Belgium and reigning champions France head Europe's list of top-seeded teams for World Cup qualifying - and they may have to face a Sweden side featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

World governing body FIFA confirmed the six pots of teams on Friday, based on its new list of world rankings, ahead of the December 7 draw in Zurich.

Belgium are the world's number one team while France sit second in FIFA's rankings, having triumphed at the 2018 World Cup.

The European qualifiers begin with three match days in March, meaning World Cup preliminaries begin before the delayed Euro 2020 finals.

Dangerous teams in Pot Two include the likes of Poland, who boast Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, and Sweden, who could by then have Ibrahimovic back in their ranks.

Ibrahimovic has hinted he wants to come out of international retirement, and coach Janne Andersson this week held a positive meeting with the Milan striker about that possibility.

Should Ibrahimovic come back on board, Andersson would likely want him involved well ahead of Euro 2020, which is due to take place in June and July of next year.

Andersson said on the Swedish FA website: "When Zlatan opened up for games in the national team, it felt natural and important to meet and discuss this as soon as possible. 

"I am glad that we managed to get a meeting so quickly."

Ibrahimovic is Sweden's record goalscorer but the 39-year-old Milan striker last played for his country at Euro 2016.

He is the top scorer in Serie A this season with 10 goals in six appearances.

World Cup pots for Qatar 2022 qualifying draw:

Pot One: Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands

Pot Two: Switzerland, Wales, Poland, Sweden, Austria, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, Slovakia, Romania

Pot Three: Russia, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Greece, Finland

Pot Four: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Israel, Belarus, Georgia, Luxembourg

Pot Five: Armenia, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Andorra

Pot Six: Malta, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, San Marino

Roberto Mancini has led resurgent Italy back into the top 10 of the FIFA rankings after a four-year absence.

The Azzurri are four-time World Cup winners but last featured in the higher echelons in the August 2016 rankings.

Failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup during Gian Piero Ventura's reign demonstrated their decline, but Mancini, who turned 56 on Friday, has engineered an impressive turnaround in fortunes.

Italy were 20th on the FIFA list when Mancini took over as head coach in May 2018, but winning all 10 of their Euro 2020 qualifying matches not only re-established them as a major force, it has seen their ranking soar.

Italy have reached the Nations League finals and are now unbeaten in 22 matches, their best such run since the year they won the World Cup in 2006.

They enjoyed an 11-game winning streak within the current sequence and will be seeded for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Mancini praised his squad's efforts earlier this month, saying on RAI Sport: "The players have done a great job because it has not always been easy.

"We have tried to become more offensive with our play. You have to have the right mentality to do so and have a style of play that all the great teams have."

Italy climbed from 12th to 10th place in the new rankings, while Mexico also jumped two places, rising to ninth.

For Mexico the wait to rejoin the top 10 had been even longer than it was for Italy - with a nine-year span since they last featured.

Belgium remain top of the list, ahead of France and Brazil.

 

FIFA rankings top 10: 1 Belgium, 2 France, 3 Brazil, 4 England, 5 Portugal, 6 Spain, 7 Argentina, 8 Uruguay, 9 Mexico, 10 Italy.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has paid tribute to Diego Maradona, describing the Argentina legend as "simply immense".

Napoli great Maradona died aged 60 on Wednesday after reportedly suffering a heart attack.

Argentina president Alberto Fernandez has declared three days of national mourning after the news of Maradona's passing.

The former attacking midfielder, who was the player of the tournament when he captained his country to World Cup glory in 1986, is one of the all-time greats and Infantino says he deserves "eternal gratitude" for what he brought to football. 

Infantino told FIFA's official website: "Today is an unbelievably sad day. Our Diego left us. Our hearts – of all of us who loved him for how he was, and for what he represented – have stopped beating for a moment. 

"Our silence, our tears, our pain is the only thing we are feeling deep inside us at this time.

"I always said it and I can just repeat it now, more convinced than ever: What Diego has done for football, for making all of us fall in love with this beautiful game, is unique. 

"It is, as he is, simply immense. Diego deserves our eternal gratitude for that, for having amazed us with his incredible talent and yes, for having been so unique. For having been Diego Armando Maradona, a legend, a hero, and a man.

"Diego may be eternal now, but for forever, Diego will also have a most prominent place in the incredible story of all football fairy tales. 

"Our deepest sympathy goes to his family and friends at this difficult time. Rest in peace, dear Diego. We love you."

Maradona won the Serie A title twice during the best years of his club career at Napoli, while he also played for Barcelona, Sevilla, Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors and Newell's Old Boys.

He embarked on a coaching career after retiring, including a spell in charge of his country.

Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award after an impressive year saw him become further adored by Leeds United supporters.

The former Argentina coach guided Leeds back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight, racking up 93 points in a superb Championship season.

Bielsa, 65, has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal as Leeds sit 14th in the table.

But while results in 2020 have been impressive, does Bielsa really warrant inclusion on a five-man FIFA shortlist that also includes Champions League winner Hansi Flick, Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp, LaLiga winner Zinedine Zidane and Europa League victor Julen Lopetegui?

We have looked at some of the best Opta statistics behind Leeds' start to the 2020-21 campaign, comparing that to past Premier League years and what is happening elsewhere in Europe this year.

LEEDS MAKE IMPRESSIVE START

Leeds have had a good opening to the new season and their 11 points from nine games already puts them a healthy seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Wins over Fulham, Sheffield United and Aston Villa mean they are well on track to achieve their survival objective, though heavy defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City provided a reminder of the difficulty of top-flight life.

Leeds' style of play has also led to a host of entertaining matches, their dramatic 4-3 defeat to champions Liverpool on the opening weekend setting the tone.

Their 14 goals make Leeds the top scorers in the bottom half while only two teams have conceded more than the 17 they have leaked.

With 130 total shots, Leeds are second only to Liverpool in that regard, while they are fourth when it comes to attempts on target (48), both incredibly impressive figures for a promoted side.

They have completed 4,756 passes in their nine matches, which again sees them rank favourably.

That number is good for sixth in the Premier League, behind the likes of Chelsea (5,814), Liverpool (5,683) and Manchester City (5,042) but above Tottenham (4,602) and Manchester United (4,463).

Leeds' average possession figure is a tremendous 60.46 per cent, highlighting the control they have had in most of their matches. Only Pep Guardiola's City (62.57) sit above them in that metric.

Those displays have come even while negotiating a particularly tough start to the season - Leeds have already faced five of the teams who finished in the top eight of the Premier League last season.

BUT POINTS RETURN IS NOTHING SPECIAL

However, the case against Bielsa's nomination would be that when it comes to Leeds' overall record, while 11 points is a decent return, it is certainly nothing special.

Prior to this season, 34 promoted teams had earned 11 or more points inside their first nine top-flight matches.

Some of those have far exceeded that total. Nottingham Forest had 21 points from their first nine games in 1994-95 and went on to finish in third place.

Hull City stunned the league with 20 points in nine matches in 2008, while Wigan Athletic had recorded 19 by this stage in 2005.

There are more recent examples too, as Sheffield United (12) - who went on to finish ninth - and Aston Villa (11) both had similar returns after nine games last season.

Looking specifically at 2020, Bielsa is not the only coach of a promoted team in Europe's major leagues to have captured the headlines this season.

Cadiz are fifth in LaLiga with 14 points from 10 matches after a magnificent start that has seen them earn famous away wins over Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

One of the other promoted teams in Spain, Elche - who recently beat Valencia - are poised to overtake Cadiz having racked up 12 points from eight games to start the campaign.

In France, Lens have 17 points from nine games and are seven points off the top of Ligue 1 with two games in hand. They have already defeated leaders and champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Stuttgart, meanwhile, are eighth in the Bundesliga and reached the 11-point mark one game quicker than Leeds did in England's top flight.

While a Bielsa nomination has its merits, the data suggests there were also other potential candidates this year and in seasons past who, having lacked his global profile, can feel hard done by to miss out.

Robert Lewandowski is among the leading contenders for The Best FIFA Men's Player in 2020 after he was named among 11 nominees on Wednesday.

The Bayern Munich superstar fired his side to the treble in 2019-20 and has continued his outstanding form at the start of the new season.

With no Ballon d'Or this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA's award represents Lewandowski's best chance of recognition for a standout year.

He has tough competition in the form of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and four Liverpool players, but the 32-year-old must surely be considered the frontrunner.

Lewandowski's potential success in this category would be built on Bayern's Champions League triumph and Opta data in that competition since the start of last season helps make his case.

LEADING THE WAY

Virgil van Dijk ran Messi close in 2019, but this year's top honour surely belongs to an attacker - particularly with the Liverpool centre-back and Sergio Ramos playing just eight and seven games respectively over this span due to injury and suspension.

Lewandowski is therefore the obvious choice. He has scored 17 goals in 13 games; for contrast, Messi has six goals and Ronaldo five.

The Poland international has benefited from playing at the forefront of a brilliant team, however, and has had by far the most shots of any player in this time.

His 63 attempts outperform Messi's second-placed 48 by 15. Ronaldo is third with 47, with the leading five shot-takers all nominated as Mohamed Salah (42) and Kylian Mbappe (41) are next on that list.

But Lewandowski has made the most of these opportunities, hitting the target 36 times - another high.

The striker's shot conversion rate of 27.0 per cent far outstrips Salah (14.3 per cent), Neymar (13.3 per cent), Sadio Mane (12.5 per cent), Messi (also 12.5 per cent), Mbappe (12.2 per cent) and Ronaldo (10.6 per cent).

For balance, Ramos is the leading scorer among defenders in this period, netting three goals.

MISSED THE CUT

Although Thiago Alcantara, who has since departed for Liverpool, was included, it was perhaps slightly surprising to see only two members of Bayern's treble-winning team make the list.

The players who created Lewandowski's opportunities went unrewarded.

Joshua Kimmich has a joint-high seven assists and has created the most chances of any player with 38. Thomas Muller played 31 key passes.

Similarly, at Paris Saint-Germain, where Neymar and Mbappe are considered, Angel Di Maria supplied six assists, 24 chances and 12 big chances.

One admission who will surely make the cut in the years to come is Erling Haaland, widely considered the heir to Lewandowski's crown as the Bundesliga's leading marksman.

The 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund man, who was named the 2020 Golden Boy, is the only player to come close to Lewandowski's level of productivity in the Champions League.

Despite playing the first half of last season at Salzburg, who did not qualify from their group, Haaland has 16 goals in just 12 games.

Serge Gnabry, another team-mate of Lewandowski's, is third for goals behind the pair but has a relatively modest nine.

Of Haaland's 40 shots, 24 have hit the target - a tally beaten only by Lewandowski and matched by Messi (from eight more attempts). A shot conversion rate of 40 per cent is the best mark of any player with 40 or more shots.

This might well be Lewandowski's year, but the future is not far away.

Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach, but Pep Guardiola will not contest the award this year.

Bielsa guided Leeds United back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight.

The former Argentina coach has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal.

And Bielsa has been rewarded for his achievement with recognition from FIFA.

The 65-year-old made a five-man FIFA shortlist for the world's leading coach in 2020, joining Bayern Munich's Champions League winner Hansi Flick and Liverpool's Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp among the contenders.

Zinedine Zidane is also in the running after Real Madrid won LaLiga, while Sevilla's Europa League triumph sees Julen Lopetegui included.

But there is no room for City boss Guardiola, who came second to Klopp in 2019.

City failed to defend their Premier League title, finishing 18 points behind Liverpool, and they are already eight points off the pace - albeit with a game in hand - down in 13th place this season.

Guardiola's wait for a first Champions League triumph away from Barcelona also went on as they were stunned by Lyon in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Luis Suarez and Son Heung-min are among the frontrunners for the latest FIFA Puskas Award.

Atletico Madrid forward Suarez netted an exquisite backheel for former club Barcelona at the end of a team move against Real Mallorca, while Tottenham's Son tore through the Burnley defence for an individual effort.

The winners of all prizes - including The Best FIFA Men's Player, for which Robert Lewandowski is the favourite - will be revealed at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on December 17.

Liverpool have accounted for four of the 11 nominations for The Best FIFA men's player award.

The Premier League champions have Virgil van Dijk, the 2019 runner-up to Lionel Messi in this category, recognised along with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara, who joined in the last transfer window after winning the treble with Bayern Munich.

Messi and two-time award winner Cristiano Ronaldo are also on the shortlist along with Paris Saint-Germain forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Robert Lewandowski is among the favourites to win the award, with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos the other nominees.

FIFA confirmed last week its The Best awards will go ahead as a virtual event on December 17 despite France Football's Ballon d'Or being cancelled in 2020.

With football across the globe impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and France's Ligue 1 season notably curtailed in 2019-20, the call was made earlier in July that no Ballon d'Or would be awarded.

The decision frustrated Bayern's Lewandowski, the apparent favourite to succeed record-breaking six-time winner Lionel Messi.

But Lewandowski could yet be recognised as FIFA maintains its plans to honour the leading men's and women's players and coaches. 

Voting will take place between November 25 and December 9 ahead of the awards ceremony eight days later.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award, which he won in 2019.

There are six goalkeepers up for the accolade, with Bayern's Manuel Neuer likely to be tough to beat amid competition from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jan Oblak, Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid shot stopper Courtois won the award in 2018, a year after Gianluigi Buffon claimed the inaugural edition.

Ahmad Ahmad, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), has been banned for five years by FIFA after being found guilty of breaching ethics codes.

The 60-year-old, who is also a FIFA vice-president, had been investigated for his conduct during the period from 2017 to 2019.

FIFA's adjudicatory chamber said Ahmad had breached rules relating to duty of loyalty, offering and accepting gifts or other benefits, abuse of position and misappropriation of funds.

Ahmad has been banned from all football-related activity for five years and fined CHF 200,000.

FIFA said in a statement on Monday: "The investigation into Mr Ahmad's conduct in his position as CAF president during the period from 2017 to 2019 concerned various CAF-related governance issues, including the organisation and financing of an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, his involvement in CAF's dealings with the sports equipment company Tactical Steel and other activities.

"In its decision, following an extensive hearing, the adjudicatory chamber ruled that, based on information gathered by the investigatory chamber, Mr Ahmad had breached his duty of loyalty, offered gifts and other benefits, mismanaged funds and abused his position as the CAF president, pursuant to the FIFA Code of Ethics.

"Consequently, the adjudicatory chamber found that Mr Ahmad had breached arts 15, 20 and 25 of the current edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics, as well as art. 28 of the 2018 edition, and sanctioned him with a ban from all football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level for five years. In addition, a fine in the amount of CHF 200,000 has been imposed on Mr Ahmad."

 Haitian soccer federation president Yves Jean-Bart was banned from the sport for life on Friday following accusations of systematic sexual abuse of female players.

The FIFA ethics committee found Jean-Bart guilty of “having abused his position and sexually harassed and abused various female players, including minors” from 2014 until this year.

The 73-year-old official was also fined 1 million Swiss francs ($1.1 million).

Jean-Bart has denied the allegations, which involve national team players, including minors. The local Haitian judicial system so far has refused to file charges, with a judge declaring last week there is no evidence.

The accusations were first revealed by British newspaper The Guardian in April.

Haiti follows Afghanistan in having its long-time soccer leader expelled from the sport by FIFA after players in the women’s national teams alleged widespread sexual abuse.

An appeal will be filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a spokesman for Jean-Bart said in a statement.

“FIFA’s decision is a travesty of justice and purely political move to avoid further controversy and bad press following a series of high-profile scandals," spokesman Evan Nierman said.

The abuse is said to have happened at the country’s national training center at Croix-des-Bouquets, which FIFA helped fund. It was known as “The Ranch.”

As the head of Haitian soccer since 2000, Jean-Bart “wielded huge power … and has high-level connections into the government, political and legal systems,” Human Rights Watch said.

Haitian state authorities have been urged by the advocacy group to investigate the allegations and protect the players, who also said they were intimidated and threatened.

“This is not a case of one bad apple," Human Rights Watch global initiatives director Minky Worden said ahead of the FIFA verdict. "Athletes have testified that many other officials in the Haitian Football Federation — officials responsible for their safety — either participated in sexual abuse or knew and turned a blind eye.”

Three other Haitian federation officials have been suspended from work while FIFA investigators gather evidence: technical director Wilner Etienne, national center girls' supervisor Nela Joseph and assistant coach Yvette Félix.

FIFA said Friday that federation officials are accused of being “principals, accomplices or instigators” in the systematic abuse.

World players’ union FIFPro praised “the extraordinary courage of the survivors, victims and witnesses.”

The union said Haitian soccer officials misused their power “to lure in young children, often from impoverished backgrounds, so they could groom, manipulate as well as sexually and emotionally abuse them.”

Jean-Bart had been “actually investigated and cleared” by the judicial system in Haiti, his spokesman said.

"FIFA failed to review actual evidence, which is why Dr. Jean-Bart expects to be fully exonerated and reinstated after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” Nierman said.

In the appeal case of Afghan soccer official Keramuddin Karim, CAS upheld FIFA’s punishment and said: “With his appalling acts, he had destroyed not only their careers, but severely damaged their lives.”

Last week, an investigative judge in Haiti ruled that authorities found no evidence to press charges against Jean-Bart despite the allegations.

In the Nov. 12 ruling made public this week, the judge noted that the government’s investigation included visits to the national training center and interviews with certain players. He wrote that none of the accusers identified any victims and that human rights organizations “shined for their absence” when asked to meet with officials as part of the investigation. He did not identify those organizations.

Marie-Yolène Gilles, executive director of the human rights group Fondasyon Je Kler, told The Associated Press that she was disappointed in the ruling and disagreed with it.

“If you have money, you’re able to get justice,” she said.

Justice officials in Croix-des-Bouquets could not be immediately reached for comment.

Gilles said victims have the right to appeal the ruling, but it wasn’t known yet if they planned to do so.

Since the allegations were revealed, FIFA has pledged to work on safeguarding players in an agreement with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

FIFA has confirmed its The Best awards will go ahead as a virtual event on December 17 despite France Football's Ballon d'Or being cancelled in 2020.

With football across the globe impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and France's Ligue 1 season notably curtailed in 2019-20, the call was made earlier in July that no Ballon d'Or would be awarded.

The decision frustrated Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, the apparent favourite to succeed record-breaking six-time winner Lionel Messi.

But Lewandowski could yet be recognised as FIFA maintains its plans to honour the leading men's and women's players and coaches. Messi also won The Best FIFA Men's Player award in 2019.

Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d'Or Feminin holder, likewise took The Best FIFA Women's Player accolade last time out.

Confirming the date of the 2020 ceremony, FIFA said it was important to acknowledge achievement "in this extraordinary year"

"This year, it has been clearer than ever that nothing is more important than health," a statement read.

"The protagonists of the game have taken on greater responsibility, not just as players but also as role models giving hope to communities everywhere and sharing messages of unity in the face of the ongoing public health crisis.

"Following the safe resumption of competitions, thanks to a combination of hard work and solidarity across our sport, football has provided a rare source of comfort and joy to many.

"Thus, it is important that FIFA honour such achievements in this extraordinary year.

"In line with public health precautions and FIFA's guiding principle that health comes first, it has been decided that the awards ceremony will be held as a virtual event only."

Voting will take place between November 25 and December 9 ahead of the awards ceremony eight days later.

FIFA has lifted its suspension of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association thus clearing the way for the country to participate in international competition and participate in the draw for the  CONCACAF Gold Cup.

In a letter dated November 19, over the signature of FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura and addressed to Robert Hadad, Chairman of the Normalization Committee that was appointed in March, FIFA informed of the decision to lift the suspension that was imposed in September.

“We write to inform you that the situation of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has been referred to the Bureau of the Council on 17 November 2020,” said the letter that went on to rehash the situation that had unfolded over the last eight months and that concluded with the Court of Appeal in Trinidad and Tobago ruling in favour of football’s world governing body.

“In addition, the Court of Appeal stressed that in accordance with art. 57 par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes and art. 67 of the TTFA Statutes, CAS was the only recognized path to resolve such dispute. Additionally, the Bureau was informed that on 26 October 2020, the FIFA administration received the minutes of the TTFA members’ meeting.”

At that meeting members of the TTFA voted overwhelmingly to “fully comply with its obligations as a member of FIFA, recognizing the legitimacy of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee, and; bringing its own statutes in line with the FIFA statutes, and; to fully cooperate with the Normalisation Committee in the fulfilment of its mandate as stated in FIFA’s letter of March 17th, 2020; be it further resolved that all court matters existing between the TTFA and FIFA shall be immediately brought to a stop”.

The move ultimately ended the dispute and cleared the way for a return to normalcy.

“Under these circumstances, the Bureau decided on 19 November 2020 to lift the suspension of the TTFA with immediate effect. This means that all of the TTFA’s membership rights have been reinstated, as defined in art. 13 of the FIFA Statutes, with immediate effect,” the letter said.

“Consequently, TTFA’s representative and club teams are again entitled to take part in international competitions. This also means that the TTFA may benefit from development programmes, courses and training provided by FIFA and/or the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

“Moreover, FIFA member associations may again enter into sporting contact with the TTFA and/or its teams.”

In March, the ousted William Wallace administration had taken FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the decision to dissolve the administration that had only been in charge for four months. They subsequently withdrew the dispute from CAS and placed it before the TT High Court of Justice, who ruled that FIFA’s decision was illegal and therefore null and void.

However, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.


FIFA has confirmed the Club World Cup will take place in February 2021, rather than December this year.

The annual event, which is being staged in Qatar, is traditionally held at the end of the year and had been scheduled to begin next month.

However, FIFA said that is not feasible because of "the disruptive effect of the pandemic on the confederations' continental club championships that serve as a pathway for the event".

It will instead be staged from February 1 to February 11.

European champions Bayern Munich and Al-Duhail, the 2019-20 Qatar Stars League winners, are the only confirmed participants so far.

The 2021 tournament will be the last before the expanded competition, which is due to replace the Confederations Cup on the football calendar, is first held in China.

FIFA also confirmed the 2020 Under-20 and Under-17 Women's World Cups have been cancelled after stakeholders raised concerns about staging the tournaments.

The events had been postponed until early next year because of the impact of the pandemic.

FIFA said the 2020 hosts – Costa Rica for the Under-20 tournament and India for the Under-17s – will now have hosting rights moved to the 2022 competitions.

Toni Kroos can see the merits of a European Super League despite his criticism of potential additions to an already hectic schedule.

The idea of Europe's elite clubs forming their own division has long been mooted but came to the fore again after outgoing Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu claimed the Blaugrana had agreed to join such a league.

Kroos' Real Madrid would surely be involved, too, but the midfielder this week took aim at FIFA and UEFA due to the number of games top players are being asked to play - particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Seemingly referring to UEFA's Nations League and a possible super league, he said: "With the invention of all these new things, we seem to be just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA."

Further discussing the purported move with Marca, though, the Germany international highlighted some benefits.

"What I wanted to say is that, without a doubt, there are positive things about it," Kroos told the Spanish newspaper.

"We are going to see many matches of a very high level that we have only seen in the semi-finals of the Champions League. And we all like those games.

"It's going to make football very interesting for the fans of the teams and for those who don't have a specific [team]. We all like to watch football at the highest level."

However, he added: "You also have to take care of small teams. They are all very competitive. The super league is something else. I worry more about other things."

Greg Clarke has quit his role as FIFA vice-president two days on from resigning as chairman of England's Football Association (FA) for the use of a derogatory term in a meeting with a parliamentary committee.

Clarke had attended a forum with the United Kingdom's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee alongside Premier League chief Richard Masters and EFL boss Rick Parry.

The trio were called to discuss numerous matters in English football, including Project Big Picture and the sport's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But when asked about abuse athletes receive on social media, Clarke referred to "high-profile coloured footballers" in his response.

He swiftly issued an apology for his remarks, which were widely condemned, before the FA announced later in the day that Clarke had resigned.

The consequences have not stopped there, with UEFA confirming he has also stepped down as a representative on the FIFA Council, which Clarke had been serving as one of eight vice-presidents.

A UEFA statement read: "Following a telephone call this morning between the UEFA president [Aleksander Ceferin] and Greg Clarke, they agreed with Greg Clarke's proposal that he should step down with immediate effect from his position as a UEFA representative on the FIFA Council."

Clarke had been elected to the role in February 2019 and was one of three UEFA representatives working as a vice-president to Gianni Infantino, alongside Ceferin and Hungary's Sandro Csanyi.

Toni Kroos has accused FIFA and UEFA of treating footballers like "puppets" by creating new tournaments at club and international level.

Kroos will this week represent Germany in the Nations League, a competition formed two years ago with the aim of replacing friendly matches.

The Club World Cup has also recently been expanded and there is talk of a new European Super League being formed in the coming years.

However, Real Madrid midfielder Kroos is completely against the idea of cramming more fixtures into an already packed schedule.

"With the invention of all these new things we seem to be just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA," he said.

"These competitions are created to suck everything out of every single player physically and to suck out as much money as possible.

"When certain things work well it is a good idea to leave them that way."

Speaking on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast, which he hosts together with brother Felix, Kroos also took aim at fellow professionals who choreograph their goal celebrations.

Referencing celebrations by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has previously sported a Spiderman mask, and Antoine Griezmann, who simulates dance moves from video game Fortnite, Kroos said: "I find it very silly.

"Even worse is if there are any objects hidden in their socks. Aubameyang once celebrated and took out a mask. That's where it ends with me.

"I don't think that's a good role model, either. What nonsense."

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