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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Real Madrid Flees From Boss’s Claim It Won’t Play in FIFA’s Troubled Club World Cup

  • Manager Carlo Ancelotti originally said his squad won’t participate in next summer’s tournament held in the U.S.
  • Ancelotti and the team released statements walking back the comments later Monday.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti took a shot at the FIFA Club World Cup in an interview published Monday, a crucial blow to the tournament looking to revamp itself and make a splash in U.S. markets. Then he and his club walked it back.

“Players and clubs won’t participate in that tournament,” Ancelotti told Italian newspaper il Giornale in an interview published in Italian Monday. “One single Real Madrid game is worth €20 million, and FIFA want to give us that amount for the entire competition. Negative.

“Just like us, other clubs will refuse the invitation.”

The remarks became headline news at media outlets like ESPN, Forbes, and The Guardian. Ancelotti and the team quickly both released statements walking back the comments.

“In my interview with Il Giornale, my words about the FIFA Club World Cup were not interpreted in the way I intended,” Ancelotti posted on social media, managing the PR crisis while on vacation in Vancouver. “Nothing could be further from my interest than to reject the possibility of playing in a tournament that I consider could be a great opportunity to continue fighting for big titles with Real Madrid.”

The team also released a short and sweet statement: “Real Madrid CF announces that at no time has its participation in the new Club World Cup to be organized by FIFA in the upcoming 2024/2025 season been questioned. 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.”

Ancelotti’s Real Madrid side is fresh off yet another Champions League title, its second in the last three years under Ancelotti. (He has three other Champions League trophies of his own, including one in 2014 in a previous stint leading Real Madrid.) 

His purported financial concerns only add to the issues FIFA has had in its attempt to make the Club World Cup a major international tournament, taking it from seven teams in its last iteration to 32 in its next. The United States is set to host teams from the UEFA, CONMEBOL, Concacaf, CAF, AFC, OFC, and one of its own leagues during June and July 2025.

Less than two weeks ago, major players’ unions threatened to strike over what they see as FIFA overburdening their schedules with the new tournament format. And plenty of logistical items remain unresolved. Official host cities have yet to be announced, though The Athletic reports New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium are expected to be the favorites to benefit European TV audiences. Also still up in the air are the media-rights partners, sponsorship agreements, and financial incentives to clubs.

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