“In terms of achievement, I think winning a gold medal is the pinnacle in any sport,” said Andy Murray after Wimbledon in 2012, with the London Olympics on the horizon. He said similar to the BBC during the tournament: “In general, to the whole world, a gold medal is the pinnacle of sport.” Murray had not won one at that point but that would all change several weeks later when he beat Roger Federer at the All England Club to become Olympic champion, the opponent he had lost to on that same Centre Court at Wimbledon earlier in the summer. The Scot, who would defend gold for Great Britain in Rio four years later, reached the pinnacle of his sport in his own view. You could argue for tennis that the pinnacle is the grand slams and Murray definitely reached the pinnacle in those, winning Wimbledon and the US Open while reaching the final of the French and Australian Opens. No argument there. The Olympics as the pinnacle is a widely held view. It is one shared by Mark Rowland, the coach at the Oregon Track Club, the US running team that has contributed many gold medallists. Rowland won bronze for Great Britain in Seoul in 1988 so he knows. “You don’t get many chances to achieve success at the Olympics and it’s still the pinnacle for those sports that participate,” he said before the 2016 Rio Games. It is a view that is by and large correct, with one glaring exception. Men’s football is the elephant in the room when it comes to the Olympics. There is no other sport at the Games that is more globally powerful than the Olympics itself save for men’s football. Congratulations Brazil The Rio 2016 champions have qualified for @Tokyo2020 & will have a chance at going for back-to-back gold medals at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament this summer #RoadToTokyo | @Olympics pic.twitter.com/z8XEwd6EqB — FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) February 10, 2020 Yes, the elite US sports have their own dominance and their individual battles between the likes of the NBA and Major League Baseball and whether their athletes will compete but that is not on the scale of Fifa and football. Men’s football has been a part of the modern Olympics almost since the start, arriving in 1900 (although Fifa does not recognise that or the 1904 Games). Women’s football by contrast only arrived in 1996. There is only one that might be considered the pinnacle of the sport, though, and that’s the women’s game. The World Cup winning US Women’s National Team will be back to defend their gold but there are plenty who want to dethrone them, even Great Britain who do not put a team in for the men’s tournament because of disagreement between the various national Football Associations. Andy Murray has been competing in the same era with three GOATS. –– 3x Grand Slams –– 2x Olympic gold medals –– ATP Finals –– 2016 world No.1 –– 14x Masters 1000 titles –– 8x Grand Slam finals –– 45 total ATP titles Legend pic.twitter.com/wx9CxGqOWW — #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 11, 2019 When they did put in a team in London 2012 after a 52-year absence from the Olympics it was just English and Welsh players. A 38-year-old Ryan Giggs and 33-year-old Craig Bellamy were two of those selected as overage players, along with 24-year-old Micah Richards in a team that reached the quarter-finals. That’s a major part of the problem with the men’s tournament: it is for under-23s plus three overage players, an age group that is used elsewhere in the game. Worse still, the tournament is not backed by Fifa so clubs are not obliged to hand over their players to the Olympic team. 38/243 - Ryan Giggs became the oldest goalscorer in Olympic football history last night, with his goal for Team GB (38y, 243 days). Vintage. — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 30, 2012 There are players who might be able to pull rank, such as Neymar who hit the winning penalty for Brazil in Rio four years ago. Gold in Rio was a bloodletting after the 7-1 humiliation to Germany in the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the longer standing grudge of the Maracanazo loss to Uruguay in the World Cup in 1950. Neymar, who sat out the World Cup semi-final, was not going to miss the chance for national redemption on the continent where Olympic football matters most. Three goals Three assists An unstoppable start to the year for our @StanChart Player of the Month pic.twitter.com/l8nfbueGGj — Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 13, 2020 That’s why Lionel Messi, another player who calls the shots, might yet add some stardust in Tokyo. The Barcelona forward will be 33 in the summer and might want another win for Argentina having lost in three Copa America and World Cup finals since Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008. Elsewhere, US coaches hinted last month that they might not take their top players such as Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic even if they qualify, while Egypt coach Shawky Gharib has Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the 50-man preliminary squad but it is not his decision. “We cannot force Salah to participate with us because Fifa regulations do not compel him to participate,” Gharib told Reuters last week. Salah’s agent Ramy Abbas Issa wrote on Twitter that “no decision had been made”. No decision has been made yet. https://t.co/r6uvOAW7kB — Ramy Abbas Issa (@RamyCol) February 12, 2020 As for clubs, the English Premier League is set to kick off its 2020-21 season on August 8, the same day as the Olympic final. Add Euro 2020 and the Copa America to the schedule and it is going to be another heavy summer for their best players. It’s arguably too heavy and that is without the expansion to the Uefa Champions League that the top clubs want. Something has to give and it’s clear that the men’s football, without Fifa’s full support is nowhere near the pinnacle of the sport.