By Sean Hartnett
The club versus country debate has again found new life as Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, lashed out at the latest scheduling of international friendlies. Most nations have scheduled friendlies between August 10-11, just before the start of the Premier League season.
Redknapp is right to criticize international federations and FIFA as his players will be flown all around the world to participate in what he described as “meaningless friendlies.” The Tottenham boss went on to complain that he won’t even get to see his players who are being sent out until Friday, just a day before his club’s Premier League opener against Manchester City.
Managers across the Premier League are trying to prepare their teams for the start of the new season and these international fixtures hinder clubs from being able to decide their best lineups and formations. he biggest fear is the chance that a star player picks up a devastating long-term injury while away from his club team.
The question must be raised once again: Why should clubs have to release their stars before such important league dates? World Cup 2010 has just ended and Euro 2012 qualifying doesn’t begin until early September. Most national team managers have a good feel on their squad plans and really there isn’t any reason for friendlies to take place three days before the opening rounds of the English Premier and Scottish Premier League seasons.
Ligue 1 starts on the weekend before the set international friendly dates and players will return fatigued from playing in the league’s opening fixtures, taking part in the friendly and the travel inbetween. French clubs will have to rest the majority of their returning internationals for the second weekend of their season as surely they will be unable to give them a full 90 minutes.
FIFA should have done club teams a favor by planning out the appropriate time to stage these friendlies as many clubs are not only starting their league fixtures but are also competing for places in European cup competitions. This stage is crucial for teams to get their seasons off to the right start and secure European places. Clubs are right to be worried that their internationals will pick up injuries or return fatigued due to the workload placed upon them.
This is a topic that will never cease to spur controversy until an agreement between FIFA and the European Club Assocation is struck regarding friendly dates. The two bodies should work together in determining the appropriate times to stage such fixtures and better coordinate them with the demanding league schedules. If such an accord is reached, neither club nor national team bosses could argue as both sides would have a say in the planning.