With football now back under way across Europe, the continent’s top clubs can once again focus on the long term.
Unfortunately the compressed post-Covid schedule and looming international commitments could lead to their star players tiring during the campaign and suffering from burnout.
To highlight who is most at risk, we have identified the 10 players across the ‘big five’ European leagues who have played the most club football since the start of last season.
Shuffle the pack
Wolves’ successful return to the Premier League owed a lot to their ability to rely on the same small core of players.
The intensity of last season’s Europa League campaign though, which added a lot of midweek matches to their schedule, put a level of strain on their first-team regulars which was unmatched across the major European leagues.
Three of the 10 players with the most club minutes played since the start of last season featured for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side. This includes the most-played man across Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, which was their captain Conor Coady.
A virtual ever-present in defence, Coady was also called up to the England squad earlier this season, putting yet more miles on his clock.
Coady edges out Harry Maguire of Manchester United: another centre-back and a player he could conceivably line up alongside in England’s defence at Euro 2021.
An opponent with a fast attack could well exploit their tired legs next summer if their fitness isn’t carefully managed in the meantime.
The other two Wolves players in the top 10 are striker Raul Jimenez and veteran midfielder Joao Moutinho, who rank fourth and sixth respectively.
The load on Moutinho is more concerning given his age. Having recently turned 34 he has surely passed his physical peak and will need to manage his workload if he is to avoid burnout and remain influential for club and country.
The Premier League’s potential burnout issues aren’t limited to Wolves, with seven of the 10 most-used players based in the English top flight. Two play for reigning champions Liverpool, who are the only other club with more than one representative.
While the Reds have enviable talent at their disposal, left-back Andy Robertson and forward Mohamed Salah are clear first choices in their respective positions and have been used heavily by Jurgen Klopp.
With both players also considered automatic starters for their national teams, there’s a real danger of them running out of steam later this season.
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