The hype surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo is especially big again these days – even in arriving at Tokyo airport with his Real Madrid colleagues he was surrounded by several hundred Japanese football fans desperate for a glimpse of him.

It does not take a lot of imagination to visualise Ronaldo in the centre of attention on Sunday either, when the final of the Club World Cup takes place in Yokohama.

The trophy is practically ready and waiting to be collected by Ronaldo and company – as it is almost every year for the winner of the European Champions League. Since 2007, there has only been one exception when Corinthians upset Chelsea.

When the respective continential champions, and the local champions from the host nation, meet, the difference in quality is simply too big for meaningful competition.

Club America of Mexico, who Real meet in the semi-finals, are unlikely to offer much resistance to the men from the Bernabeu and neither are the teams in the other semi, Colombia’s Atletico Nacional and home favourites Kashima Antlers.

That calls into question the worth of the tournament at the end of a year which has been packed with action for top stars. Ronaldo has already played 55 competitive games for Real and Portugal and that in a year he was hampered by injury.

Whatever he thinks privately of travelling around the world for a couple of simple fixtures, Ronaldo at least was anxious to stick to the official line.

“It is a big tournament and I want to win it for the third time,” he said in Japan. Toni Kroos added Real were “taking the competition very seriously.”

But when even FIFA president Gianni Infantino admits there are problems, the words of the players themselves ring hollow.

“The competition is not especially inspiring,” he said recently and promised reforms.

He has suggested a full-blown Club World Cup of 32 teams to be played once every four years – starting as soon as summer 2019.

“We have to create a world championship which is interesting for the clubs but also for fans all over the world,” he said.

Having already proposed to raise participation in the World Cup from 32 to 48 nations, Infantino’s tendencies seem clear.

The intention behind such a move seems clear. With a competitor to the UEFA Champions League, FIFA would also have access to the big cash pots generated by the super clubs.

A tournament featuring Real, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, for example, would be suddenly be a much more attractive offering – to fans, sponsors and television alike.

The only group who would suffer would be the players who are already being pushed to the limit. With the UEFA Nations League also starting in 2018/19 in addition to the Confederations Cup, World Cup and continental championships, there would simply be no end to the football which has to be played.

Former star strikers Zvonimir Boban and Marco van Basten are responsible for the Club World Cup reforms with the next two editions already agreed in the current format for the United Arab Emirates.

They will continue to be used for experiments, such as video technology aiding referees. But a serious tournament – producing serious money – is on the horizon.



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