Blatter keen to curb foreign domination in Europe

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 (Reuters) FIFA president Sepp Blatter is working with the European Union on plans to reduce the number of overseas players dominating teams in leagues across Europe.

Speaking to reporters in the Malaysian capital, where he is attending a regional award ceremony, Blatter said it was time for a change in Europe.

''The European Union does not cover this issue in its constitution at the moment but sport will be mentioned for the first time when they change their laws in December,'' Blatter said.

''There are a number of processes coming together to stop the overwhelming presence of non-national players in club leagues.'' Blatter added that FIFA would like to set a limit of five foreigners in any starting line-up with the other six berths comprising players eligible to be selected for the national team of the country where the league was based.

The top teams in the English Premier League such as champions Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are all packed with foreign players.

Blatter said the EU would give sport the power to police its own members and that meant FIFA would be able to have a say in how many foreign players were allowed at a single club.

''We were in Italy recently watching Inter Milan against Juventus,'' Blatter said.

''While the Inter team had only three European players and none of them Italian, Juve had six Italian players.

''Certainly, things are happening to bring local players back to club football.'' In 1998, former German player and coach Franz Beckenbauer said he envisaged a future where the rise of European clubs would erode the popularity of FIFA's flagship tournament, the World Cup.

However, Blatter said the World Cup was still the biggest tournament on the planet and that interest in national competitions would remain high.

''I think Franz Beckenbauer would change his mind now because he is a member of the FIFA committee. I don't see national teams disappearing in favour of clubs,'' he said.

REUTERS AB RR RAI1635

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