With the Olympic games rapidly approaching, one question has been looming in my mind...what caliber of players will be representing their respective countries in Beijing? Between World Cup qualifying matches, Champions League matches, the start of league play and other important matches around the world , the Olympics have to be a secondary concern for most clubs/countries. With that being said, I decided to do a little research....
The Olympic tournament is by definition an under-23 event, but each team can field three over-age players, who the clubs are not required to release. In a recent statement, FIFA reminded clubs worldwide "that the release of players under the age of 23 for the Men's Olympic Soccer Tournament is mandatory for all clubs. For Beijing 2008 the same principle shall apply". Clubs are not required to release their over-aged players, however Sepp Blatter (FIFA President and IOC member) has repeatedly urged them to do so out of respect "for the Olympic spirit".
So, what does this mean? Well, in spite of President Blatter's strong words of encouragement, I think we will be seeing a whole new host of young, green talent...and a handful of semi-retired veterans. As much as I would love to see such world renown stars as Ronaldinho, Landan Donovan and Robinho returning to the international stage, I sincerely doubt the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and the US Men's National Team (1st Team) will give a second thought about releasing their star players...but only time will tell.