India can be a top football nation in two decades: Breitner

Last Updated: Dec 10, 2011, 18:58 PM IST

Mumbai: With top European clubs showing interest in developing football in the country, German legend and 1974 World Cup-winning team member Paul Breitner believes that India can be among the top footballing nations in two decades` time.

"I think within the next 15-20 years India will become a very important football country," said Breitner on Sunday after arriving here on a scouting mission to spot talented under-16 players to play in the Bayern Munich Youth Cup to be held at Allianz Arena in Munich in May.

However, the 60-year-old former Bayern and Real Madrid star felt that lack of infrastructure and an organized training structure for kids and absence of qualified coaches were some hurdles India will have to overcome to achieve that dream.

Breitner, who is an ambassador for top German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich, is trying to develop the sport in countries where it is not popular.

Asked if Bayern Munich will set up its own soccer school like English Premier League sides, he said the move called for deeper involvement.

"The problem to launch football school is that you have to be present. It is not done to send one representative or one football coach. You need to organise and send many more at the start. Just lending your name to a football school doesn`t help anybody," he said.

The one-time midfield marshall, who scored 103 goals in 369 appearances in club football, saw his home nation as the favourites to top their group, also featuring Portugal and 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands, at the Euro 2012.

"I think we are among the favourites; we want to win. We will win if Spain lets us win. Besides the Spanish squad, we are the top favourites to win the Cup," said Breitner who is among four players to have scored goals in the final of two World Cups - in 1974 against the Netherlands and 1982 against Italy.

Describing football as "funny and exciting", Breitner took a dig at the glamorous English clubs and said they have lost their foothold in the game and need to rethink and develop according to changing times.

"The top four teams of the Premier League thought they will remain the best teams forever. They are playing like they used to 5-6 years ago. You have to learn how Barcelona is dominating the league and football. You have to learn and if you stop learning, then you cannot play as strong as you used to earlier."

He was referring to the elimination of the EPL leaders Manchester City and Manchester United, who have been shown the door in the UEFA Champions League by Bayern Munich and FC Basel respectively.

Arsenal is the lone English club to secure a berth effortlessly in the knock-out rounds of the tournament while another top club Chelsea managed to scrape through against Valencia.

Breitner added that the cash-rich Manchester City might win the EPL this season though they have been spending their money a bit foolishly.

He declared his verdict on the debate about the best footballer in the world between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi by picking the Argentine ahead of the Portugal star. "(Lionel) Messi is 100 per cent. (Cristiano) Ronaldo, Xavi (Hernandez), (Andres) Iniesta, Frank Ribbery are all 96-99 per cent but just one is at 100 per cent. He is the best player (in the world)," he said.

He expected the 24-year old Argentine striker to dominate the game for the next 5-7 years at least.

Asked about FC Barcelona`s form this season, he said, "There comes a situation where you like to relax a little bit. These times have passed for Barcelona. They are on their way to be as successful as they were in the last years. Barcelona is still the number one in world football."

The Spanish La Liga defending champions are right now at number two, three points behind Real Madrid who have an extra game in hand.

Breitner further said he enjoyed playing alongside Germany World Cup legend and former record holder Gerhard Muller more than others.

"There is one player I enjoyed playing with more than others. He was the most important player - Gerd Muller. He was the top scorer in world football. He is the reason why I am sitting here. Bayern Munich and German national team won a lot of awards because of him," he said, adding he regarded Argentine great Diego Maradona as his friend.

He welcomed the recent statement by FIFA President Sepp Blatter that 2014 World Cup in Brazil would have goal-line technology in place, but wanted it to cover more match situations such as off-side rulings and penalties.

"I hope that we will have video analysis to look whether the decision of the referee is correct or not. It is just to help the referees and making the game fairer.

"It should be there especially for off-side and even in situations of penalties. Every situation within 30-yards of penalty should be looked by the technology," he said.

"I have no idea when it happens but I hope I am still alive when this change happens," he chuckled.

PTI