LONDON - The Champions League has become
more important than the World Cup for modern day players whose
career at the top might now only span four or five years,
Germany's general manager Oliver Bierhoff said on Thursday.
In a wide-ranging address to delegates at the Soccerex
business forum, Bierhoff also outlined the improvements made in
the set-up of the German national side, whose young exciting
team reached the semi-finals of the World Cup last year.
He and his coaches had also introduced a set of rules and
responsibilities to stop the players becoming "spoilt brats".
Bierhoff, however, acknowledged that the Champions League
had become more important than the World Cup for many players,
saying: "I think if you are a player now, at a big club, the
Champions League is the one you want to win.
"Winning the domestic title is important, but the Champions
League is the crown, the pinnacle.
"There are so many demands on the players now, the media,
personal sponsorships, the club's demands. The peak for the top
players is becoming narrower and narrower - once you had a
10-year career at the top and the brilliant players did it at
the World Cup.
"Now, after three or four or five years, it seems like the
player is gone. Look at Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and other players.
Everything is much more intense, and the Champions League is the
pinnacle not the World Cup.
"Twenty years ago it was more important for a player to play
for the national team, financial-wise, than now. Now, he gets
very well paid by the club and the club has a big interest that
he does not get injured.
"We don't pay our players as much as they earn in their
clubs, now it is a matter of pride to be selected. It is very
important to create something special around the national
Bierhoff, who oversees the development of the national game,
said that if the coach of a national team came from his own
country, he believed it helped forge the identity of the team
better and create a stronger team spirit.
"Is it absolutely necessary for the national coach to come
from his own country? For sure it helps, because then he is
thinking more about what is going on in the country and is not
seeing himself like a project manager who is coming for five
days to coach the team but is thinking more about what is going
on in the federation."
Bierhoff also said that he, together with people like
national team coach Joachim Loew and others, encouraged the
players to take more responsibility and pride in playing for the
"After training they would just come in and throw their
dirty shirts and socks and shorts down and leave it for the
kitman to tidy up. Now they do it themselves. They turn their
shirts inside out, they put all the socks and shorts together.
"We needed to change the atmosphere after the 2004 European
Championship in Portugal.
"It had seemed to the people that the players didn't want
to play for the team, that it was not fun. But in Germany the
national team is an icon, it's the property of the people so we
needed the players to be able to bond together.
"It was about more than just playing well. So we helped them
develop responsibilities to help them grow as people because we
wanted them to respect not only their fellow players but the
staff who worked with them. We did not want them to behave like
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