We have looked back at the last three seasons and totted up the number of minutes spent on the bench by outfield players across Europe’s top five leagues, MLS and Belgium’s First Division A.
Our infographic reveals the most prominent substitutes in each division, as well as how long they have spent on the sidelines.
Who has spent the most time on the bench?
Former Inter Milan captain Andrea Ranocchia has fallen out of favour at the San Siro in recent years, to the extent that he became accustomed to life on the substitutes’ bench. The centre-back spent six days, three hours and 35 minutes on the sidelines following the start of the 2019-20 season, which is longer than anyone else in the leagues we looked at.
It’s no surprise that the Nerazzurri felt comfortable in letting Ranocchia go this summer, with newly-promoted Monza snapping him up on a free transfer.
Levante’s veteran right-back Coke has spent the second-longest time on the bench, at six days, one hour and 26 minutes, ahead of fellow ageing full-back Federico Peluso, who stalked the sidelines for a shade under six days at Sassuolo.
In the Premier League, Juan Mata tops the list with five days, three hours and 41 minutes, followed by Dwight Gayle at five days and 19 minutes.
Outside of England, Spain and Italy, none of the players we covered spent more than a working week on the sidelines. This is partly because teams in the Bundesliga, MLS and First Division A play fewer games, while the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season ended early because of coronavirus.
Who has spent the highest share of time on the bench?
Perhaps a fairer way of identifying benchwarmers is to look at the percentage of minutes spent on the sidelines.
Among players to have featured in at least 50 matchday squads, Daniel Maldini, son of the legendary Paolo Maldini, comes out top by this measure. Despite following in his father’s footsteps and playing for Milan, Daniel has a long way to go to match Paolo’s exploits, having spent 96% of his time in the matchday squad on the bench.
In Germany, attacking midfielder Reinier Jesus spent 92% of minutes as a substitute for Dortmund. The Brazilian was signed on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid in 2020 and will return to Spain with just 500 Bundesliga minutes to his name.
Liverpool youngster Neco Williams is the only player in the Premier League who has spent over 90% of his time in the first team squad on the bench.
Who rarely comes off the bench?
French centre-back Aurelien Collin, who plied his trade in MLS, is the only player we looked at that failed to make a single substitute appearance. Collin – who retired at the end of the 2021 season – was named on the bench 40 times for Philadelphia since 2019 and on every occasion he remained there for the duration of the match.
We excluded players who had appeared in a low number of squads, but Burnley defender Phil Bardsley came closest to matching Collin’s unenviable record, having been named as a substitute in 66 Premier League matches over the last three seasons and only once making it onto the pitch.
Who comes off the bench most regularly?
We wanted to end this analysis on a positive note, so we also looked for players who could be described as an impact sub – those who tend to start matches on the bench before coming on when the manager makes changes.
Konan N’Dri, who plays on the wing for Belgian side Eupen, fits this profile having made 29 out of a possible 30 substitute appearances. Striker Tesho Akindele plays a similar role for Orlando on the other side of the Atlantic, with the striker introduced on 39 out of the 41 occasions he has been named on the bench.
Ukrainian midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi can justifiably feel part of Atalanta’s success in recent years, despite being among the substitutes on 50 occasions in three years with the Serie A club. Malinovskyi almost always comes off the bench when left out, having appeared in 47 of those games.
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