It only seems five minutes since Liverpool were lifting the Champions League and we’re off and running again. But are footballers becoming overplayed prima donnas?
Yes, I know we’re only a week into the new season, but we’ve already heard complaints about the season being too long.
Jurgen was complaining about having to play too many matches before the Community Shield. One of seven ‘trophies’ in Liverpool’s crosshairs this season. Now down to six.
‘Someone has to look after the players’ Jurgen Klopp, ahead of the Community Shield
And he’s not alone. His views were this week endorsed by FIFPro. No, me neither. But apparently, they are the ‘voice of the world’s professional footballers.’
Anyway, they’ve knocked up a damning report on the plight of the modern elite footballer.
‘At The Limit’ is an exhaustive study based on the workload of 500 elite level players over a 12 month period.
The data revealed that (among other things):
- Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son played 78 matches and travelled more than 110,000km
- Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker played 72 games and covered 80,000km, with no midseason break.
- Almost 75% of Ivan Rakitic’s 68 matches in Barcelona and Croatia’s engine room were played without the five-day break recommended for injury avoidance.
- And Sadio Mane’s 70 matches for Liverpool and Senegal took him over 100,000km, again without the benefit of a midseason breather.
The upshot being, players, play too much. And don’t rest enough.
What the voice of professional football neglects to mention…
The report makes a series of recommendations – to it has to be said, no-one in particular – including:
- A mandatory four-week break in the summer and two-week break in the winter
- Limits on the number of times a player can play back-to-back matches inside five days
- Annual match caps for players
Something the report doesn’t include – despite being the ‘voice of the world’s professional footballers’ – is the views of any footballers.
I’d be intrigued to hear Heung-Min Son’s pleas to be left out of the Champions League Final because he was a bit puffed out…
Or Alisson stalling on his £67 million transfer to Liverpool because the wife had already paid the deposit on their caravan holiday in Morecombe…
And how Ivan Rakitic
is hoodwinked into running out in front of 100,000 adoring fans in Camp Nou’s cathedral of football, just a few short days after a Champions League tie at Wembley or the San Siro.
There is no appetite for less football
You might think I’m taking the mickey. But FIFPro are giving it away!
Come on. A four-week break every summer? Er, World Cup anybody? No? European Championships ring a bell…?
Restricting back to back matches? Two words: appearance money.
Annual match caps? What’s this – VAR for appearances…?
No midweek break adds up to a full season of injury
One telling stat that came out of the report was that elite teams that DON’T have a mid-season break lose an average of 300-player days more per season to injury than those that do. That’s ten months. A full domestic season.
But football is all about more. More matches, more tournaments, more tickets, more subscriptions.
I’m sure FIFPro have good intentions, as does Jurgen Klopp, when he says that someone has to look after the players. But it won’t be anybody making money from football who takes the job.
Not FIFA, UEFA or the leagues currently selling players’ souls – or at least renting them for TV. Not the clubs. And not the players either.
Money talks. But football money shouts, chants and sings
UEFA cited player burnout when they scrapped meaningless international friendlies. Then replaced it with the meaningless Nations League.
Clubs respond to more matches with bigger squads. And players lap up the bigger contracts.
In a game where money talks as much and as loudly as it does in football, FIFPro’s self-proclaimed ‘voice of the world’s players’ is destined to be drowned out.
Matt Nesbitt swapped his short unspectacular career in the English lower divisions for a much more successful one as a football tipster. He now has a proper job.