Soccer expert Chris Lierly breaks down Klopp’s view on the controversial Nation’s League.
Summer 2018 saw France stand victorious with the World Cup trophy after beating Croatia in the final game. But the French were not the only team proud of their performance in Russia. South Korea and Mexico beat Germany, England reached the semi-finals for the third time and Luka Modric may have cemented a Ballon D’or win with his inspiring performance for Croatia. However, the aftermath of the world’s biggest competition has not been all positive, especially for Premier League teams.
Teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham not only play in the hardest national league, but they also play in the Champions League against teams from all across Europe. Teams that play a much less gruelling schedule. I am not bashing Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) for playing teams like Chievo and Guingamp, but the level of competition in Ligue Un and Serie A simply does not compare to the competition in the Premier League.
The best example of this is Liverpool. Liverpool played Tottenham, PSG, Chelsea, Chelsea (yes, twice), Napoli and Manchester City over the course of three weeks. They made it out of that stretch only losing one match, but the entire squad was exhausted.
Right after that incredible gauntlet, the UEFA Nations League, a national team competition that wrapped up play this week, featured the major national teams of Europe, and that is where Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp lost the small amount of restraint he has to begin with. Klopp called the competition “senseless” in an interview and went on an extended rant about the scheduling of the competition.
Klopp has a point for three main reasons. First, soccer has a year-long season. Basketball and football have summer, baseball has winter, but soccer does not have an offseason. Not only do club teams play from August to May, but international teams use up the two months between club seasons in the summer. Additionally, there are multiple international breaks throughout the club season. Those international breaks force managers to let the national teams take their players which will only further exhaust them.
Second, Klopp complained about injuries that resulted from the strenuous schedule. Not only does that kind of schedule make footballers less effective on the pitch, but it can remove them from playing entirely. Klopp’s Liverpool squad is a great example. Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita all sustained minor injuries while on international duty. None of these players look like they will last longer than a few weeks, but the moment that a key player on a major club at this brand new competition is injured managers will protest the Nations League.
Third, Klopp sums up the Nations League when he labels it senseless. Yes, his more thorough points are interesting, but the Nations League’s existence at all raises one big question. Why now? The World Cup just ended, clubs have just got into the swing of things and the European Championship is in 2020. Instead of holding the Nations League in 2019 as a qualifier for the Euros, the Union of European Football Associations has tried to jam it into an already packed season. This might work this season, but when a team like Bayern Munich or Real Madrid pay the price for UEFA’s mistake instead of Liverpool, changes will soon follow.