Less than 14 months from now, the world will gather in Brazil for the 20th FIFA World Cup.
One of world football’s brightest young stars will be representing the hosts in that tournament, and if he hasn’t departed Santos in favour of a European giant by then, there’s a good chance he’ll do so shortly thereafter.
Goal-line technology will also make its major international debut—a phenomenon that will finally mark the sport’s step into the future. Although, by the time the first ball is kicked in Sao Paulo, the English Premier League will have employed the Hawk-Eye system for a full season.
And then there is the country itself.
That it is putting on the World Cup is only part of Brazil’s story. Its domestic championship continues to get better by the year, and while countless players opt to stay longer in the country of their birth, others agitate for a return, and others still make their big-money transfers within its borders.
These are changing times, and 2014 could well mark a new, modern era for football.
In the following three slides, we’ll take a closer look at the storylines to watch in 2014.
The top flight of English football will introduce goal-line technology to the highest level of the sport when it debuts the Hawk-Eye system at Wembley for the 2013-14 Community Shield match.
From there, the Premier League will utilize the technology in each of its 380 games, and after it all comes off without a hitch (which it will), there will surely be other European divisions looking to implement one of the systems approved by the International Football Association Board.
GoalControl is another such system, and it will be used at the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup, with an eye to winning the governing body’s contract for the World Cup as well.
And from there, the conversation will switch to comprehensive video replay—which is a good thing.
While it may be taking baby steps, world football is learning to embrace the brave new technological world, and all involved in the sport will reap the benefits.
Rarely has there been so much transfer speculation about a single player for so long a time. Especially when the player in question is barely 21 years old.
But Neymar isn’t most players. He is special, and some of the biggest clubs in the world have been trying to convince him to make a move for nearly three years.
First, there was the laughable £20 million offer from Chelsea in 2010, but with Neymar happy with life in Brazil and on a massive wage packet at the Vila Belmiro, he has never really entertained the interest that has come his way.
Barcelona, it seems, remain his most likely destination, but the likes of Real Madrid, PSG and Bayern Munich will probably be heard from before the process is over—and that’s assuming he actually makes a move.
The Brazilian league is one of the more competitive divisions in the sport, and as Neymar is far and away the best player in it, he has very little to prove.
It seems a crime that Brazil has hosted just one of the previous 19 World Cup tournaments, but they’re about to put on their second, and the countdown to next year’s June 12 kickoff will get well and truly underway during the upcoming Confederations Cup.
Brazil will be the focal point of international football until the trophy is awarded on July 13, 2014, but as a nation, it has already been on the radar for some time.
A booming economy and the subsequent sponsorship and television revenue has given Brazil’s top clubs a massive boost in recent years, and while Neymar is the figurehead of the country’s club-football revival, there are countless other touch-points in the renaissance as well.
Corinthians, for example, have built a big-money side that currently includes star forwards Paolo Guerrero and Alexandre Pato as well as a handful of stars, such as Paulinho and Ralf, who have resisted moves abroad in order to stay at the club.
Corinthians beat Chelsea to win the FIFA Club World Cup last December and are, once again, one of the favourites in the Copa Libertadores. They’re also rumoured to be one of the sides keenest to acquire Robinho from AC Milan.
Fluminense, Atletico Mineiro, Gremio, Sao Paulo and Santos are just a few other outfits that have invested heavily in keeping rising stars and repatriating others in recent years, and while the austerity of Financial Fair Play legislation forces their European counterparts to tighten their belts, Brazil’s clubs are flourishing like never before.
Club football’s balance of power is not about to cross the Atlantic anytime soon, but it will certainly even out a bit more in coming seasons. It already has.