Updated June 11th, 2024 at 09:58 IST

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti warns of snub to FIFA Club World Cup before his bosses backtrack

Real Madrid is the main attraction at the biggest ever Club World Cup next year in the United States but the Champions League winner was ready to boycott it, according to coach Carlo Ancelotti on Monday, citing a dispute with FIFA over money.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti celebrates with the trophy after winning the Champions League final soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Wembley stadium | Image: AP
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Real Madrid is the main attraction at the biggest ever Club World Cup next year in the United States but the Champions League winner was ready to boycott it, according to coach Carlo Ancelotti on Monday, citing a dispute with FIFA over money.

Not so, his employer said hours later , backtracking from claims by the hugely respected Ancelotti published in an interview with an Italian daily.

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The U.S. is hosting the first revamped edition of the FIFA club tournament in June-July 2025 with Madrid and its superstar players Kylian Mbappé, Vinícius Júnior and Jude Bellingham the standout among 32 teams, including 12 from Europe. It is due to be played every four years.

But Ancelotti said FIFA “can forget about it” in an interview published Monday by Italian daily Il Giornale.

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“A single Real Madrid game is worth 20 million and FIFA wants to give us that amount for the entire cup. Negative,” the Madrid coach said. “Like us, other clubs will turn down the invite.”

Ancelotti is perhaps the most universally liked coach in world soccer but his published claims were questionable and led to a quick climb down in Madrid.

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“Real Madrid never questioned its participation in the new Club World Cup to be organized by FIFA,” the club said in a statement. “Therefore, our club will compete, as planned, in this official competition that we face with pride and with the utmost enthusiasm to make our millions of fans around the world dream again with a new title.”

In a later social media post , Ancelotti didn’t deny his comments to Il Giornale but said his words were not interpreted the way he intended.

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Madrid typically earns about 10 million euros ($10.7 million) per Champions League game in prize money from UEFA in a revenue distribution model that FIFA is expected to closely mirror.

It was also far from clear which other clubs would refuse FIFA’s invitation and pass up likely tens of millions of dollars in guaranteed prize money.

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The exact amount clubs can expect to earn is unclear as FIFA still has not announced broadcast and sponsor deals for an event that kicks off June 15 next year. FIFA has been in talks with tech giant Apple about a global streaming rights deal, and Saudi Arabian sponsors are expected to be confirmed.

A Madrid snub of FIFA also was unlikely because its place would go to another Spanish team — its biggest rival Barcelona, which has been in a prolonged financial crisis. Atletico Madrid already secured its place in Spain’s quota of two entries.

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Ancelotti’s claims also had seemed to reflect Madrid’s status as would-be disrupters in European soccer politics and also its isolation since president Florentino Perez was a driving force behind the breakaway Super League. That project failed within 48 hours of launching in April 2021 after a furious backlash by fans and lawmakers in England.

The other 11 European teams which qualified for the Club World Cup — including Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and other consistent performers in the past four Champions League seasons — are all members of the influential European Club Association.

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Real Madrid has been exiled from the ECA since the Super League debacle. It also included Atletico and Juventus, who are now back in the fold of the 600-member club network and going to the Club World Cup.

The ECA last year renewed its working agreement with FIFA, a so-called “memorandum of understanding,” which included promises of cooperation on the club tournament and getting a bigger say in its commercial decisions.

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“FIFA and ECA will also now establish closer working practices on a future revamped Club World Cup, including the sporting and commercial aspects for the 2025 edition,” ECA chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi said in March 2023, “and working together on future editions including on potential structures for managing the commercial rights going forward.”

By not being an ECA member, Madrid has less input on negotiations about Club World Cup prize money.

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Al Khelaifi also is the president of PSG, whose refusal to join the Madrid-led Super League helped undermine its credibility. The Qatari executive has close ties to UEFA as the head of one of its most valuable rights holders, BeIN Sports, and as a member of the European soccer body’s executive committee.

Three of the 32 Club World Cup teams have yet to be confirmed: Two of the six South American entries plus a team from Major League Soccer.

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Published June 11th, 2024 at 09:58 IST