LONDON - The Champions League has become more important than the World Cup for modern day players whose career at the top might now only span four or five years, Germany's general manager Oliver Bierhoff said on Thursday.
In a wide-ranging address to delegates at the Soccerex business forum, Bierhoff also outlined the improvements made in the set-up of the German national side, whose young exciting team reached the semi-finals of the World Cup last year.
He and his coaches had also introduced a set of rules and responsibilities to stop the players becoming "spoilt brats".
Bierhoff, however, acknowledged that the Champions League had become more important than the World Cup for many players, saying: "I think if you are a player now, at a big club, the Champions League is the one you want to win.
"Winning the domestic title is important, but the Champions League is the crown, the pinnacle.
"There are so many demands on the players now, the media, personal sponsorships, the club's demands. The peak for the top players is becoming narrower and narrower - once you had a 10-year career at the top and the brilliant players did it at the World Cup.
"Now, after three or four or five years, it seems like the player is gone. Look at Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and other players. Everything is much more intense, and the Champions League is the pinnacle not the World Cup.
"Twenty years ago it was more important for a player to play for the national team, financial-wise, than now. Now, he gets very well paid by the club and the club has a big interest that he does not get injured.
"We don't pay our players as much as they earn in their clubs, now it is a matter of pride to be selected. It is very important to create something special around the national team."
Bierhoff, who oversees the development of the national game, said that if the coach of a national team came from his own country, he believed it helped forge the identity of the team better and create a stronger team spirit.
"Is it absolutely necessary for the national coach to come from his own country? For sure it helps, because then he is thinking more about what is going on in the country and is not seeing himself like a project manager who is coming for five days to coach the team but is thinking more about what is going on in the federation."
Bierhoff also said that he, together with people like national team coach Joachim Loew and others, encouraged the players to take more responsibility and pride in playing for the national team.
"After training they would just come in and throw their dirty shirts and socks and shorts down and leave it for the kitman to tidy up. Now they do it themselves. They turn their shirts inside out, they put all the socks and shorts together.
"We needed to change the atmosphere after the 2004 European Championship in Portugal.
"It had seemed to the people that the players didn't want to play for the team, that it was not fun. But in Germany the national team is an icon, it's the property of the people so we needed the players to be able to bond together.
"It was about more than just playing well. So we helped them develop responsibilities to help them grow as people because we wanted them to respect not only their fellow players but the staff who worked with them. We did not want them to behave like spoilt brats."comments