Paris Saint-Germain and France forward Kylian Mbappe was named ‘Best Men’s Player of the Year’ for 2021 at Monday evening’s Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai – and took the opportunity to speak out against proposals for the World Cup to be held every two years while at the ceremony.
After being advised last week that a switch to a biennial tournament from the current four-year cycle could generate more than £3.3 billion in additional revenue, FIFA are understood to be keen to push through the switch.
The plans have already been opposed by governing bodies around the world, including UEFA and Conmebol. Delegates representing Europe’s top leagues have also voiced their concerns.
Mbappe, too, wants the traditional schedule to remain, arguing that increasing the frequency with which the tournament is played would damage its prestige.
“It’s the best competition in the world,” declared the 23-year-old, per BBC Sport.
“If you hold it every two years, it can start to be normal to play [in the] World Cup. I want to say that’s not normal. That [should be] something amazing.”
Mbappe speaks as the star player for reigning world champions France, who lifted the trophy in Russia three years ago. Aside from wanting to protect the significance of the World Cup, the PSG superstar also called attention to the number of extra matches such a switch would require the world’s top names to play.
“We play over 60 games in a year. You have Euros, the World Cup, now the Nations League – so many competitions. We are happy to play but when it’s too much, it’s too much. We have to recover, we have to stay relaxed.
“If people want to see quality in the game, the emotion, to see what makes the beauty of football, I think we have to respect the health of players.”
Watch: Kylian Mbappe’s passionate response to proposals for the World Cup to be held every two years
Mbappe’s words were backed up by Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, who picked up three awards at the ceremony.
As well as collecting the Player of the Year award for 2020, the Bayern Munich man also bagged the inaugural Diego Maradona Award for the most goals scored in a calendar year and the fans’ Player of the Year crown.
“We have so many games every year, so many tough weeks, not only the games but preparation for the season, preparation for the big tournaments,” said 33-year-old Lewandowski of the fixture pile-up the holding the World Cup more regularly would create.
“If you want to offer something special, something different, we also need a break.
“If we have a World Cup every two years, the expectation is the time where footballers play at a high level will go down … It is physically and mentally impossible.”
Fans, naturally, want to see as much top-level football as possible – and it’s easy to see why a more regular World Cup might appeal to some. The financial incentive for FIFA to make the move is also obvious.
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That said, player welfare also needs to be taken into account. Listening to top names such as Mbappe and Lewandowski speaking so negatively about the proposals, it’s clear that FIFA are likely to have quite a fight on their hands if they are to make their plans a reality.
Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester United (Match reaction via The Football Terrace)