International football has always been considered the bane of club football by way of the disruption it inevitably causes to the latter. The usual two-week break where players head to national team duty breaks away from the routine of club football on weekends and often result in lacklustre games where a disjointed team of big-name players look like a shadow of their club selves or a David versus Goliath situation transpires, with superstars trampling a lowly ranked nation in a game nobody asked for or was willing to invest their time in.
But, at the end of the day, the international break is a necessary evil, especially with both the UEFA Euros and the Copa America scheduled to be held in the summer of 2021.
While friendlies provide national teams with opportunities to experiment with formations and team personnel that they can then deploy in international games of value like qualifications and the Nations League, however, given the situation, is it really ideal to conduct friendlies?
Over the past two international breaks, several players including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Alex Telles, Domagoj Vida and even Mohamed Salah now have tested positive for the global virus while on international duty, hampering their clubs as well their own campaigns. The case with Vida was astonishing, to say the least. The veteran defender played the first-half against Turkey and was subbed off and put into immediate isolation. Over the past weekend, Liverpool defender Joel Gomez picked up an injury in training that has reportedly ended his season.
This just further illustrates that the fixture congestion caused due to the unprecedented six-month lull period due to the global virus simply doesn’t warrant players travelling abroad for a meaningless football game.
German and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos were also highly critical of UEFA and FIFA's scheduling of international games as well as the FIFA Club World Cup. “At the end of the day, as players, we’re just puppets for all these new things which are invented by FIFA and UEFA. Nobody asks us,” he said in his podcast ‘Einfach mal Luppen’.
While there is absolutely no doubt that friendlies are extremely important for national teams to build chemistry, it simply doesn’t warrant risking lives and careers at this point.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Mike Egerton