24 May 2010

World Cup vs. Champions League: Mourinho's Hypotheiss

In the lead up to the Champion's League final, Jose Mourinho said:
"This game is the most important in the world. It is even bigger than the World Cup because the teams in it are at a higher level than national teams, who can't buy the best players."
We can forgive the Special One for a bit of hyperbole, but his comments raise an interesting hypothesis that can in fact be addressed empirically.

FutebolFinance.com provides a ranking of the transfer value of the top teams in the World Cup, as of late 2009, as follows:
The 10 most valuable teams in the world 2009
  1. Spain - 565 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 2nd place)
  2. Brazil - 515 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 1st place)
  3. France - 450 million Euro (10th in FIFA Ranking)
  4. England - 440 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 7th place)
  5. Italy - 400 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 4th place)
  6. Argentina - 390 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 8th place)
  7. Portugal - 340 million Euros (17th in FIFA Ranking)
  8. Germany - 305 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 4th place)
  9. Netherlands - 280 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 3rd place)
  10. Russia - 210 million Euros (FIFA Ranking 6th place)
Where would Inter Milan and Bayern Munich appear on this list? I have been unable to find a similar list for club teams. However, we can hazard a guess based on some relevant overall team value information. We can compare this to a more-or-less contemporary assessment of the player value of the Champions League entrants for the Premier League, courtesy of The Daily Mail:
1. Chelsea - 232 million Euros
2. Manchester United - 220 million Euros
3. Liverpool - 163 million Euros
4. Arsenal - 86 million Euros
An important qualification is that The Daily Mail valuations are what the teams cost to assemble not what the players are actually worth in the transfer market. The transfer market is illiquid and not all data on transfers is readily available (or if it is I have yet to find it). For instance, with reports today that Fabregas is worth some 40 million Euros, and Arsenal's reliance on players from within the club, the team valuation was probably low. So let's just double the valuation for the EPL Champions league participants to address this uncertainty. Even so, only Chelsea would crack the value of the top 3 national teams and Arsenal would not make the top 10.

The conclusion that I reach is that -- for at least the knock-out stages of 16 teams -- the Champions League is full of great players, but that the World Cup remains supreme, at least as measured by the economic value of players on teams.

Mourinho's hypothesis does not hold up.


  1. Mourinho is correct. The Champions League is much more important than the World Cup. Interest in international football has dropped dramatically in Britain. I haven't watched a live World Cup game since 1994. Managers want to work for clubs, not international teams. That is the best yardstick. It will be different outside Europe.

    I would go further and say that the majority of British fans were more interested in the play offs for 3rd promotion place to the English Premier League than the Champions League final because no British team was involved.

    Mourinho is going to Real because he says he wants to do it once in his life, but his long term goal is the English Premier League, possible replacing Alex Ferguson at MU. That is the current pinnacle of world football.

    Writing from Scotland by the way, where drunken celebrations for England's exit from the world cup will last for days. The English will blame it on (foreign) referees, the heat, aggressive pigeons, the food, the media, the stadiums, the wrong kind of grass or whatever isn't themselves.

    Mind you

    Bishop of Croydon calls on God for World Cup help

    During past World Cups, there have been prayers for David Beckham's broken metatarsal to heal and for God to "lift up his hand and confound the might of Ronaldo and Rivaldo".


    You can guarantee that the most photographed (non) player will be David Beckham, a fairly normal looking guy before Posh Spice introduced him to professional photography.

  2. At the rate the euro is dropping, these teams won't be worth very much by the end of the competition.

  3. Sorry, Roger. I chose to ignore your valuation argument without realising Mourinho had directly addressed value himself. I am multi tasking.

    I jumped in because I am very aware that international football is no longer nearly so important in the UK.

    It seems that Real Madrid has a €400m squad


    Chelsea and Barcelona also €400m according to this site. (beware of the advertisement)


    So, you are (probably) correct, but there isn't that much in it according to the last site I linked to.

    There are of course more club teams than international ones. Add all the Spanish teams together and you would get much more than the international team. That is because they draw in players from all round the world, which is no doubt what Mourinho had in mind (without checking the facts).

  4. Interesting. So France and Portugal are the big underachievers, and Holland perform better than could be expected on the basis of financial value alone.

    I don't agree with Mourinho's comment, or with eric144. I think eric144's observation that interest in international football has dropped dramatically in Britain says less about which tournament is more important and more about the post-1966 performance of British teams in the World Cup. Besides, isn't Champions League football international football as well?

  5. "I think eric144's observation that interest in international football has dropped dramatically in Britain says less about which tournament is more important and more about the post-1966 performance of British teams in the World Cup."

    That is certainly a factor, but by far the biggest reason is the incredible success of the SKY TV broadcast of English Premier League games worldwide. It has attracted not only players and managers from around the world, but also billionaire owners. English teams have dominated Europe for the last few years until this one.

    Scottish football has basically folded because teams cannot compete for players. Rangers very nearly made the Champion's League final in '92/'93 but are way off the pace now. Rangers and Celtic wanted to join the English league but were rejected. They would have been a serious threat because of their global support base (in the former British colonies, especially Ireland.

    "Isn't Champions League football international football as well?"

    No, it's club football.

    I only ever watch Manchester United games by the way, and my local team, which was the first full time time team managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. He was sacked !!

  6. Ah, Chelsea. Zigger Zagger Zigger Zagger Oi Oi Oi !!

  7. This doesn't take into account the fact that club sides have much opportunity to build up an actual team - international sides are thrown together assortments of disparate individuals. As a regular watcher of England, who rarely add up to the sum of their parts (and the sum isn't necessarily that high as it is), there isn't a hope in hell that we'd beat Barcelona (for example).

    I'd say the only international sides that would come close to Barca and other top European sides are Brazil and Spain. I'd bet against the rest pretty much every time.

  8. The top 50 wage earners among the world football (soccer) players all play for European clubs, and the UEFA Champions League annual competition probably has a bigger monetary turnover on a 4-year basis ( the world championship event cycle), All the players on the Spanish national team and 25 out of 30 of the Brazilian national team
    ( the two national teams topping the monetary valuation list ) players do play for the big European clubs, 1/2 of the Argentinian team ( the only other non-European national team on the top 10 valuation list) player also play for the big names in Europe , and thus the valuation of the national teams on that list is probably based on the transfer sums generated by the transfers of the players into and within the huge money machine that the the European club scene and its star events have become. It can therfore justifiably be said that Mourinho's statment has at least some validity. The European club scene is what that pays the wages of most of the star players in the nationals and the ultimate destination of the undiscovered ones that inevitably spring to live while the world show runs it´s course.

    But so what the, it does not really matter much, kickoff time is upon us soon and the game more serious than live itself commences once again, can't wait to see who (if any ) produces the magic needed to dethrone the Samba players.

  9. As much as I love Jose, he's off here.

    Perhaps after his 3 year pit stop in Madrid - and before he heads back to the EPL - he'll coach a national team in 2013-2014. Assuming he has success at Real, he'd have reached every mountain there is to reach on the club level. Going back to the EPL would be a retread. Why not take on the challenge of a national team?

  10. Mourinho, as always, is correct.

    Roger you have to look at this in a different way. All the best coaches manage football clubs. That is where the money, kudos and fame lies. For these coaches the ultimate prize is winning a league title in one the big four leagues, England, Spain, Germany and Italy, and/or winning the Champion's League. As a consequence the top four clubs from each top league would more than likely beat the top four national sides every time because they are better coached, better trained, better motivated and hence they are the better teams.

    I would back Mourinho's Inter Milan against Spain, Brazil, France, England or Italy. Inter would simply walk these games.

  11. The football in the Champion's League is better.

    The teams play longer together and develop a much better pattern.

    Also international teams are not able to recruit to fill a weakness. England had no decent goalie, yet could do nothing about it. Chelsea would go out and buy one, pronto.

    The coaches are better, as pointed out.

    Finally the League teams play more attractive football, because that draws in punters. International teams only care about the win, so a 0-0 draw won on penalty shoot-out is fine. (How many teams have won recent world cups without a shoot-out along the way?) But a boring club side won't generate interest, so might win and go broke for their pains.

    That doesn't make the Champion's League more important, necessarily. But it is where I would go to watch quality football.

  12. World Cup sucks in comparison to the Champions League.

    U may be right that wrt the money issue, Mourinho is dead wrong. But in the largest sense, he's right. Thing is, you have a lot of money in every country's teams, but it's a *wasted* money, most of the times. Perhaps a selection has 10 offensive players worth 140 million, but then only 5 defensive players worth 15 million. There's a lot of waste involved here.

    Also, mind taking note that the value assigned here is *given* by clubs, not selections, so that may skew a lot of the results here.

    What Mourinho was *hinting* at is the fact that clubs can *choose* the players they want to buy. If a selection does not have a lateral, they won't have one. Period. Not so with a club.

    Also, a club is trained for the entirety of a season, ending the final CL game in an extremely outstanding tactical perfection, with the players knowing each other very well. Not so with selections, with great bunch of players simply playing predictively and slowly.

  13. I would back Mourinho's Inter Milan against Spain, Brazil, France, England or Italy. Inter would simply walk these games.

    I doubt Inter would be able to beat Spain, with the likes of Torres, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta, Casillas et al. They certainly wouldn't walk it. Spain are one of the only international sides who would be more than a match for good Champions League teams.

  14. A Mourinho-coached Brazil/Spain/England team would annihilate Mourinho-coached Inter Milan.