By César Luis Menotti
There is plenty of false debate about football, and in recent days we are witnessing several instances of it. Barcelona are very close to the Champions League quarter-finals but the penalty kick that Lionel Messi passed to Luis Suarez in Spain’s La Liga keeps making headlines. I do not think the issue is worth such a controversy. It is not an offensive or aggressive move. I would rather say it is risky, since it brings in a third element that might be guessed, but it does not take advantage of anything that is against the rules. You may like it or not, but anything you do in football that does not violate the rules is hardly worth this kind of analysis. For those who think it shows a lack of respect, let us see whether the other team can do it.
These things are usually surprising the first time around. I remember when Antonin Panenka chipped the ball for the winning penalty kick in the 1976 European Championship final. I was coaching Argentina at the time and I was at the stadium in Belgrade, watching the game with Santiago Bernabeu, the Real Madrid legend, and Hennes Weisweiler, the coach who clashed with Johan Cruyff at Barcelona.
We all had shivers down our spines, because it looked like the ball was never going to go in. It was as if Panenka was playing on the street, round the corner from his home. Afterwards, however, it became just another tool and other players emerged who did the same. The same thing can happen with what Cruyff did first and now Messi did.
Thinking that Messi can do it again generates an extra distraction for goalkeepers, who may think about that option in his upcoming spot-kicks. Beyond that, however, I do not think it is important to debate whether he offended anyone. The important thing is to play better football. These are the things players do.
A 40-team FIFA World Cup? You must be joking
As we all debate this issue, FIFA is getting ready for another false debate: an election that is increasingly shaping up as a game played on large desks by big business, completely unrelated either to football or to the fans. You look at the candidates and you really cannot find a plan. They all say the same self-evident truths, although they make them sound different.
The one thing they agree on is expanding the World Cup to have 40 teams, which is utter nonsense. I do not think it would contribute anything. I think it is ridiculous. Having more matches usually works against quality, it is an invitation for just anyone to take part in the tournament. And this is how fans walk away from stadiums. Except for two or three national championships, stadiums are empty in 70 per cent of all football games.
You look at FIFA and also find a certain degree of hypocrisy. I am thinking about Michel Platini’s situation. You can question their methods, but if FIFA hired him as an advisor and gave him 2 million euros for four years, it is just as if they had hired Diego Maradona or some other star. At that time, I thought it was good for FIFA to bring him in.
Platini had been an amazing star. Of course, I do not know whether they hid their dealings, failed to pay taxes or did not show the receipts. However, I do believe that everyone knew that Platini had been hired by FIFA, and I do not know anyone who complained at the time. It is as if they hire Messi once he retires, they would probably pay him whatever he asks for. We are shocked by the fact that Platini got paid 2 million euros, but billions and billions were stolen in every federation. Let us not pretend to be so naïve. DPA