August 11, 2019 – Croatia national team representative and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitić has been named as a player who has participated in an excessive number of matches, which could affect his health, the International Federation of Professional Footballers warned.
Some of them have played nearly 80 games in a season, racking up over 100,000 kilometers traveling with their clubs and national teams. The union surveyed 500 elite football players, and cited the 31-year-old Barcelona and Croatia midfielder as a prime example of someone who is ‘at the limit’.
Since his arrival in Barcelona in 2014, Rakitić has been a standard member of the star-studded line-up and has also been a star for the Croatia national team. Last season, Rakitić played 68 games between May 25, 2018, and June 13, 2019. Of these, 14 were with the national team with which he traveled 30,000 kilometers.
FIFPro warns that Rakitic has played 72 percent of his matches without respecting the five-day break between them. A five-day break between games is a necessary period to avoid health problems in the short and long term.
Rakitić, along with midfielder Sergio Busquets, was last year’s player with the most appearances for Spanish champion Barcelona after returning from the World Cup where he made it to the final with Croatia. Asked about his number of games in November after a match between Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona in Madrid, he laughed and said:
“You have to have strength.”
Increasingly competitive leagues and international tournaments are causing players to have shorter periods of rest every day, FIFPro warns. In some cases, footballers have less than two weeks of summer vacation. The physical and psychological exhaustion of players is becoming more pronounced, they added.
Heung-Min Son (Tottenham, South Korea), Lasse Schöne (Ajax, Denmark), Alisson Becker (Liverpool, Brazil) and Sadio Mané (Liverpool, Senegal) are also on the list of players with the highest number of matches played.
FIFPro recommends that at the end of the season, players should have a 4-week holiday and two weeks off during the winter. It is necessary to limit the number of times a footballer plays consecutively for a period of fewer than five days. Five days is the golden period between two matches played to avoid injuries and health problems.
Furthermore, it is necessary to consider introducing the maximum number of matches a footballer can play in a season in order to preserve his health and performance. In addition, an early alert system should be introduced to monitor the players’ workloads and help them plan their performances.
To meet the demands of the match calendar, players are often asked to push their limits, without enough rest and refreshment, said Theo van Seggelen, Secretary-General of FIFPro.
This means that they cannot provide maximum impact, but even worse, players face periods of great mental and physical tension. Scientific research has confirmed that the health of top-level footballers is in jeopardy due to the current tight schedule and number of matches.
Van Seggelen called on all participants of football competitions to jointly establish a mechanism that would reduce pressure on players and preserve their health, career, and play as such.
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