Monday, September 8, 2008

Juve chief puts Europe before league

Any remaining doubts that clubs cared more about their domestic league than winning the Champions League have probably been dispelled following comments from Juventus chairman Giovanni Cobolli Gigli.

The Italian side's supremo admitted the "league is important but we want a good run in Europe more this year and my players have told me that they think the same". More interesting, perhaps, were his comments about the club being a "worldwide brand" - something the clubs at the very top seem to worry about more than anything else.

Gigli told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “I want to see Juventus in Japan for the Club World Cup because the Champions League is my main priority. The League is important but we want a good run in Europe more this year and my players have told me that they think the same.

“I want us to be the masters of Europe because we are a worldwide brand and I want us to succeed with a more Italian Juve. Alessio Secco and Claudio Ranieri are good at identifying young talent and developing gifted starlets like Iago and Albin Ekdal for example.

“Then we have the Italian youngsters, like Giovinco who will soon sign a new contract. Along with Mario Balotelli, who has talent and character, I think Giovinco will be the future of the Italian national side."

Fortunately, the second-half of his comments are more promising. If a club can be turned into a worldwide brand without having to sign ridiculous numbers of worldwide players, then the tradition and connection with the fans can be maintained. In reality, though, that's not an easy thing to do, as many clubs have shown before.

It is possible - how possible is questionable - that when top-flight football either implodes or explodes, some form of Champions League structure will be all that remains. A few teams across Europe pooling their resources to create a continent-wide tournament. Perhaps we are already going that way?

For the comment made by the Juve chief hardly express an unusual sentiment, as clubs are increasingly determined to win the Champions League rather than anything else. What is a worry, though, is that Juventus are playing in one of the world's top-three leagues and don't put the pursuit of that title as their number one priority.

Then again, a certain club have been doing that in England for some time, and have reached two finals and lifted the cup once in the past few years...