Tobagonian Dwight Yorke had a career that spanned from 1989 to 2009, playing for several teams including Aston Villa, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, and Sunderland. He was named Premier League Player of the Season in 1998-99, the same year his Manchester United squad pulled off a treble, winning the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. A member of this years FIFA Legends squad, Yorke stopped to talk about the expansion of the world cup and the future of the game.
Dwight, what are your thoughts about the FIFA World Cup expanding to include 48 teams?
My biggest concern for the 48 teams is not that I’m not for it but I don’t want the competition to lose that cutting edge, that sort of excitement, that the World Cup has the best teams that qualify. Not necessarily the best teams, but teams who have fought hard to be in the World Cup. That we would lose that sparkle from the games. That’s, for me, where the biggest sort of concern is with the 48 teams. Football is a sport that is growing, as we’re seeing, everyone around the world wants to be part of football teams or organisations. I’m happy for that but at the same time we want to make sure the World Cup is a special competition, it comes around only once every four years so that what makes it very unique. Also for the lesser teams that have not been able to get in, it’s important, if were to go to the 48 teams, that we don’t lose that spark.
Do you remember the qualifying campaign that you played for 2006? Was it really so tough for Trinidad & Tobago to reach the final stage?
Yeah, it was very tough for us. We had come close because we were meant to be in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. We needed a draw against America back in Trinidad but we lost. That was close. Then, in 2006, of course, when we qualified, for our country it’s everything. We only have 1.2 million people, in Milan alone, you have 1.2 million people! For us, it’s historic. That’s why it so special for a small country.
What do you think about Paul Pogba playing for Manchester United?
When you are the most expensive player, there is a lot of expectation. You come to a club like Manchester United Football Club, it’s going to be huge, but I think that he has risen to the challenge. It’s been a very difficult time, he’s only a very young man at 24. To be the most expensive player in the world, of course that comes with a burden. We have seen now he is playing with a lot more confidence, he is playing like he is one of the most expensive players in the world and right now Manchester United is doing extremely well.
Do you think he can be the best player in the next couple of years?
I don’t know if he’s going to be, maybe when Messi and when Ronaldo retire, then maybe! He has every chance to be the best player then but as we speak he isn’t in the same breath as Ronaldo or Messi.
Many players are moving to China, what do you think of the situation?
It’s great, I’m sure, for Asians. I travel quite a lot to Asia in my global ambassador role for Manchester United, as we know we have a lot of sponsors out there. To see the transition from where the Chinese were, the sort of investment in football, they’re really putting their money where their mouth is. To see the kind of quality of players that are leaving the Premier League at this point in time to go to play in the Super League, the managers that are going over there as well. They’re really setting the tone. I’m sure everyone is watching the situation very carefully. They’re really trying to take on the best leagues in Europe and they’re trying to move it to Asia and again that can only be good of football.
Does the kind or money being talked about make sense to you?
When you look at the TV revenue that is coming into the game of football, these clubs have big enough budgets and big enough backing to go out there and spend that kind of money. That lifts the profile of the game, not that the profile of the game isn’t already at a very high standard, but when we are spending that kind of money. We are showing that, not just in football, but we are out-spending all other teams in world sport. That’s important because football continues to grow and that enables the teams like Manchester United and Real Madrid and all the big clubs to go out spend that kind of money on players.
So it’s not too much for you?
Listen it’s not for me, but that’s the way the game has gone. We had our time. I’m sure the kind of value that would be put on Maradona and Van Basten on those type of players, money wouldn’t be able probably to purchase these guys but the game has grown. TV has played a part, the spectacle has risen. Everyone wants to play part of football, it’s a global sport. That enables the teams to go out and spend the finance on players.
Can you say something about playing in the Legends match earlier, I’m sure you were playing against some old friends and players you have looked up to?
Listen it’s great, it’s an absolute privilege an honour to play alongside some of these legends, that I’ve certainly admired over the years. The likes of Maradona and Van Basten and those types of guys are absolute legends of the game. Of course Desailly and those guys, and Roberto Carlos are from era although they are slightly older than me, but I’ve been able to play against all these guys. Always when we played against each other, that competitiveness has always been there, but there’s also a mutual respect that we all always play the game to the very end but we tried to play in the right fashion. Also, it’s also a great honour to be invited by the President of FIFA to play at FIFA headquarters alongside some of these players. It’s been a great deal of fun.
We’ve seen a generation where we’ve had Ronaldo and Messi above the rest. Do you think we’ll ever get a generation like this again, where it’s two players basically in a two-horse race every single year?
Well I think, what these other players have to do is to get up to this level and I think that has to be good. These two players have set the benchmark. That’s the level that these other players who are aspiring to be the best players in the world have to raise their game to. That’s where we are. It’s good that we have two iconic figures who continue to grow the sport. Not too many sports have two such high-profile players. Comparing both of them, it’s only a fine line, that why we are all here today to continue to support that kind of event.
Do you think that they make each other better?
I think so, I think there’s a healthy competition. Ronaldo for years has been in the shadow of Messi, Messi was dominating with all these Ballon D’Ors. Ronaldo went back to the drawing board, and realised, “hold on a minute, what I’m doing is not good”, although he’s been absolutely brilliant, he felt that he needed to do some more. I felt that’s what we needed. Ronaldo’s gone back to the drawing board and said right “that’s what I’m going to do”. He’s gone in there and managed to turn that table around.
If you were to name two or three players to replace them?
It’s difficult, these guys we’ve written them off, but the consistency that these two guys continue to show. Relatively now in football they are still young, one is 30, the other is 31. I think it’s another three or four years before we separate these guys. These guys are full-on, they giving 100% every time. The guys who are waiting in the wings really have to work hard to knock these guys off the top of the table. (Published in 2017, Prostamerika.com)