France forward Kylian Mbappe and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski have spoken out in opposition to Fifa’s plans to play the World Cup every two years, citing player welfare and a reduction in the appeal of the tournament as reasons they are against the idea.
Earlier this month, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said he believes he has the majority backing to increase the frequency of football’s showpiece tournament from four years to every two. Speaking at a virtual “global summit” on December 20, Infantino told the heads of national federations that biennial World Cups would increase revenue for a 48-team tournament by $4.4 billion over a four-year cycle.
However, there has been stern opposition to the plan from Uefa and Conmebol – the governing bodies for European and South American football, respectively – with Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin threatening to boycott any additional tournament. European clubs and its top leagues have also objected to the proposal.
Attending Monday night's Dubai Globe Soccer Awards, where he was named best men's player of the year, Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe, who starred in winning the 2018 World Cup with France, said: “We already play 60 games a year and there are already a lot of competitions. We are happy to play, but when it's too much, it is too much. If you want to have quality, you have to allow the players to rest.
“In my opinion the World Cup is the World Cup. it's a special thing because it's something every four years, if you want to keep that special.
"You saw [how] I talk about it, people talk about it, about the best team, the best competition in the world. If you have it every two years, it can start to be normal to play the World Cup. And I want to say that's not normal, that's something amazing, something you play maybe one time in your life."
Sitting alongside Mbappe, Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski underlined concerns that increasing the staging of the tournament would have a negative impact on players’ physical and mental health.
"I'm not a fan,” said the Poland captain, who on Monday collected the Maradona Award for best goal scorer and was voted TikTok fans' player of the year. “We already have so many games to play every each year, so many tough weeks, not only matches, because we have a lot of weeks of preparation whether for the season or for big tournaments.
"If we want to offer something a little different, which breaks the routine, it is also necessary to take breaks. It is impossible for the body, for the mentality as well. If you want to play football longer than 10 years you need a break.
“If we have a World Cup every two years, the period where footballers will be able to play at a high level will decrease.”
Next year's World Cup in Qatar is set to be the last with 32 teams, with the competition expanding to 48 from 2026. France, the reigning champions, have already qualified for Qatar 2022, with Poland facing a series of play-offs to reach the finals. They take on Russia in the first, in March.