Mar 272008

With domestic seasons coming to a close, champions being decided, and cups reaching that intense point where huge ties are unavoidable, players make that final push to ensure their club are the ones looking back in delight.

So why do we have meaningless international friendlies at this time of year? Players are exhausted, injuries are piling up, and if there is no midweek game, a valuable rest is well earned. Instead, those same players are asked to fly off somewhere, play a part in a match that no-one cares about, before resuming immediately when they get back.

With a summer tournament coming up, you would’ve thought the powers that be would want to keep as many players fit as possible, so why arrange these friendlies now? Any club can tell you how regularly players come back from them injured, and picking up niggles now can lead to the best players missing out entirely come the summer.

International friendlies as a whole are important, but as preparation and fact-finding so that the respective nations are ready for competitive fixtures. So why not get the domestic seasons done and then have a few friendlies in the summer? No-one is playing competitive football for the next two months so what does playing an extra friendly gain? Much better surely to wait until the summer, rule out those players who are injured, and then focus on what is in front of you.

It seems ridiculous to me. These games can come later. Scheduling international weeks in between two intense domestic weekends is daft. International weeks should be exactly that – no other football in the whole week, not the middle part of a three match sandwich lasting six days. Otherwise players will just burn out, and neither club or country wants their talents to keel over at this point.

In other news, it has been confirmed that Sagna will miss around three weeks with the ankle injury he picked up against Chelsea. There are two types of a ‘few weeks’ injury. The Alex Hleb version, where he returns a week later, and the Tomas Rosicky version, where he disappears off the radar for six weeks before telling every one how frustrated he is. You and us both, Tomas, but let’s hope Sagna’s injury falls into the former category.

There doesn’t appear to be any other injury news from last night, which is a relief, and Van Persie got some good match time for Holland. He is probably the only player to benefit from the internationals, with the possible exception of William Gallas, who was solid for France in the midst of the current witch hunt aimed at him.

Elsewhere, there are rumours that Cesc has split from his agent over the fact that Diaz spoke to Real Madrid last summer without the player’s say so. I’m not sure I give the reports credence yet, they’ve come from the Spanish press (El Mundo), on to the Mail, and have since been picked up by the Telegraph. No quotes, no evidence.

Roll on the weekend, because we need more domestic football to get us out of this slump. Ideally, we need to play a team we just can’t stand, one of those teams that you get intense pleasure from hammering. Given our form, it’d be even better if those opponents were playing really badly at the moment.

Ah, Bolton. Excellent.

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