Arsene Wenger and FIFA’s World Cup plans blasted by Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez claims FIFA’s plans for a biennial World Cup will devalue the competition and the achievements of men who have lit it up over the years such as Pele and Diego Maradona.

The Belgium boss, whose side face European champions Italy on Sunday in the Nations League third and fourth-place play-off, knows the international calendar needs a shake-up.

He has seen it from both sides as a club boss with Swansea, Wigan and Everton, and now an international boss with the No.1-ranked side in the world.

But he is adamant that a World Cup every two years is not the way forward.

Roberto Martinez hit out at plans to make the World Cup a biennial tournament
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PA)

Martinez said: “The proposal comes with the intention of changing the calendar of international football and something does have to be done.

“We need to help this generation of club level and international level footballers for it to be better for the player.

“Something needs to change and everyone has to be responsible, everyone has to give in.

“It’s not just expecting domestic football to give in or the other way round.

“I’ve been in both camps.

“But whether the resolution is to play a World Cup every two years, I’m not sure.

“As prestigious as the World Cup is, it shouldn’t be devalued and with the World Cup, Euros and Nations League there are enough tournaments.

“For a player to achieve two or three or four World Cups used to be an exceptional achievement.

“And I wouldn’t like the history and records of players such as Pele and Diego Maradona to suffer now because people can play double the amount of World Cups.

“So it should be kept full of glamour and prestige, and playing every two to three years wouldn’t do that.”

The Nations League was maligned when the idea was first conceived but plenty of international managers believe in it.

And the quality of football seen already in the semi-finals between Spain and Italy, and Belgium and France, has been exceptional and a great advert for the competition.

Martinez added: “I’m a huge believer in this tournament. There’s no space for friendlies in international football.

“I’ve been in both roles at club and international level and I understand the players are pushed to the maximum.

Arsene Wenger is leading FIFA’s push to change the World Cup calendar
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Getty Images for Laureus)

“It’s important to have competitions where you’re able to play teams who are of a similar world ranking and that’s the Nations League.

“We have some really attractive games and then the final four is a wonderful mini-tournament.”

Belgium suffered a heartbreaking defeat 3-2 defeat by France on Thursday after leading 2-0 and now face Roberto Mancini’s men, who knocked them out of the Euros, in the game no one wants to play.

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