As a result of De Bruyne’s loss, very sensitive even in a squad as luxurious as City’s, Guardiola complained about the excess of games and the consequences of injuries. Others have said it before, others will say it later, coaches or players. Those who will not say it are the managers, directly responsible for the discreet but continuous abuse of the calendar. It is played more and more. An elite soccer player from a big league can go beyond 70 games, between national championships, the European one on duty and those of his team. But it should not be forgotten that these victims are victims of his ambition. They tighten their contracts so much that those who move this see them and want to collect income. I remember that a director of a big club told me: “We draw blood from our veins so that each player has five Lamborghinis in the garage instead of four.”
If the coaches and players are really concerned about the damage that excessive games cause to the health of the latter, they could group together and launch a proposal: let’s play less in exchange for charging less. Take away a third of the games and a third of the pay. But I don’t hear anyone pointing in that direction.
To the overloaded calendar, for some time, this part has been joined by what we could call the antipretemporada, forgive me the word. In classic times and until not long ago, the preseason was something very serious. The squads rejoined at the end of July and spent fifteen days of intense preparatory work in some quiet place. A lot of exercise, sometimes up to three sessions a day, a lot of rest, a lot of calm. Then, with a full tank, they played a few games to integrate the new signings and get up to speed, usually in nearby places. You will remember how the summer trophies abounded throughout Spain. That took up another fifteen days, more or less. And then the championship.
This has been substituted by some big clubs for a tour without prior preseason, anywhere in the world. Madrid and Barça choose the United States, Atlético went to Seoul this year and then to Mexico. Pre-season work does not exist as such, you train a bit between games and trips, with schedule changes, waiting at airports… They are economically beneficial tours, of course, and not only because of the direct collection, but because of what it means brand expansion, contacts with new markets.
But it seems increasingly clear that it has a bad impact on the player, causing fatigue that makes him prone to early injuries. Jesús Gil was the initiator of this practice when, in 1992, Atlético replaced the preseason with a few games in Mexico. Doctor González warned him, but he ignored him. Then injuries abounded in the first round and Gil resolved it by firing him and the physical trainer.
Now we see what is happening, particularly in Madrid, where Courtois and Militao have fallen seriously, and this Saturday, not so seriously, Vinicius. Barça have lost Araújo and Pedri, both with long-term muscle injuries. It happened to Atlético with Koke in the first LaLiga game… Can these injuries be attributed to the anti-preseason? It is a slippery question, but it is an unquestionable truth that fatigue increases the chances of injury. Each day a player is unemployed has a cost, which would be deducted by dividing his annual income by 365 plus the amortization of his signing. I wonder if someone does that calculation and compares the chickens that come in (the income from the tour) with those that go out.
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