Times come of the so characteristic cyclical tantrum, the one that appears from year to year as soon as “one of ours” is seriously injured. Gavi has broken his knee, and his club, FC Barcelona, is angry behind closed doors. Related media blame Luis de la Fuente, the Spanish coach, for making him play two consecutive games against Cyprus and Georgia when the place for the Euro Cup, but not first place in the group, was assured. They dwell on a part of the problem, very real, but they do not solve its entirety.
They prefer not to question, for example, what responsibility the big clubs also have in the oversaturation of the calendar, the great evil that plagues today's elite football. The same desire for revenue that drives FIFA and UEFA, churro machines for producing new competitions that squeeze footballers without belonging to them, is what leads Barcelona, in the same season, to spend 14 days on tour in the US. , to play a bowl in December in Dallas and to travel to Riyadh for a week to compete for the Spanish Super Cup in January. The cow is starving from being milked so much, and no one can fix it. The noise will stop until the next crack enters the operating room.
Lamenting doesn't fix anything. The only solution was proposed by Marcelo Bielsa, as you know, a madman: “We have to charge less to play less.” And you don't have to pay attention to the crazy ones.
Pending what the Court of Justice of the European Union rules on whether or not UEFA and FIFA exercise a sanctionable monopoly, both corporations will continue to squeeze the calendar and its main actors, the footballers, season after season. UEFA, which is still hungry after pulling off the Nations League of national teams, has planned a Champions League with many more matches that will take place starting next year: 36 clubs will compete, divided into four groups of nine, passing the first phase from 96 games to 144. A brutality. Weeks are announced with Champions League matches on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And because there are no more days.
FIFA, jealous, takes out the cash register and a greed that would move even the miser Molière. Its purpose is to amass euros, dollars, rubles and whatever is needed. His latest creation is the Club World Cup. What was once a Mundialito that pitted the European Cup champion against the Libertadores champion, already compromised in recent editions, will become in 2025 a competition contested between the months of June and July by 32 teams. Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final will be held. Quite a party, especially for the distribution of dividends. The alibi is to turn football into a global spectacle. The underlying reality is to open markets by digging under the rocks.
The Qatar World Cup, highly criticized for the corruption discovered in its award, will be followed by versions for all tastes, obviously guided by money. In the 2026 World Cup, there will be a jump from 32 teams to 48, a jump that will dramatically increase the number of filler games, the dull ones. The 2030 edition will involve six organizing countries, including Spain, and the 2034 edition has already gone to Saudi Arabia, a paradigm of a democratic society.
The main victims when a player is injured competing with his national team are the clubs, private entities that acquire and support their squads in exchange for investments and million-dollar salaries. Over the years, the clubs have managed to cushion the effect of these losses with increasingly higher financial compensation, but one might wonder if, in addition to receiving money, they could not contribute to closing the hemorrhage (injuries are becoming more and more frequent ) fighting for a more rational calendar. On the contrary, the answer is to imitate the drift of the international associations that they criticize so much by extending the calendars in front (exotic preseasons with summer classics that stress the footballer in full set-up), in the middle (friendlies and a Spanish Super Cup in Arabia). and behind (more bowling). In case of injury, FIFA pays around 20,000 euros per day to quell the clubs' anger. Half a year off is equivalent to four million euros, a good pinch to keep quiet. Or at least, not to scream. Money is a consolation, but the crux of the matter is different. Random is alluded to to justify some injuries. Maybe, but one conclusion emerges after applying logic: the more games you play, the more likely you are to get hurt. An elite footballer today can reach 70 games in a season. An insane number
The players, last in line in the purging of responsibilities, also have, although less, their share of blame. It is true that, despite their million-dollar salaries, they are still employees, but if they rose up collectively, their force would be powerful. From time to time there is an isolated complaint, but when push comes to shove they tend to travel happily to their national teams because that implies greater prestige that translates into better salaries, more impact on social networks and honey to attract sponsorships. The extreme competitiveness inherent to the union overrides other considerations. There is no game that you don't want to play. Champions, League, Cup, Super Cup, World Cup, Euro Cup, Games... Gavi, due to his age and way of being, does not contemplate rest. It is other people who should stop that youthful impulse. De la Fuente had the misfortune to remember that Gavi has “a gifted physique” that can withstand everything for 24 hours before breaking his knee. There is no unbreakable body.
When Pep Guardiola lost De Bruyne due to injury in August, he despaired: “They make you go to Asia, the United States, very strong matches, people fall. And it continues to fall and will continue to fall because show must go on. This is a losing battle until the players stand up and say 'we're not playing.'"
Another crazy person?