Kevin De Bruyne fears “nothing is going to change” as he heads for a short break before playing up to 80 games next season because of the winter World Cup in Qatar
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Kevin De Bruyne is resigned to footballers being given dangerously little time off amid fears the Manchester City midfielder could suffer a burnout.
The Belgium star has only just been given the chance to recharge his batteries ahead of what will be a grueling 2022/23 season, featuring a World Cup in the winter. De Bruyne has been allowed to skip Tuesday night’s Nations League game away to Poland by manager Roberto Martinez.
This will give him roughly three weeks off before Pep Guardiola’s squad reconvene for pre-season as the Premier League starts a week earlier than normal owing to the winter World Cup in Qatar. De Bruyne, who last week lost out on the Men’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year title to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, played 52 times this season.
He also played 50 games last campaign and 52 the one before that, when there were shorter off-seasons due to Covid-19. The 30-year-old could end up being involved in 80 fixtures next season, should City and Belgium progress in knockout competitions, leading to fears over his welfare.
“I know nothing is going to change,” he said before being released by Belgium. “I have played three games at the top of my physical level in the Nations League for Belgium so physically I am fine. But it just does not make any sense.
“You are never going to play 79, 80 games. It’s not possible. But it ‘s not just playing games, it’s training, it’s traveling, it’s everything. Sometimes you go away and travel but you do not play. It’s even exhausting. “
De Bruyne also believes the Nations League replacing friendslies has made it less likely for head coaches to give fringe players a chance because the games are more important. That not only denies younger players an opportunity to gain experience but also increases the workload on established stars.
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“With the Nations League, I can understand why you want to eliminate the friendly games but sometimes it is also a good chance for other players to get an opportunity,” he added. “I feel playing the Nations League for a lot of countries gives less opportunity [to fringe players] because the tournament feels a little bit more important than it actually is. Then maybe other guys can get a break. “
In a damning report around player welfare released earlier this season, player representative body FIFPRO said that stars were not getting sufficient time to rest and their performances were adversely affected as a consequence. The union says every player should have at least 28 days for an off-season and 14 days for an in-season break but about 45 per cent of off-season intervals are shorter and 30 per cent of in-season breaks are less than a fortnight.
“The data shows we must release pressure on players at the top end of the game and this report provides new research why we need regulation and enforcement mechanisms to protect players,” the union’s secretary general, Jonas Baer Hoffmann, said. “These are the type of solutions that must be at the top of the agenda whenever we discuss the development of the match calendar. It’s time to make player health and performance a priority.”