Barcelona, and Clubs Strangle Hold on International Play

By | April 21, 2016

Barcelona as a club has limited two of its largest star’s, (Lionel Messi and Neymar) ability to play in international competition this summer. Both players play for teams that will this summer compete in both the Copa America and Rio 2016 Olympics.  

In Messi’s case, this isn’t the first time this has happen. In 2004 he was also disallowed from playing in the Olympics. In 2007 though, FIFA did rule that soccer clubs aren’t allowed to limit players under 23 from participating in the Olympics as Messi was in 2004. Barcelona, in conjugation with Werder Berlin and Schalke, then took FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over this issue in 2008 and won, allowing them to not allow Lionel Messi to play in the 2008 Olympics. But after meeting with then manager Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi was allowed to play in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and led his team to the gold medal. This year Messi was chosen to play in the Copa America and forgo the 2016 Rio Olympics. In Neymar’s case the club will allow him to play in the Rio 2016 Olympics (which makes sense seeing as Brazil is the host nation and Neymar is its biggest star) and not in the Copa America.

Such a issue shows the believe that club is more important that country. But is this really true? Should player’s club teams be able to supersede their own desires to represent their countries and win glory for their nation and its citizens. Currently, FIFA doesn’t force clubs to release players to play in the Olympics, making it the club’s decision to allow the player to play or not. From the eyes of clubs it works because it allows for them to protect their assets. If their player competes less for country they have a lower chance of injury and can get the necessary rest to be ready to compete at the their highest level for the club. But from the perspective of the players it is a detriment as it lessens their own freedom as well as their national appearances. Clubs rarely actually limit players from playing and therefore the issue is never broached and discussed. However,now with such high profile players being affected by the rule it will be interesting to see how FIFA reacts to the public backlash especially amiss the other scandals and lawsuits they are involved in (Concussions, 2015 Corruption and Equal Play, Equal Pay).

Works Cited

Agencies, Mike Norrish and. “Beijing Olympics: Barcelona and Argentina Clash over Lionel Messi.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 8 Aug. 2008. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

“Argentina Coach Defiant after Messi Ruling.” CNN. Cable News Network, 6 Aug. 2008. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Baligue, Guillem. “Neymar Decision to Play Olympics but Not Copa America Will Help Him Rest, Says Guillem Balague.” Sky Sports. N.p., 21 Apr. 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Lewis, Daniel. “Barcelona Confirm Neymar’s Olympics Inclusion.” Sports Mole. N.p., 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Nutbrown, Charlie. “Beijing 2008 Olympics: Football: Court of Arbitration for Sport Rules That Clubs Can Prevent Players Joining up with National Teams for Olympics.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 Aug. 2008. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Staff, ESPN. “FIFA Rule Clubs Must Release Players.” EPSN, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

3 thoughts on “Barcelona, and Clubs Strangle Hold on International Play

  1. Dominic Elzner

    As unfair as it is, I understand what the clubs are thinking. What would the Barcelona front office and leadership tell fans and ownership if Lionel Messi and Neymar injure themselves for an extended period of time? This way, they can guarantee that their star players will not get hurt by playing in the international tournaments, while also being sure that they won’t show up tired from playing in these summer tournaments. However, from a fan’s perspective, this seems unfair. I believe that playing for one’s national team is as great of a honor as you can get in professional soccer, and to have that be taken away from the players just isn’t fair.

    If I were management and front office at Barcelona, instead of forcing the players to hold out of one summer tournament, I would put a minutes restriction on the players. This way, they can have a fair shot at playing both tournaments, but it would still limit the chance of injury and make sure that they do not show up tired and over-exhausted after the summer. The players themselves would be able to choose what to do with those minutes (ie. Play all of them in the Copa America, or split them between the Olympics and the Copa America). That way, both the player gets the honor of playing for their home country in two of the most important international tournaments of the year, while the club can feel safe about their player staying healthy.

  2. Jeremy Roth

    Ben, this is definitely a timely and well thought out post as this issue is of great concern leading up to an extremely eventful summer for many national teams and players. I think a large part of the problem comes down to the issue of player payment. Many of the world’s greatest soccer players are bought with massive transfer fees and are paid seemingly outrageous weekly salaries by their club teams. As a result, it seems only fair that the clubs should have some say in how many international matches their players can play in. If players like Neymar and Messi, for example, play in too many international matches over the summer for their respective national teams, then it would be highly possible that they could come back to the club for season exhausted from overexertion from playing on their national team. It is not all that uncommon for a player to come back to their club team overworked from their national team workload, which can often lead to recurring injuries in the upcoming season. As a result, it would seem fair for a club team to try to restrict the amount of minutes their players can play for their respective national teams as their players can get hurt playing in games that the clubs don’t pay them to play in. From the club’s respective, it would be unfortunate for the club to lose a player to injury in games that they aren’t playing for the club.

    However, from the players’ and fans perspectives, playing for the national team is arguably the biggest honor a player can have in their career. Thus, it would be a shame for players to be prevented from representing their country on the pitch. Maybe one solution to this problem could be created with a more solid relationship between the club teams and national teams. If the national teams could compensate the club teams for using their players in various international tournaments, it could make the club teams more willing to have their players play for their respective national teams. This compensation could be seen as a form of insurance for the club teams in case a player gets injured on international duty.

  3. Austin Tran

    Great article Ben, it made me seriously consider how in the world of soccer all players, even superstars, are viewed as more of objects than human beings. Players are bought and sold on the transfer market very much in the same way that one buys items at a grocery store or supermarket. There is the whole negotiating a contract issue to deal with, but when a player signs a contract with a team, it’s as if they sign away a lot of their free will. Yes, some player like Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo are extremely well-compensated, but in the end they are still virtually slaves, albeit very rich and influential ones.

    The case of Neymar and Messi is interesting because of all the factors at play. National teams would love to have the energy and skill that star players bring to the game in their arsenals and it would certainly add an extra dimension to the game at this level. It is disappointing that they are actually prohibited from playing for their international teams, but when looking at it from the club’s perspective it is actually not too much to ask. They pay these stars astronomical sums in return for performance and silverware and they cannot simply risk the potential for injury that playing on an emotionally charged international level can bring. Furthermore, they need their players to be in top form when the regular season rolls around every year and therefore need their players to rest in the offseason to keep them fresher for as long as possible.

    That being said, the decision of club vs. country should not be made for these stars. They should be at least be given a chance to somehow play for both sides, such as maybe giving them extra time off to recover near the end of a regular season that has international tournaments following it if the star players can boost the team to a comfortable enough position to win the title or trophy without their help at the finish line. Whatever the case may be, this article does a fantastic job of highlighting the treatment of players as goods and not as humans.


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