Ahh, another break comes from the high stress of regularly scheduled Liverpool games. You’d think a break in our frantic schedule, our bodies would return to a more standard and healthier baseline. No games to witness a slim lead or the occasional sloppy play causing my abnormally high heart rate. No required early alarms for U.S.-based Premier League fans so I could get a good night’s rest for once. Hell, now I don’t have to watch the underperforming player I transferred out of my fantasy team finally score the very weekend I no longer require their services. You’d think an international break is just that, a break. Wrong…
Liverpool never have gotten many lucky bounces when it comes to international duty. Our players have gone all around the world to their respective countries. Often they leave directly after the final game before the break and stay with their countries until just a few short hours before Liverpool’s next competitive game. A large contingent of Liverpool’s starters return to various parts of Africa and others away to Brazil for their games. The amount of miles and time traveled surely cannot lead to anything other than the possibility of a hangover.
Other teams obviously must deal with these hardships as well. But it appears as though Liverpool experiences an overwhelming amount of players who return to Merseyside injured compared to other teams. Our players are tasked with one of the highest velocity playing styles around the world. To do this day after day for Klopp can be tiresome to even the fittest of professionals. All too often, we see our players stressed with minor reoccurring injuries throughout a season.
In the past, Naby Keita, one not known for staying fit, had come back from injury directly before an international break. While Klopp was reluctant to release Keita, Guinea still placed Keita on the active roster. When he was reported to still be nursing an injury, Keita performed admirably for his country until coming off the field with another niggling injury. During this international break, Keita, who is currently injured, was still listed on Guinea’s national team roster for their World Cup qualifying games. He did not travel back to his country on this occasion.
Across other games during this year’s World Cup qualifying matches, several other players have been taken out of games and practices for various injury concerns. Van Dijk returned to play in August after a season-long severe injury to his anterior cruciate ligament. Then in September he came off injured during Netherland’s 6-1 win against Turkey. Luckily, Van Dijk quickly recovered for Liverpool’s following game.
During the current international break, Mane was taken off during Senegal’s 1-1 draw with Togo following a clash in the center of the field. It was suspected that Mane was nursing a rib injury following the incident. Senegal manager Aliou Cisse advised following the game that “We took him off as a precaution and there is nothing serious.” Thankfully, Mane has since returned to full training in Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Jordan Henderson had left the England camp following scans revealing a possible injury sustained during his international duties. England has remained a thorn to Liverpool’s players for years now after players return injured having left originally unscathed. Joe Gomez and Curtis Jones are just two recent examples of this playing out accordingly. Henderson returns to Liverpool for further treatment, although it is unknown how long we can expect him sidelined. He remains a doubt for Liverpool’s clash with Arsenal at the weekend.
And at the end of this article’s editing period it wouldn’t be an international break if a few more players were injured for good measure. Andy Robertson was taken off in the last 15 minutes of Scotland’s match against the undefeated Danes in the final game of their group. Scotland ended the game with victory, and without their captain on the pitch… Then, Divock Origi left Belgium’s game with a possible injury after a rare outing for his country. It remains to be seen what the damage has been for the striker, who is looking to reinvigorate his career. Hopefully, it won’t be too long as it seems our numbers are depleting.
With Liverpool’s current growing list of injured players, it is imperative that players return from international duty as they left, fit and firing for the next game. Far too often, clubs across the world lose their stars for extended periods of time just for aimless displays in the international setup. These current games, qualification to the World Cup Finals in Qatar, are understandable. The immoral and unethical decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar is a different nightmare, altogether, but there isn’t enough time in the day to write all my thoughts on that.
During other years, the decision to hold international friendlies and baseless tournaments borders on abusive to the players being utilized. Klopp and others across world football have persistently spoken about how the players must be protected. Yet, each season, there are more matches meant to make money for football empires such as UEFA and FIFA. Shallow calls for players to “shut up and play” as they are paid handsomely are direct examples of the lack of empathy players are often shown.
No player can play year in, year out at such demanding speed of play without the undeniable toll towards injury. Some injuries, such as the injuries sustained by Mane and Henderson during this international break, can be seen as precautionary or minor. Others, such as Gomez in the past, are much more severe. There needs to be a call to action against such nightmare conditions for the players. Because I am sure the players feel little option other than to representing their countries at any available chance. It is an honor, right? To be called upon to represent something greater than an individual. But that honor does not come without a price.
Until this pattern is upended, we must cope with these decisions. We must support the chance for players to take a step back and recover for the sake of their bodies and their careers. As supporters, we must use our voice when available. In the meantime, while this conversation is not being held, let us hope our players come back revitalized and reinvigorated.