No Country For Club Men

Playing for their country was once regarded as a matter of pride and honour for footballers, the world over. It used to be a dream for a young footballer to represent his nation, sing the National Anthem along with the capacity crowds before a game and most of all to do something that will bring glory to the nation and joy for its millions of residents.

The likes of Pele and Maradona are considered amongst the greatest footballers because of their heroics on the international stage. Both of them have pretty successful club careers, but playing in the national colours was the thing that they cherished the most. They became role models for the kids in their respective countries, and in turn inspired those very youngsters to take up the beautiful game.

Bildnummer: 00744848 Datum: 19.12.1986 Copyright: imago/Buzzi..Diego Armando Maradona (li., Argentinien) und Pele Photo via NewscomTrue Legends

Today, most of the top stars wish to give up playing for their country in order to prolong their club careers which brings them more money and more glamour. During the past month several players have decided to ‘take a break’ from international football. Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov have joined club-mates Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in partial retirement. Chelsea star Michael Essien has also decided to take a break from playing for Ghana in order to focus on his club career. There are several other players who have been doing very well for their respective clubs but have retired from international football such as Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Edwin Van Der Sar.

Michael Essien Chelsea 2009/10 Chelsea V FC Porto (1-0) 15/09/09 UEFA Champions League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports InternationalPutting club over country

Managers of the big clubs have also questioned the need of friendlies which has somewhat tainted the image of international football. Reputed managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have publicly criticized international friendlies and often expressed their desire to bring an end to such kind of matches. Although some feel that they might have a case, it is undeniable that these matches do provide a chance for national managers to fine tune their squads for the big games such as the qualifiers and international tournaments. The club managers’ influence on their players’ decision making also does not help matters as many believe that they play a crucial role in the players’ decision to retire from international football.

The retirement of good players is also a cause for decrease in quality of football on view. Fans want the best players to be involved, the players who could make a difference and also who could produce moments of magic to win a game for their country. In the absence of these players, games between countries are considered dull as compared to club football and hence most audiences tend to avoid watching these matches. As a result fewer sponsors are willing to invest in these matches, thanks to which most of the matches are not telecast globally.

NORTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21:  Former Manchester United and French international footballer Eric Cantona is seen in the paddock before the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone on June 21, 2009 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)King of Old Trafford only

More players should take their international careers seriously – for their country, for the fans, for the beautiful game and most importantly for their own good. There have been footballers in the past like Nedved, Cantona and even the great George Best who are legends for their respective clubs but are not considered in the league of Pele, Maradona and Zidane simply because they have nothing to show for at the international level.

It is time that the players understand that club football can only bring them glory, but that it takes success at an international level to turn them into something truly legendary.

16 Responses to “No Country For Club Men”

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  1. Rohit says:

    I think this needs to be looked at from the clubs point of view as well. They are the ones paying the footballers thousands of pounds per week. If their player gets injured playing a friendly it’s a massive loss. Also footballers have as much right to earn money as anyone else. This is their profession. It’s a personal choice when one chooses club over country.

  2. Jayant says:

    It’s unfair that you mention players like Nedved in the list. Nedved did all he could for the Czech NT. He led them to the semis at Euro 2004 and also led them in the 2006 WC. Injuries robbed them of a better showing in 2006. He retired at the age of 34 and played a total of 91 games for the NT. A true legend of the game.

    That said, I do agree wit the basic point of the article.

  3. Arvind says:

    Though the overall point of the article is fair… but I think the author here has got totally confused with various names.

    A few other errors – Del Pierro has never retired from national team. He hasn’t been selected.

    First and foremost you need to distinguish between three cases. First case is when a player calls it a day at the peak of his abilities (late 20s) when he could have served the team. Case in point Paul Scholes, Francesco Totti and now Michael Essien (Which basically is the crux of the article)

    Second case is when a player has had a long and successful national team career, and wants to spare his body the punishment at an advanced age so that he can have an extra year or two of playing career. I think you ought to respect such players. The likes of Pavel Nedved retired from national duty in their mid 30s. The two week rest ensured that they survived for an additional year or two. The likes of Edwin van der Saar and Alessandro Nesta are all in the same category. For heaven’s sake they never ran away from national team. Only when their bodies couldn’t take anymore they retired.

    Third category are players who never were good enough for their national team, but were great for their clubs. The national team coach didn’t want such characters in dressing room, sent them away and the player retired in a huff. Manchester United fans might not like it, but Eric Cantona is in this category. He retired, but was never missed as the French team of his era had much better and bigger players.

    Finally a point on George Best. For heaven’s sake he didn’t choose his nationality. Even Pele or Maradona would have achieved exactly zero at national level had they played for Northern Ireland.

  4. Somnath Sengupta says:

    Nedved was usually pretty good for the Czechs. He scored against Italy in Euro 96 (arguably the game that put the divided Czech Republic back into the football map) & was inspirational behind their run to the final. His performance got him a move to big spending Lazio. Nedved’s career was also cut short (to an extent) by an injury he got when playing in Euro 04 semi-final against Greece.

  5. Eric the King says:

    @ Arvind: I think by writing the names of Best, Cantona and Nedved, the author wants to say that players like Scholes who had a good team around them should not have retired to extend their club careers. Scholes is always considered as one of the best MF to play in the premier league, but is not named alongside the greats. Best might not have chosen his nationality, but the truth is that he is not considered in the class of Pele and Maradona bcos he did not do well in the international arena. But Scholes had the opportunity and did not make the most of it.

  6. DarrenFletcher"football genius" says:

    @arvind: you are missing a very important point, to be truely called a great in the game we all love one needs to deliver at the International level and do that at a big stage preferably a Euro or World Cup. If International glory is absent from a players CV he would never be counted among the games absolute greats. Thus the author is just trying to pin point a possible error in the modern day footballers thinking as they are missing out on the chance of attaining LEGENDARY status ala Pele, Maradona and Zidane.

  7. Somnath Sengupta says:

    Well how do you measure their contribution in these tournaments ? Or does it come down to the trophy count ?

    IMO Nedved did more in Euro96 or Baggio did more in WC94 than Zidane in WC98. 2006 was Zidane’s nest tournament. In 1998, Deschamps, Thuram & Lizarazu were the most important players for Les Bleus.

    Again there are players like Paolo Rossi who did very little in their club careers, but are remembered for their WC exploits.

  8. Kris says:

    Agree with the basic point the article makes.
    But man, you got Nedved in the wrong category.

  9. Vishnu says:

    I second somnath and kris in their views. Nedved is a legend. plz dont include him in this category.

  10. Fred The Red says:

    Are you havin a laugh? Nedved was a very good player.. he is probably a Czech LEGEND but that would be it nothing more. He is certainly not a football legend in general, far from it.. there would be a 1000 more if he were to be one.

  11. Howard Roark says:

    It’s a fair analysis, no doubt, but just answer one simple question – why have you begun this write-up with such a gay-ish picture? ROTFLMFAO! 😀


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