be considered a great without having starred in the Champions League.

    It's unfair - an attack on basic human rights even - to stop them going.

  • Comment number 22.

    The only reason the WCC is "important" is because it slowly ratchets up the titles on a roster of what will, in perhaps 20+ years' time, be a prestige international competition, as the Champions League is now.

    We all know Real Madrid have won more European Cups than anyone else, but 6 of those were won - in a row! - when the competition was taken no more seriously than the WCC is now.

    The winners of the WCC are basically just investing in future marketing potential. Well worth the trip, and the board know it.

  • Comment number 23.

    It would be only worth winning the Fifa club world cup If it was ================

    Or Arsenal

    Dont you think???? then it would be front page News and Cheers all round.

    I can see where your coming from

    Premiership champions European Champions
    And now World Champions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    The local team here, in Sucre, Bolivia, have qualified for the Copa Libertadores. The highest priced seats for the 3 home matches are about 15 GBP. If the top teams in Europe (the 11 mentioned) had to live on those finances for a few seasons, they would cease to be superior. The reason European teams are superior is purely finance.

    Give the top S. American teams European finance and the top 11 teams in the world would no longer be European. Kaká, the best player in the world (even tho' Ronaldo will win the award this year), would still be playing in Brazil.

    I thought LDU played well. What price Manso goes to Europe in the window? Good left sided midfielders are at a premium, and he looked pretty impressive. If only that early one had gone in, and they had shown more ambition after Vidic's red card......

  • Comment number 25.

    The CWC caused MU to miss one game, as did the European supercup. Did Liverpool and Arsenal miss a league game for their qualifiers for CL? If so, nobody is saying that is a waste of time!

    Now MU are world champions which means a lot more than when a USA team says it.

    I think they should bring it up to 8 teams, by allowing the champions the chance to defend the title, and do away with the byes.

    They changed the rules after Liverpool won the CL, to allow the champs to defend.

  • Comment number 26.


    Totally agreed. English clubs, for example, are merely good teams because of the economical situation of their country. Have a look at Arsenal for example. How many englishmen are there?

    If you want to see how FOOTBALL in England is, just think about the national team of England. I'm sorry the honesty, but it's rubish (my point of view, it can vary of person to person).

    So this is my question. Does football have to be this way, or the respective authorities could do something to bar this EXODUS of south american players and preserve the FOOTBALL in these countries?


    I don't want to ofend anyone. All my points are made with the most reasonable idea, of course, trying to defend what i think :P

  • Comment number 27.

    format should be changed in my opinion

    surely there should be 2 groups of 4 like the 2000 edition, if teams have to travel then surely give them enough games,

    would also love to see countries or clubs biddong to host the competition and thn it wll be played at different nations

  • Comment number 28.

    [Sorry, but - Why is this page written with the "charset=utf-8" http-equiv meta tag attribute?
    It screws up accents & special characters.]

  • Comment number 29.

    >surely there should be 2 groups of 4 like the 2000 edition, if teams have to travel then surely give them enough games,

    But then they wind up messing up their regular seasons more. You could 'possibly' stick to six teams and go with two groups of three, winners of each group reach the final. But really you want any team playing three games max.

  • Comment number 30.

    European football is not as great as some people try to make it. Yes, it's better than the South-American. But even that only happens due to financial power. But there are some advances. While it still is impossible to say that players of the level of Kaká, or youngsters like Breno, will stay too long in South America, some clubs, mainly Sao Paulo and Boca Juniors, are getting more and more financially stable.

    With that, it's getting easier for them to hold on to their main players. Sao Paulo has recently turned down a 15 million offer for Hernanes, from Barcelona. He will still problably leave the club soon, but this situation would be unthinkable only 4 years ago.

    With time (say, 10, 15 years, maybe), chances are that, even though Kakas and Ronaldinhos will still go to Europe, the South American clubs will be able to maintain at least a good part of their players, and the overall gap of quality between South America and Europe will be smaller.

  • Comment number 31.

    Also, as GustavoCL pointed out, there is a huge gap between the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester and a couple others. The overall quality of the national championships of Italy and Spain is not a lot better then the Brazilian. France national championship is pure rubbish. Only the Premier League stands out.

  • Comment number 32.

    Nice article.

    Interesting point in there wondering how the cream of South America's clubs might fare in some sort of World Champions League... As Tim Vickery says, with the financial benefits afforded to the top European clubs, they'd do pretty darn well, I imagine.

    Would be great - but the travelling practicalities make it impossible at the moment, I would've thought.

    As for the current Club World Cup - as a United fan whilst this obviously isn't as great a feeling as winning the league, or European Cup, it's still great to be able to call ourselves World Champions, and I feel that this tournament, for that pure prestige reason, has a future, but just needs tweaking to its format.

    There wasn't a huge amount of interest in this country to the tournament and our win - but another European team in there (plus another from South America) might make it a more attractive proposition. Imagine the media coverage if Chelsea were in Japan, too.

    So - champions of each continent qualify. Plus the losing finalists from the Champions League and Libertadores. It'll be seeded, so as now, United and Quito will have started in the semis, Chelsea and Fluminense (?) in the quarters - the wider interest in the Cup is therefore attracted at an earlier stage. The likes of Osaka and Pachuca (or whichever of the champions of asia, North/Central America, Africa and Oceania make their way to the Quarter Finals) are given higher-profile matches againt big market teams (rather than the, with all due respect, more obscure champions of Oceania, say).

    Sample draw:

    1st Round:

    Oceania v Africa
    N/C America v Asia


    Africa v S.America 2
    Europe 2 v N/C America


    S America 2 v Europe 1
    S America 1 v Europe 2


    Europe 1 v Europe 2?

    The point is - this makes it a touch more difficult for a team to win it, more higher profile games...hopefully more interest, and therefore a better, more respected competition.

  • Comment number 33.

    I do get a bit annoyed with the assumption that South Americans automatically are technically better players than European ones. European football is awash with "glamorous" Brazilians and Argentines with very little about them other than an exotic passport.

    While there are undoubtedly South Americans of exquisite talent, there is no inherent brilliance in the continent - 90 minutes of awe a week just is not the case. I think there may be some reverse smugness going on in this regard.

    Indeed, who scored the winner in this morning's final? Wayne Rooney, an Englishman. United's South Americans, Anderson, Tevez and Rafael were by no means mesmerising.

  • Comment number 34.

    Brilliant Blog.

    At the risk of sounding like Jeremy Clarkson, how hard could it be to organise a tournament in odd numbered years consisting of (assuming it started in 2011):

    UEFA Champions League winners 2010 and 2011.
    Uefa Europa League winners 2010 and 2011.
    Copa Libertadores winners 2010 and 2011.
    Copa Sudamericana winners 2010 and 2011.
    CAF Champions league winners 2010 and 2011.
    AFC Champions 2010 and 2011.
    CONCECAF Champions 2010 and 2011.
    Playoff between winners of OFC 2010 and 2011.
    Playoff competition between winners of AFC Cup and President's cup winners 2010 and 2011, CAF runners up 2010 and 2011, CONCACAF runners up 2010 and 2011, for one spot.

    If a team qualifies more than once hold a playoff between runners up of their competition, if the same team was runner up both times give them direct entry.

    Sure, I know it would probably never happen, but organise a compeition like this in the middle of June so as to suit Europeans (if you don't interest the Europeans, you won't maximise it's moneymaking potential), play it in the USA for a bit so as to increase their interest in the sport (and because they know how to commercialise a sport properly), pay the clubs well and hey presto. Only three problems remain in world football: the gap between the Premier League and Championship, racism, and Sepp Blatter.

  • Comment number 35.

    I can agree with some of what you said in terms of there being a widening gulf between European and South American football but in terms of player production I still think that South America still has it over Europe.
    The gulf is more financial than anything to do with skill or coaching techniques.
    United are the absolute opposite to a side like LDQ, the financial gulf is well illustrated when these clubs are seen side by side. If you were to compare the wages of the players on each team the difference would no doubt border on ridiculous and yet they find themselves contesting the 'world club final'.
    In a just world LDQ would have won and United would have sauntered back to Europe and their million dollar paypackets and billion dollar competitions.
    But instead the money talks and the club that can afford to keep its stars wins the game and the club that could not loses and everyone says, well they were outplayed, its a sign of European football taking the mantle, blah blah blah. Europe is still well behind South America, because they still need the South American players, without them their leagues would suffer and the skill and technique on show would not be what it is now.

  • Comment number 36.

    If clubs were able to keep hold of players they produce, it may well have been West Ham lifting the Club World Cup by now.

  • Comment number 37.

    Is it just me or is this really obvious? Everyone knows if European clubs didn’t take there South American stars then they would be technically much better clubs, you just have to look at there national sides. There’s nothing they can do about it, its were there players want to play. South American clubs realise they can’t match compete with European teams, so what do you expect them to do go all out attack?

  • Comment number 38.

    Good Article Tim,

    I actually think that it was fair play to Man Utd to actually field a virtually full strenght squad out in Japan as a lot of people were knocking the competition and saying the it was just Mickey Mouse and that they didnt care about the competition and it was just another 'friendly game'?!

    unfortunately I forsee the gap between the big money Europeans and the rest of the world, not just the South Americans, getting even bigger in years to come as more and more money will be in the game over in Europe which will in turn make more and more players from South America come to these shores to ply their trade or, if so be their personality, chase the money!!!

    Keep up the good work Tim

  • Comment number 39.

    To respond to GustavoCL, i don't think thats necessarily true about a gap opening up of 11 european teams. Before Rafa Benitez left liverpool, he made a Valencia side very very hard to beat by making a team, not individuals. After he left, where did the team go. How good would the team have been had he stayed instead of moving to Liverpool??

  • Comment number 40.

    One of the foremost authorities in South American football, Tim!

    But this time you're simply wrong. Yes, top South American clubs are at a lower level than the top european big guns. But since we are talking about european football, let's not forget the top romanian, latvian, bulgarian, belgian, swedish, danish, norwegian, etc, etc national leagues.

    My firm belief is that big teams like Sao Paolo, Boca Juniors, etc could perform decently in the best european leagues, I mean be in the top 10. And i'm convinced such teams would excell in the above mentioned leagues.

    It's again that old european arrogance to think in term of only your richest and largest teams. forgetting the teams of other countries were they're mad about football is not fair. It's not your fault though. Most of us think in terms of only three leagues, the Spanish, the italian, the english. what about the german and french leagues? are they up to pair with the top three? i think not!! what's more i think the top south american teams could perform decently in such leagues. Olympique Marseille is a decent team, Bordeaux, hamburg, dortmund, too. Other european teams like the ones i just mentioned are not obviously better than the big south american teams. don't forget villareal's campaign a few years back. that was a south american team with decent south american players, nothing exceptional, and they made it to the champions league semis.
    i disagree with you this time, tim.
    cheers and look forward to your next article!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    #34 ElevenLions -

    I like your post very much, it seems quite a well thought out and planned Idea, the Only problem that I could see with it would be for the likes of the South American teams. As Tim has made referance to before, take LDQ as an example, they lost their 2best players in a very short time, so they are not the same strenght of team that won the Copa Libertadores, so say for the SA team that qualified by winning the 2010 Copa Libertadores, they would quite possible of had their team desimated and of had their best players poached and thus not be half of the team they were when they won the competition to qualify!!! and quite maybe not able to compete as best they would want too!!!!

    Good Idea nevertheless.
    As we all agree I think something needs to be done to make the competition better and on the whole more appealing. More thought must go into it?!

    Plus - loving your take on the three problems left in world football

  • Comment number 42.

    post 17 - IanWalford
    im guessing ur a united supporter and are so blind by the clubs 'greatness' that u have forgotten that united are the medias darlings...

  • Comment number 43.

    R.E post 33:

    I have to totally agree. Although there is an obvious problem with South American stars getting plucked away to europe and creating a difference in quality between European and SA leagues, this does not mean SA players are all necessarily the best (or better than their european counterparts).

    What continent were all the teams contesting the last world cup semi-finals from? A lot of people posting here seem to assume South American footballers are untouchable. Simply isn't true. There are just as many brilliant footballers from Europe and indeed other continents. The fact is that like some other posters commented Europe has the most money and therefor accrews the cream of the crop. South American players want to prove themselves on the big stage, the money isn't bad and theres also the prestige associated with the bigger european clubs.

    Only 2 countries in the top 10 fifa world rankings are non european, Brazil (5th) and Argentina (6th). Two places above England. Not that the fifa rankings are the be all and end all.

    Just my two cents. Grow tired of the assumtion that European teams raid SA leagues as there are no good players in europe. This is clearly false. Theres plenty of awfull SA players cluttering the Premier league simply because they are over-hyped or simply due to the fact managers assume they are excellent "because they are brazilian".

  • Comment number 44.

    This was a waste of Man Utd's time, they have far more important things to worry about like the Premier League and Champions League.

    The Europeans are the big pull in this little friendly competition, so it should be held closer to Europe and at the end of the European calendar. If there are others who disagree... fine, let's see what would happen if Europe wasn't even sending it's Champion. The competition would die.

  • Comment number 45.


    great blog as ever

    was a little disappointed in Panucha after you talked them up in your last blog, and enjoyed the game(if not C5’s commentary) on Sunday morning. To have to listen to them berating LDU for playing defensive and saying there plan was not working at 0-o after 55 mins was outrageous. They had some very gifted players, and but for two very good saves from Van de Sar and a dreadful miss in the first half, they gave Man U a good game. Maybe Man U dominated, but hey they dominate all but 6 games every year in the EPL so what’s different.

    To see SA drained of talent is very sad, but as “European” teams have a financial advantage over their SA counterparts, so do the top 12 or so “European” teams over the rest of Europe. The EPL in dominating at the moment, but that is only four clubs, the rest are pretty average and as in all leagues the standard at the bottom is very poor. I think the top SA teams would compete in any league in Europe and would safely stay in mid tale odd over a season. As to what would then happen with more money, keeping players etc who knows.

    AS to the future, I would like to see the old 2 leg games back as seeing SA teams on their own turf against the best in Europe would be good. However it will not happen as there is to much money in the current format. What they could look at is who is invited. To have 3 teams from Asia/Oceania was silly. Cut two out and have runners up from the Americas (either South or Central) and another European could make it competitive. Also, rotating it around the continents could also help.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Tim

    I find your column interesting as there is not a lot of mainstream coverage of South American football in the UK.

    However, I notice you love to mention Sao Paolo beating Liverpool in the World Club Cup 2005.

    Anyone who seen that game will know Liverpool had the ball in the net 3 times and only some extremely dodgy decisions robbed them of the trophy.

    Please stop glorifying their sham victory.

  • Comment number 47.

    #42 - Chelsea-FC-93

    At the risk of diverting an excellent blog …… yes, I follow United, Hereford United. If you seriously think Man U are the media darlings, you are hopelessly mistaken.

    It is a well known fact that a high proportion of Fleet Street hacks are West Ham fans - how do you think the club gets a disproportionate amount of coverage?? How did they get such an easy ride from the media on the Tevez affair??

    In the media at large, Liverpool are the darlings. Look at the Match of the Day sofa - Hansen and Lawrenson were one of their finest centre half pairings, and the other main pundit, Alan Shearer, hates Man U. 606 on FiveLive - two of the presenters are Liverpool fans, the others follow Millwall and Chelsea. Look at the commentary teams on FiveLive - Alan Green claims neutrality, but it is well known that he supported the scousers as a kid and you only have to listen to five minutes of his commentary to see that for yourself. Their expert contributors …… Collymore, Molby, Lawro, all ex-reds. Pick up the Times football podcast - from time to time you'll find three of five are reds fans!

    Judging by your ID, I would suspect that you're far too young to remember Flamengo v Liverpool in the early 1980s - I remember the fuss around that at the time, how Liverpool were going to claim the world title etc - only for a Zico inspired Flamengo to tear them apart in a fine display.

    I still believe that the problem some of our media have with the WCC is that it's Man U that are the only English club to have won it. Hell, even Italy and Spain regard the title with a fair bit of prestige and honour.

  • Comment number 48.

    #43 - only two South American countries in the top ten??

    What does that prove?!?!? It's a continent of only ten countries!!!

  • Comment number 49.


    excellent, slap the idiot down. maybe, just maybe he/she will have a think before opening their mouth next time.

    why is it that people must always try and change any and every discussion towards rivalries within England, it really is quite pathetic.

  • Comment number 50.

    When a few more english clubs win this title then it will become important to the English media.

    As an english team has only won it on 2 occasions the journos can't ram down your throat how fantatsic the EPL is. Once that changes it will be important to them.

    Usual english media - they even tried to suggest that Vidic 'allegedly' used an elbow - eh too right he did.

    And I follow Utd.

  • Comment number 51.

    One question, do you think we'd be having this debate if it wasn't an english club involved? Part of the problem with the tournament (although i do feel it is a worthy competition) is that there can easily be a large gap in years between your country being represented so everytime it comes along it's treated with scepticism.

    Sadly alot of English football fans don't understand the game past our borders (league structures, finances, cultural differences etc), and quite alot for that matter don't really understand the significance of things like that in our own game.

    Fans of clubs other than that participating will see it as a micky mouse cup and so will the fans of that club if they don't do well in it (Like liverpool a few years back)

    Unfortunatly it will take a long time and things will need to progress financially in the other continents for the competition to be competitive.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm curious, does anyone have an idea about how many more shirts and other memorabilia that Manchester United would be able to sell worldwide as a result of them being gifted the use of the Fifa Club world Cup emblem for a whole year?

    I would think that it would add to considerably more than the US$5 million that they received from winning the tournament.

  • Comment number 53.

    You are quite right to point out that if clubs like Boca, River Plate, Sao Paulo and Flamengo had Premiership TV in come they would perhaps struggle for the first year, but then would become major forces. The same would apply to Rangers and Celtic.
    European (and especially English) fans and pundits are far too quick to arrogantly dismiss the rest of the world as no-hopers.
    One big problem with the current Club World Cup is the timing. By playing in December, the Europeans resent having their domestic season interrupted, while the South American side has almost always been stripped of its top players during the European summer transfer window.
    If the tournament was played in August at the start of the European season, the newly-crowned South American Champions (and indeed Africans, Asians and North Americans) would be able to play their strongest side and still sell after the tournament before the window closes if they wish. It would mean that the African and Asian representatives would be the champions from seven or eight months earlier, but happens now anyway to the Europeans.

  • Comment number 54.

    Fantastic article Tim! We all forget that the main reason United went to Japan was for the marketing exposure! MONEY...MONEY...MONEY!!! This was one tour that Fergie couldn't stop! United have the strength and depth to carry on there title charge after witnessing yesterdays Arsenal v Liverpool match!

  • Comment number 55.


    I was wondering what you made of Arsenals Denilson.

    What do you believe to be his best position? Does he have a long-term future at Arsenal? Will he become integral to the Brazilian National side?

    I can't work out what exactly he excels at, so was wondering what you thought.


  • Comment number 56.

    Yep. The gulf exists because of money. European clubs can pay a lot more money. Players can also get more sponsorship in Europe. This is why the top South American players come to Europe.

    It's hardly surprising South American clubs, when face with superior opposition, play to their strengths and shut up shop for the hopeful 1-0 win. Very few clubs can go toe-to-toe with Manu.

    I watched the final on Sunday - Manu were coasting.

    This thing is only a debating point since we have an English club in the tournament. If we hadn't most of us wouldn't even know who won it.

  • Comment number 57.

    I disagree, Tim. Sao Paulo and Inter had more defensive teams - Sao Paulo was the best defense in the national championship twice after that game, so it wasn't a game plan exclusive to face Liverpool. Boca was a team that prized the pass and the ball possession and played this way against Milan, but you must not forget that the argentinians had achieved Riquelme some months earlier and were playing a great game around him. He didn't played that day and I think that it was the main cause of the differencce in the game (although I think Milan would have won anyway - Kaka was terrific). And LDU win of Libertadores was a surprise even to them - they weren't prepared to maintain it's stars as Sao Paulo did in 2005, and even tried to strenght a little (acquired Reasco to replace Guerron).

    The migration of south american talent to Europe occurs basically because of money (and the improvement of the quality of life, if you narrow to brazilian talent). So, it's not that strange a player accept offers from Asia and the Middle-East. The money is better and they don't have as much pressure.

    We have a saying here in Sao Paulo, I don't know if heard this one yet Tim: 'if' doesn't play football. 'If' the referee didn't disallowed Liverpool three offside goals (which, by the way, were shown by brazilian TV as close calls, but offsides), who could garantee Sao Paulo wouldn't score again on the counter-attack? The only certainty on football is what really happened. But, for the sake of the discussion, 'IF' a south american giant played in the Premier League, even with the amount of money they scrap now, they would fight for a UCL spot and, in odd years, would contend for the title. Unfortunately, we will never know.

    As for the transfer regulation, I think that the only restriction should be the age. If the guy is over 18, let him play wherever he likes! Every worker is entitled to move to a new employment when he is better paid and work under better conditions. Why should be different here?

  • Comment number 58.

    One big problem with the current Club World Cup is the timing. By playing in December, the Europeans resent having their domestic season interrupted

    NO! The English resent it. European football is on the winter break, so it is ideal for Europe.

  • Comment number 59.

    The blog was about how a South American team would fare in a European League.

    A lot of the debate in this comments section are centring on the merits of the CWC.

    This would appear to me to be entirely extraneous to the point. And sums up to me just how pointless comments sections on pages like this are.

    Yes. Including mine.

  • Comment number 60.

    #48 - Incorrect re number of countries (and anyway I think when people talk about South America they are really talking about Latin America), its worth checking these things before wading in.

    The point is 'South America' only really has two decent international teams so orgasmic worship of all footballing things south american seems somewhat misguided.

  • Comment number 61.


    And Europe has about 2 (would consider spain and maybe Italy) top class teams right now as well, so what is your point?

  • Comment number 62.

    #60 - I did check my facts before 'wading in' - the South American WC Qualifying group has *exactly* ten nations in it. Europe has, what, 40+?? By the law of averages, wouldn't you expect Europe to be more represented in any top ten, regardless of how flawed or not the scoring system is???

    Your original point proves nothing.

  • Comment number 63.

    #59 KramerC - Tim himself stated that 'the main evidence we call on' is the World Club Cup - and there's a picture of the Ecuadorian keeper in tears after yesterday's match. Any conversation was going to go down the CWC route and how that can't be taken as any indication 'cos the Europeans (ie 'the English') don't take it seriously etc etc.

  • Comment number 64.

    It is ludicrous to suggest that Boca or River would adapt and excel in the Premier League - would Man United and Liverpool excel if they were suddenly transplanted to Argentina? It doesn't matter.

    It's a very silly debate, when it is sufficient to say that there are big competitive clubs all over the world - Al Ahly of Egypt for instance, or Osaka of Japan.

    One thing I would say is that it is not just about money - it is about playing a better standard of football. I don't think it can be disputed when the cream of world talent is attracted to Europe - if it was just money then Samuel Eto'o would be alongside Rivaldo at Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan right now, and there would be plenty of world stars playing in the Gulf.

    I mean, come on, are we saying that a few Europeans wouldn't improve the South American leagues at all? Quito could have done with even James McFadden yesterday...

  • Comment number 65.

    Maybe the 39th game comes into question?
    English teams playing South American teams what about it?
    What do you think Tim?

  • Comment number 66.

    Just one thing. I am very very saddened with the media coverage as far as Manchester United are concerned. All the press should hang their heads in shame. Manchester United are the first English club to bring this trophy to England, and all they get is a critical analysis of why Vidic was sent off. If it was Liverpool Football Club, the darlings of the FA, the press etc, then they would have been on the front, middle and back pages saying how great Gerrard was when in fact he did nothing. United fans should stick together and believe what we watch rather than what we read, for it is making me sick to the back teeth to read the drivel. Sorry, Alan Hansens darlings didn't win it because they weren't good enough, we won because we are great. Simple as!!

  • Comment number 67.

    Hi Tim,

    I wonder could you give us an insight into the Argentine apertura due to finish tomorrow evening? I'm interested in hearing about the rumours of teams taking money to lose and why River have failed so spectacularly this season?



  • Comment number 68.

    At last someone making the point of how much 3 pts for a win has improved the game

    How about taking it further and cpying Rugby and giving a bonus point for scoring 3 goals

  • Comment number 69.

    Imagine if all brazilians and argentinians played only in their national leagues.

    Sao Paulo would have Kaká, Luis Fabiano, Cicinho, Adriano, Edmílson, Fabio Aurelio, Julio Baptista, just to name a few.

    Newells Old Boys would have Duscher, Belluschi, Heinze, Manso, Maxi Rodriguez, Samuel, Rosales.

    River's line up would include Saviola, Aimar, R. Ayala, Sorin, Cruz, Cambiasso, D'Alessandro, Mascherano, Cavenaghi and so on.

    I think Sao Paulo in the early 90's was the last great team that won the Libertadores Cup that could go head to head with any current major european side. Those days you could still keep most of your best players in the country. Even though River Plate in 1996 had a superb team too.

  • Comment number 70.

    Good read Tim.
    However I think the gap between South American football and European football can get smaller and is getting smaller.
    With Brazil legend like Ronaldo recently signing for Corinthians, and a big name like Adriano wanting to go back to Brazil with his best playing days still ahead of him, being that hes still only 26, these types of players can catch media attention.
    Also Sao Paulo looking like they will be maintaining there stars who are top players with great ability, like Hernaes, Rogerio Ceni, Dagoberto, Hugo, Miranda, Borges and now new singing Washington from my favourite Brazilian club Fluminense, I believe that Brazil's Serie A has what it takes to maintain the quality players in Brazil, players that are more than capable of playing for a top European team, like the one's I have mentioned from the Sao Paulo squad.
    The Sudamericana matches are also being showed on English TV station Setanta Sports which I believe is an example that South American football is starting to get more and more recognition and is generating global interest which then obviously generates money.
    I believe Sao Paulo is an example to all other South American teams, thats how a club should be run in South America, in the same way Manchester United is an example to all clubs European football teams.

    I would just like to ask you Tim if you can perhaps write a blog soon on the Politics of Brazil's Serie A, I would love to read an experts opinion of it like yourselfs.

    All the best Tim,

  • Comment number 71.

    Great blog Tim.

    You've commented on the Europe-South America fixture, but what do you think about the rest of the teams in the Club World Cup? Were you impressed by any of them?

    Don't know how much you follow CONCACAF football, but I'm particularly disappointed by the CONCACAF representatives. Apart from Necaxa in 2000, and Saprissa in 2005, no CONCACAF team could clinch the 3rd spot, which could easily be seen as being the 'best' just below the European and South American teams.

    Pachuca seemed likely to get revenge of last year's fiasco. Champions in Mexico and winners of the Nissan Sudamericana, Pachuca obtained their ticket after defeating Saprissa in old CONCACAF Champions' Cup. But even though they finally made it to the semis, they lost the 3rd place play-off against Gamba Osaka. I'd have expected them to do better to be honest.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hi Tim:

    You are correct on your club opinions with regard to Europe and South America. I spend considerable time in Buenos Aires and therefore follow the local football. Club finances (and politics in many cases) dictate that most clubs (and even River and Boca) sell players early in their careers and so the League is comprised of lesser talent and older euro returnees. It would be interesting to see an english club play in the conditions at Boca's ground. Since so many Latin players ply their trade in Europe it must be said a Euro XI comprised of Latin players would give any EU XI a real run for their money. Keep up the good work.

    Quint Marshall

  • Comment number 73.

    I'll have to disagree Tim. I'm with eduardomion here.

    LDU were underdogs against Brazilian Fluminense who had players like Thiago Neves (now in Germany) and Thiago Silva moving to Europe and other quality players. So United were already playing underdogs in SA as Ecuador isn't really a meaningful country soccer wise any way you look at it.

    You are right on that even if Fluminense had won the Libertadores, they'd lose players until the WCC final. But, and it's a big 'but' they are WAY more prepared to replace the players they lose.

    Just remember that the players that are starters for Europeans now, were unknowns once when playing for a SA club. Were they bad players then?

    Furthermore, I see European powerhouses as having really "only" a max of 2 or 3 players who can truly make a difference. The others are good team players. And if we go lower table in England for example, I see many many mediocre players around.

    The comment about fitness preparation makes no sense at all since Brazil (the national team) use Brazilian professionals, who happen to be world class, for WC preparation.

    What really happens is that some teams (not all SA teams) do not realize that size matters. A taller stronger player will have an advantage over a shorter players, assuming they are of similar skill.

    BTW, this world crisis will certainly slow down the process of player acquisition, so I think things may actually get more competitive in the near future.

  • Comment number 74.

    To be frank i don't really understand the substance of this disagreement - looks suspiciously to me like the dreaded nationalism back in action - it's someone who doesn't want an analysis featuring Liga de Quito to apply to Brazilian teams.

    "Ecuador isn't really a meaningful country soccer wise any way you look at it" - a horrible comment to make. We're talking about a country which has been to the last World Cups, and made it to the last 16 in the second of them. A bit more respect needed, i think. And Liga were worthy champions of the Libertadores - they beat what came at them.

    "even if Fluminense had won the Libertadores, they'd lose players until the WCC final. But, and it's a big 'but' they are WAY more prepared to replace the players they lose" - after losing a few players in the transfer window they only narrowly escaped relegation to the second division.

    There are hundreds of examples of English arrogance around - this strikes me as an example of Brazilian arrogance.

    I don't take eduardomion's point (57) either - that Sao Paulo and Inter were defensive teams anyway. You don't win 3 consecutive titles (as Sao Paulo have just done) with a team that barely crosses the half way line. Of course the respective coaches (the highly competent Paulo Auutori and Abel Braga) drew up specific plans to meet Liverpool and Barcelona, which involved a much more cautious approach than usual.

    Perhaps one of the things this highlights is the strength of Brazilian coaches - and, as robguima correctly points out, their physical preparation specialists.

  • Comment number 75.

    Agree with what people are saying about a lot of talent being in latin America but a lot of that talent has only been transformed to world class acts due to the European game. For example look at rodrigo palacio who hasn't left Argentina, when it came to the world cup in 06 he was next to useless compared to other players in his position who were playing in Europe. Great talent but not made that switch to make him better

  • Comment number 76.


    I think your articles are spot on.

    Your question about how South American teams would fare in Europe, particularly in England, brings up a point.

    I believe much of it comes down to what's expected of the game from the officials.

    With South American referees, I think Boca would carve up most Premier League clubs outside of the big four, and would compete for the top spot.

    With Premier League referees, I believe they would struggle to stay in the top half of the table.

    Passing and scoring seem much more prized in South America, with close offsides frequently going to the offensive team, and any type of foul in the penalty area usually means a penalty kick.

    It seems to me, the bigger the game in Europe, the more that "professional" fouls are accepted, the more physical the play, and the more great players are targeted to be shut down, often with fouling.

    Conversely, there seems a pride in South America in winning with beautiful football. I'd be surprised if Boca put 11 behind the ball tonight to preserve the title against Tigre.

    For the record, I love English football and the Premier League, but there are definitely times I'd like to see big matches open up. Chelsea v Liverpool in the Champions League Semifinals should have been the pinnacle of the sport, not the drawn-out tedious affairs they actually were.

    As for the Club World Cup, South America v Europe, home and away. United at La Bombonera. One can dream.

  • Comment number 77.

    Envisage this, after The Revolution, Russia will again become Communist, renationalise its wealthy primary industries, become even richer than ever before, offer the best players the best conditions. Ergo China. As the global economy suffers, only Communist China will be able retain any wealth. Not only will they build an political and socio-economic empire. Along with Russia, they will become the world's no. 1 in EVERYTHING including football.

    The financial crisis is great. It will spell death to all these hedge funds and billionaires investing in football.

  • Comment number 78.

    @75 "Look at rodrigo palacio who hasn't left Argentina, when it came to the world cup in 06 he was next to useless compared to other players in his position who were playing in Europe. Great talent but not made that switch to make him better."

    He was used by Pekerman as a #9 against Ivory Coast, he's not a #9 in any way, shape or form. He's a #7, a pure second striker who likes to run behind defenders (like Saviola).
    Cruz was next to useless against Germany too, and he's been playing in Europe for what, 12 years now? Certainly hasn't made him a better player now has it?

  • Comment number 79.

    Tim, lets agree to disagree then. Respect is earned not given, and Ecuador has not earned my respect soccer wise. Call it arrogance if you will, I call it reality. We have earned the right to value our soccer (Brazilian) by winning important competitions. The *same* applies to Argentine and Uruguayans IMO or any other country that has won.

    The central point of disagreement is that you say the gap is widening and I say the gap is exactly the same now and it may become smaller because of the impending crisis.

    The gap *appeared* to be widening because man united played a weakened underdog. Yes, they beat Fluminense, but again, they lost the key players who made it happen and did not replace them. Also, let's not forget about the altitude, I am NOT a fluminense fan and actually wanted LDU to win it, but I saw Fluminense struggling in the altitude. Fluminense had more quality all around and didn't do well in the Brazileiro because of lack of focus cause they were playing Libertadores in parallel. Fact, they performed much better AFTER the transfer window because they still had very good players in their squad.

    Again, my point is reposition; Fluminense or another Brazilian Club (or Argentine for the matter) have more money (or capacity to raise money even if in debt) and can better replace players who leave in August. LDU clearly could not replace the players they had lost. The fact, again, is that Sao Paulo and Internacional had not lost many players at the transfer window and when they did, they replaced them well. Internacional for example, atm, have D'Allessandro, Alex, and Nilmar (all capped players) in their squad.

    My point remains that another team from SA would make tougher competition. You may not agree, but that's what I believe.

  • Comment number 80.

    Rob's got a point here, as someone relatively ignorant about football outside Europe, I wasn't sure if LDU would even make the final!

    However bear in mind that the one time a big European name faced a big South American name in the CWC final was AC Milan vs Boca Juniors in '07! If memory serves the Italian side took Boca to the cleaners!

    Where as Barcelona went up against relative unknowns Nacional in '06 and got beat!

    Big name European team vs small name SA side does not neccersarilly mean a European win!

  • Comment number 81.

    MGUK82, in '05 Sao Paulo faced Liverpool. Which one you don't consider big?!?!?! And Barcelona faced Internacional in '06.

    Tim, I never said Sao Paulo played with a team that barely crosses the half way line. We have a decent attack, but we thrive on the defensive end of the field, it's undeniable. Sao Paulo was the best defense two years in a row ('06 and '07) and had the second best this year. Our best players in the 3 consecutive titles were the keeper (Ceni), the defenders (Rodrigo, Miranda, André Dias, Lugano, Fabão), defensive midfielders (Josué, Mineiro, Richarlyson and Hernanes) and only one forward. And I see nothing wrong in been defensive minded. Offense can win games, but is a good defense that wins championships.

  • Comment number 82.

    The Boca-Milan game was pretty funny, 4-2 with their best player (Riquelme) sitting in the stands watching the game in agony, not being able to participate. But don't forget that Boca won the Intercontinental Cup against that same Milan in 2003.

  • Comment number 83.

    Eduardo: The Liverpool team of '05 may have won the CL but it was well against the odds - they needed special dispensation from UEFA to compete in the 05/06 CL due to only finishing 5th in the Premiership that year!

  • Comment number 84.

    post 62:

    If, as you seem to suggest South America produces a far superior quality of footballer than Europe, then a higher proportion of the to ten countries would be SA than 1 fifth. (doing some very elementary maths will tell you that as you say 10 SA teams to 40 European teams is a 4/1 ratio. The top 10 is 5/1 so your "point" is clearly not well thought out is it now?) My original point still stands. Both South America and Europe produce great talent of equal measure. South American gems tend to end up in Europe as it is where the money is, simple as that. Maybe the current economic situation will see that change and all the European talent will head to SA - who knows!

    I cannot see why you so vehemently defend the idea that SA football is so vastly superior, when that's clearly not the case.

  • Comment number 85.

    The 'smaller' clubs (in terms of continental tradition, and from the smaller countries) who have won the Copa have usually struggled in the Intercontinental Cup/CWC.

    I'm thinking here of Olimpia, Colo Colo, LDU et al.

    I still think that the bigger clubs in SA would do well against any European side.

  • Comment number 86.

    On the subject of S.American clubs congrats to Boca Juniors for winning Argentinan championship the most closely fought in years with a 3 way tie.Difficult season for Boca losing their influential president Pedro Pomilio in October and injuries to key players.Juan Roman missed the defeat to Tigres through suspension but went on to the pitch at end of match player of the season? Boca old boy Tevez a candidate for S.American overseas player of year. Exceptional year 2008 been for Man Utd and Tevez only Argentinan to win Champions league Toyota and FIFA World Club Championship. Back in May he said how much he was looking forward to WCC in December possibly facing his old team Boca.Sadly it was not to be, only thing he has to win is World Cup.won Olympics and every club honour their is.Scored a vital goal against Stoke City shame spent so much time on the bench this season


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