Imagining the World Football Landscape in 2022
The 2022 World Cup is perhaps the most discussed football topic of recent times, with the decision to award Qatar the hosting duties of the tournament having become highly contentious.
But how will the footballing landscape lie once that tournament gets underway? After all, if we look back nine years to 2004, it would have been nigh on impossible to predict that Italy's UEFA coefficient could drop below Portugal's by the end of 2013.
Football is a dynamic and volatile industry, often following the winds of change brought about by economic factors.
Let's, then, take a look at some of the potential changes in the global footballing landscape by 2022.
Premier League and Bundesliga at the Fore in Europe
Europe's enduring financial travails throughout the next decade ensure that finances in some of the hardest hit countries will struggle to recover.
The lack of collective bargaining in Spain means that while Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to spend in the coming years, the rest of the league will see much of its talent drained by foreign vultures.
The rot of La Liga will make its future unsustainable, with Real and Barcelona likely to lead calls for a European Super League as the league's television rights fail to gain value at the pace of their rivals.
For sides in England, France and Germany, though, that is a less attractive proposition.
Early acceptance of their difficulties, meanwhile, would allow the historic clubs of Italy to return to solid and even keel in European competition.
However, with the exception of those owned by foreign investors, they will still be playing catch up compared to their rivals. Italy, though, will be in decent shape in 2022, thanks to the forward planning being shown at present.
The Bundesliga and Premier League, though, will lead the way for much of the decade, with the enormous increase in revenue for English clubs at the start of the 2013 season placing the league well above all rivals in financial terms.
With the onset of Financial Fair Play monitoring, it is those taking their share of the Premier League fortune who have most benefited. While the Champions League will remain competitive, the Europa League will be England's domain.
The Bundesliga, meanwhile, should capitalise on its successes of the coming few years, negotiating new TV and sponsorship deals that will place it firmly alongside the English league at the elite end of European football.
For Portugal, though, Michel Platini's plans to ban third-party ownership factored in with the country's ailing economy could spell disaster.
The Rising Forces: France, Ukraine and Russia
The surprise package, though, could be Ligue 1. The sound financial management of recent years will allow the French league to expand its incomes significantly over the next few years, capitalising on the rise of PSG to secure sizeable TV deals in the Middle East and North America.
The growth will be steady and organic, but the likes of Marseille, Lyon and Saint-Etienne could all go on to achieve some moderate success in European competition.
PSG, meanwhile, will expect to be challenging for Champions League success on an annual basis.
Less organic, though, will be the growth in Russia and Ukraine. Heavy investment ahead of the 2018 World Cup should throw Zenit St. Petersburg and Anzhi Makhachkala in particular to the very top levels of the European game, while the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and CSKA Moscow are close behind.
Proposals for a Russia-Ukraine Super League will eventually be forced through, following a series fo disputes with both UEFA and FIFA, and will be of massive benefit to the region. (RT)
The combining of the two leagues will bring a financial windfall for all clubs involved, allowing their spending to fall within FFP regulations. The rise of the former Soviet giants will also inevitably contribute greatly to the talent drain from both Spain and Portugal.
The Wider Picture: Chinese and Brazilian Leagues Thrive
While they have both had hiccups over the last few years, there is no doubt that the footballing leagues in China and Brazil are currently growing in both importance and stature.
Over the next few years, a few of China's younger generation will head abroad, and, while they may not qualify for the World Cup anytime soon, there should be real signs of improvement in the years to come.
The quality of the foreign players in the league is steadily increasing, and that trend should continue for the foreseeable future. Foreign players will arrive younger and better than ever before, with Guangzhou Evergrande's recent signing Elkeson leading that charge.
The other league that will continue to gather pace is Brazil. That is not to say that the best Brazilians will not head to Europe, as per usual, but the process may take an ever increasing length of time.
Already the strongest league in South America by some distance, economic factors mean that the Brasileirao should only continue to improve—and could attract much of South America's best talent prior to a European switch.
While finances at some clubs are still in a state of disarray, the likes of São Paulo, Corinthians, Fluminense, Internacional, Gremio, Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro are all in a position to push on.
As giant clubs of the South American game, they are in a position to gain massively from the increased sponsorship and TV rights that the country will attract in coming years, strengthening their position as the continent's leading nation.
The International Game: Germany Conquer All, Talent Spreads Wider
Heading into the next few major tournaments, all the indications suggest that it will be Germany who are the side to beat.
Spain may still have their say in 2014, but it is Die Mannschaft who look to be the rising dominant force at international level, based upon the core players of the currently successful Bayern and Dortmund sides.
However, the next decade will see elite footballing talent spread wider than ever before.
Yes, Brazil and the other historic footballing nations will still be at the top of the world game, but the likes of Belgium, Colombia, Chile and Japan will all be hopeful of going onto big performances at major tournaments.
Football is truly a global game, and that spread is now going to see a levelling out of talent, as some of the less traditional nations reap their rewards for heavy investment in youth football.
The 2022 World Cup will be interesting for one side in particular—Qatar. The Middle-Eastern state has never really threatened to produce an impressive national side, but that may change due to the Aspire academy.
Aspire are world leading in their field, and while most of their graduates may originate in West Africa, there is an expectation that they may be encouraged to represent Qatar in 2022.
Could it be then that Qatar are not quite the pushovers that everybody is expecting at the 2022 World Cup?
All matters discussed in this piece are, of course, purely hypothetical. In the comment section below, why not share your vision for the net ten years?
Will Barcelona recover? How long will Sir Alex Ferguson continue to manage Manchester United? And can Juventus contest for European titles? Why not share your opinions?
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