A furious Pep Guardiola has lashed out at football’s rulemakers, accusing them of triggering a rise in injuries by further increasing the amount of minutes for players.
New stoppage time rules have been implemented which have seen huge extensions to games – an average of ten minutes across the first week of Premier League fixtures.
Guardiola fears such a change, on top of football’s unrelenting calendar, is to blame for the recent rise in serious injuries. Real Madrid have lost both Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao to ACL injuries, while Christopher Nkunku, Jurrien Timber and Manchester City’s own Kevin De Bruyne are set for extended spells on the sidelines after picking up problems of their own.
“It sucks,” Guardiola told Movistar of De Bruyne’s injury. “He’s a really important player to us, I think he’ll need surgery, we’ll lose him for months. He is a very special player, with a very distinct talent, his connections with [Erling] Haaland, but it is what it is.”
Guardiola then went on to attack UEFA and FIFA for putting players in danger through their unrelenting fixture list, urging players to stand up and protest the changes.
“My first pre-season, I had 25 days to prepare for the first official match against Skonto Riga to qualify for the Champions League that we eventually won,” he continued. “Now, they give you four, five days and then look how many ACLs.
“They make you go to Asia, to the United States, really tough matches, derbies, big games, and people fall, and they will keep falling and falling because the show must go on. If Courtois isn’t there, then someone else will be, right? And if Militao isn’t there then someone else will be, and if Kevin isn’t there then someone else will be.
“You finish the Champions League and then they go to play with the national teams for two or three weeks – and I’m not saying playing with the national team is bad – and then let’s see the Club World Cup when the year ends, having to travel to the United States with 30-something clubs when it used to be just the Libertadores and the Champions League. It’s too much. We’ll have to adapt, try to go through it, train very little, stay at home a lot of time and bring energy to the games.
“This is a lost battle unless the players themselves stand up for themselves and go ‘we aren’t playing’. It’s a lost battle, nothing UEFA or FIFA will do. And now they keep adding more minutes, we play 112 minutes now in a game. Imagine a match that a team starts wasting time, wasting time, wasting time so it gets ten minutes longer. And the team that did not waste time scores, 1-0. Last 15 minutes, the team that did waste time now has this advantage to try draw the game after wasting time for the whole match. Does it make sense? No, no it doesn’t.
“From my side it doesn’t have a solution. They’ll keep increasing the quantity more and more. You need quality. To play well, you need to be rested. Of course players will play but they need to be rested. Seasons continue, now we don’t get vacations, and players will be there because we all love this sport. And if a player isn’t there then someone else will. Kevin can’t play? Eh we’ll just bring someone else. Courtois isn’t there? Eh we’ll we’ll sign Kepa [Arrizabalaga] then and continue. And they will keep playing and the games will keep being broadcast.
“And then on top of all this let’s play 110 minutes per game. And with this added time at the end of the league we won’t have played 38 games, it will be 43 games. Plus the Champions League, plus the Club World Cup, it’s more and more. And then FIFA has to look out for the national teams, which again I’m not saying is a bad thing – of course any national team has the right to play – but we have to find a balance. Quality not quantity.”