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Josh Barker: Why international breaks should be moved to the end of the season


International football can be superb. During major tournaments such as the World Cup and Euros, an entire nation can be brought together to celebrate and support their side as they vie for a place in the history books.

However, the rest of the time, international football is quite often a drag and something very few people actually look forward to.

In England, for example, qualifying games for the World Cup and the European Championships disrupt the far more entertaining Premier League season, hand players injuries and create a rather congested fixture schedule that many managers do not appreciate.

One such man, who has been very vocal on the issue, is Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have once again been stuck in the early kick-off spot on the back of this break and Klopp is not happy.

“Today was about getting through the game and we did,” the Liverpool manager said after his team’s recent 3-0 win against Brentford.

“The boys responded sensationally well. Now they are all gone and we can train once before Manchester City. How can you put a game like this on Saturday at 12.30pm? Honestly, the people making these decisions, they cannot feel football, it is just not possible. And it is the moment where the world pays the most to see a football game.

“These two teams could have, all together, about 30 international players. They all come back on the same plane by the way, all the South American players. They all fly back together, we put them on the plane from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. One game, one plane, they all come back. We just have to make sure we are ready for this game.”

While some may dismiss Klopp’s claims and call him a whiner, his issue of having a good chunk of his senior players flying back from the other side of the world on Wednesday/Thursday to prepare for an early game on Saturday is very valid.

One way such problems could be avoided is by having teams play out their international games at the end of domestic seasons.

For example, the 2023/24 Premier League campaign is set to end on the 19th of May next year. However, we will have had four international breaks during that period.

If those breaks were all bundled together and moved to the end of the campaign, the Premier League season could finish around the 19th of April and the FA Cup, Champions League etc could play out during the rest of April/ first few days of May. You could then have one month of international football, in which qualifying games are played or, in 2024′s case, a major tournament is played.

This would allow players to have around two full months every season, which benefits them, their club managers and the fans as players are not being overworked as much.

There are a couple of arguments against moving international football into one big chunk at the end of a campaign. One of which is some players may miss a chance to stake a claim for their country. However, if European Championship and World Cup qualifying squads were increased to say 40 players, this would allow managers to have a look at more players over each summer.

Another argument against is the switch would see fewer ‘big’ meetings, such as England vs Brazil or Argentina. However, when those sides do meet in fairly pointless friendlies, there is nothing at stake and the games do not feel big anyway. As a result, it would make sense for them to only meet at the World Cup when something is actually on the line.

It could also be argued that international teammates would not work as well together, as they would typically only play together once a year. But it is worth pointing out that following the November break, the England squad will not link up again until March and both of those matches will be pointless friendlies. Whereas if England are together for a full month at the end of each season in games that actually matter, it will give players time to form a deeper connection and understanding with one another.

Of course, for this change to take place the UEFA Nations League would have to be scrapped, but as that is nothing more than a pointless cash grab, it is hard to see anyone, barring UEFA, putting up a fight to keep it around.

Josh Barker

Josh Barker

Middlesbrough fan from the North East of England. @JoshBarker979 on Twitter.