BERLIN ( Associated Press) — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticized his successor Gianni Infantino’s plan to hold a 48-team World Cup and expand the Club World Cup.
In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit that aired on Wednesday, Blatter said that “what is happening now is an over-commercialization of football.”
“They keep trying to squeeze more and more lemons, for example a World Cup with 48 teams and now a Club World Cup, which should be seen as a direct competition to the Champions League,” he said. “FIFA is getting involved in something that doesn’t belong to it, club football.”
The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada will be the first with 48 nations, fulfilling Infantino’s election promise to organize a bigger and more inclusive World Cup beyond the dominant European and South American teams. The tournament in Qatar, which ended with Argentina’s anointing on Sunday, featured 32 teams.
On the eve of the World Cup final in Qatar, Infantino announced his intention to organize a Club World Cup – with 32 participants – in 2025.
Blatter announced his resignation as FIFA president in 2015, due to a corruption investigation. The Swiss has always denied having committed the crime, and in an interview broadcast on Wednesday he said that “I have never taken illegal money – and that is why they have not been able to prove anything to me in all the proceedings against me. It will remain so in the future as well.”
Infantino, another Swiss, replaced Blatter in 2016. Blatter told Die Zeit that he had “no relationship with Infantino and that the current president” behaves disrespectfully because he has avoided all contact with me since he was elected. He added that Infantino “communicates with me only through lawyers.”
Blatter said he repeatedly “tried to control business”, for example, to reduce the transfer of South American or African talent to Europe. An attempt to pass the salary cap also failed.
“We didn’t know how to protect football from economic and political influence,” he said. “If by doing so, I have harmed it, I am very sorry.”