Michel Platini has urged football to redisocver its core values, with young players representing their local clubs, to avoid the game losing its popularity.
The French legend, how a member of both the FIFA and UEFA executive committees, claims the game is being ruined by the bigger clubs fielding too many foreign players.
“If football fails to return to its core values, over the next few years its popularity will fade.
‘Regulations are being lifted everywhere…We need to restore order and begin by opening up the debate to include the largest number of people,” Platini said in an interview with FIFA.com.
“Is it okay that some sides don’t even field two players from their own country? And then what about those clubs that buy their players abroad.
“Is it okay that there are a dozen Africans playing for Beveren, in Belgium? I mean, why do they still call themselves “Beveren”? Why do they still play in Belgium?
“These are questions I often ask myself…” said Platini.
“The European clubs who open training centres in Africa do it to further their own interests, not to help with the development of African football.
“It should be Africans themselves who take charge of their own development by investing the money they receive from FIFA for example.
“Otherwise, who’s going to train up the kids in Europe? Why should a young kid in Beveren bother working hard at his football if he has no chance of pulling on his local club shirt?”
“If you go back a few years, you’ll notice that the Commission and the world of sport got off on the wrong foot. While the Bosman ruling was transforming the face of football in Europe, neither side agreed to budge,” he added.
“We may have forgotten to prepare the football of tomorrow, both from an economic perspective and as regards the movement of players.”
“Football clubs play a vital social role in Europe. It is thanks to the work of associations, often staffed by volunteers, that children have ended up playing football rather than hanging around on street corners. But now that clubs are investing elsewhere, what will happen to these kids?”
Platini, a European Cup winner with Juventus, is unhappy that Europe’s premier competition is no longer a knock-out competition.
“I just think it’s a pity that Europe’s top sides only play against each other these days. When I was at Juventus, we played in Gdansk and in Reykjavik in the first round, in the so called “small” nations, where the grounds were full and where there was a tremendous atmosphere.
“Now the big clubs don’t want to play against the little clubs any more. By playing one another they think they can solve their financial problems. But that isn’t what football should be about.
‘I mean, is it right that the champions of each nation don’t all play in the same tournament together?
“We have more and more TV channels. If there are more games, the TV viewer has more choice in the games he wants to see. The real problem lies in quality of a given competition: the more interesting the game, the more people watch it, and the greater the value.
“The three competitions that really interest fans everywhere are the domestic leagues, the Champions League and the World Cup.”
Asked why FIFA continues to revive its Club World Championship, Platini said: “We needed a new format to afford the competition legitimacy, so we opted for an extension of the Intercontinental Cup.
“I remember when I played for Juventus, we thought we were “the club world champions.
“In fact we were wrong because the competition was only open to two continents. In today’s game, it is only natural for the top side on each continent, Africa, Asia, etc, to be invited.
“It is a title which will be greatly coveted by players, clubs and supporters alike.”