Load management is a term that was popularized by the world champion Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association. A right quadriceps injury limited forward Kawhi Leonard to only nine games in the 2017-18 season with the San Antonio Spurs, which is why his new organization needed to come up with a way to keep their superstar healthy.
The Raptors would schedule out what games the 27-year-old was going to miss. Although the team sacrificed wins in the regular season, they did so with the thought of having one of the best players in the league healthy. It would ultimately pay off as the Raptors captured their first Larry O’Brien trophy with Leonard being award the most valuable player.
Now, what exactly does all of this have to do with Paris Saint-Germain? Well, the Parisian club has their superstars that could benefit from having load management next season.
We joke about load management and superstars taking games off but I hope everyone sees now why it’s necessary.
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) June 14, 2019
Injury Plague Seasons with PSG
In his first two seasons with the club, Neymar Jr. has suffered injuries at an inopportune time for the club. Last year, the Brazilian fractured his metatarsal and ended up missing a pivotal UEFA Champions League match against Real Madrid. The injury bug continued to haunt Neymar as he re-injured his metatarsal this season and missed another Champions League knockout stage match—this time against Manchester United.
When PSG paid his €222 million release clause, the club envisioned Neymar being the difference maker in the Champions League competition. However, so far he’s only played in one knockout stage match for the capital club.
We all love watching Neymar on the pitch, but production wise, PSG isn’t getting a good return on their investment. It’s not to say Neymar hasn’t performed, but the reason he was signed was to take PSG deep into the Champions League, and thus far, he’s yet to stay healthy to accomplish this objective.
If these injuries are a trend rather than a coincidence, then it’s time for PSG to take a different approach. Management, sports science team, coaching staff, and Neymar himself need to devise a plan that can keep him healthy.
Sacrificing for Long-Term Gain
Everyone involved needs to take a look at the schedule, much like the Raptors did with Leonard, and decide what matches PSG can do without their superstar. Toronto’s team president Masai Ujiri prioritized having a healthy Leonard in the playoffs over having home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Raptors sacrificed the number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference.
Kawhi Leonard this season
Missed 22 regular season games
Missed 15 to load management
98th in regular season minutes (2,040)
1st in playoff minutes (939)
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) June 14, 2019
Load management will cause PSG to scratch and claw their way to wins as they won’t come comfortably. Also, losing matches they should win if Neymar was available is in the realm of possibility. Supporters might second-guess the method, however, the Raptors sacrificed short-term gain for a long-term outcome.
For PSG, it’s important to finally have a healthy Neymar for the knockout rounds. It’s safe to say that with their superstar healthy, they would have easily advanced past Manchester United this past season.
Load Management for Other Star Players
Neymar isn’t the only player at the club that could benefit from load management. With club legends, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva now well into their 30s, PSG needs to maximize their time on the pitch.
Last year, Cavani was plagued by a hamstring injury. It resulted in him not only missing the two legs against Manchester United this season, but it made some question whether it’s finally time for PSG to move on from the Uruguayan.
However, it seems as though the 32-year-old still has something left in the tank. In the 2019 Copa América so far, Cavani is looking like his former self. Against Ecuador, he scored a scissor-kick type goal and is hoping to put the injuries behind him.
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 16, 2019
Like Cavani, Silva is also partaking in the Copa América tournament with Brazil. The 34-year-old is coming off a meniscal injury and questions as to whether or not it’s time to move on from Silva have also come up. The Matthijs de Ligt rumors seem to suggest PSG has zeroed in on an eventual successor.
Nonetheless, Silva has shown that even at his age, he’s still O’Monstro. If PSG wants to maximize their captain’s performance in what could be the captain’s final season at the club, load management is a way to preserve and maximize Silva’s abilities along with lessening the wear and tear on his body over a long season.
Personally, when writing articles like this, there’s never any bias (to an extent), however, as a Raptors fan, I’ve seen load management work. It can cause frustration because we want to see the best lineup every week, but sometimes it’s essential to look at the bigger picture and realize that the club needs to preserve Neymar and their older stars for crucial matches in Ligue 1 and the Champions League.