Fresh from a group stage exit with Nigeria at the World Cup, Victor Moses, one of the Super Eagles’ best players, announced he was retiring from national team duty at the age of 27. While Moses must have his reasons, which we are unaware of, we think that if the current hectic football schedule is maintained by FIFA, UEFA and all the concerned football associations, we will see an increase in players retiring at a younger age.
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As the years have gone by, football has grown more and more popular, meaning the sports is also very lucrative. With the money comes higher salaries, better coverage, beautiful competitions and fans are rewarded with more content. However, the money also brings in it’s fair share of problems, with expensive stadium tickets and merchandise to sustain sky-rocketing transfer fees and salaries, super-agents like Mino Raiola gaining an absurd amount of power over the game and more importantly players being asked to play in more than games than ever.
Preseason tournaments, exhibition or charity games, domestic league and cup games, club and country level continental and global tournaments. The number of games played at the highest level is taxing for players, especially the ones from top clubs. While this is all very interesting for fans and profitable for clubs and sponsors, players end up suffering from fatigue, which increases the likelihood of injuries, players being burnt out, lower performance and shorter careers.
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Footballers at the top level are payed an absurdly high amount of money. Their careers are short spanned and it would be in a player’s best interest to extend their careers as much as possible to cash in while they physically can do the job. To extend a career into the late thirties, players must put in a painful amount of work both on and off the pitch and pair it with adequate rest and tactful game time management when they get older.
Zidane’s management of Cristiano Ronaldo’s game time comes to mind but not everybody is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese master has the physique of a much younger player and was also able to afford sitting out games with Real Madrid because of his achievements and also due to his team boasting the top players in the World. For regular players like Moses, they need to be playing all games to maintain their place in the team. Chelsea will need him to perform at a top level consistently or risk getting shipped to a lesser club.
With so many games in a season, one way to stay sharp and fresh is avoiding national team duty. Clubs are already paying players so much and they can always make more via endorsements and other off-the-pitch activities. The additional revenue from international games is insignificant. Mbappe did not think twice before donating all his earnings from the World Cup triumph. This is an indication of how much he is making at PSG.
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Hence, for players who are not too patriotic or only see football as a job (nothing wrong with that by the way), escaping from international games is a very good way of preserving their fitness and managing fatigue. Ryan Giggs played well into his late thirties and was known to skip national team duties even from a young age, a fact that Welsh fans pointed out when he was appointed Wales manager. Romelu Lukaku recently mentioned in an interview he might not be playing at Qatar 2022, which would mean he might retire from international duty after Euro 2020, at the young age of 27. Manchester United will be happy with this interview. Having Lukaku well rested during the summer and the international breaks means he will be firing on all cylinders for the club.
As we move forward in this new era of football, national teams may lose out on good players and the main culprit will be a schedule which is too hectic to be sustainable for players.
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