It’s not often that I agree with ESPN FC’s commentators when it comes to issues relating to Paris Saint-Germain but on Monday, I found myself nodding in agreement with pretty much everything that was being said.
Dan Thomas was joined by Shaka Hislop, Craig Burley, and Frank Leboeuf to discuss the latest news about Neymar Jr. and the injury he sustained last Sunday while on international duty with Brazil. LeBoeuf made the excellent point that while the news is devastating, it could perhaps preserve Neymar for the second half of the season, which is when everyone wants to see him play anyway.
The conversation then turns to Thomas, Hislop, and Burley who are in the studio and surprisingly, Thomas appears fired up over the fact that the Brazil FA can essentially demand Neymar join them in Singapore for a meaningless friendly against Nigeria that will do nothing but line their pockets with money.
Paris Saint-Germain pays Neymar upwards of €30 million per year and the fact that he can leave to play football to make another team money is utterly absurd. Burley points out the legalities of releasing players to their national team but agrees something needs to change.
Hislop is the only one who pushes back on the conversation by saying that whether Neymar gets injured in a friendly or a tournament qualifier, it’s all the same to PSG. I don’t necessarily agree with that and neither did Thomas who said at least PSG could justify releasing him to Brazil if he was injured in a qualifier match for a bigger tournament. Sure, Neymar would be injured but at least he was playing in a match that meant something. Insurance on the player wouldn’t really do any good because PSG doesn’t need the money, they need the player!
This is when Burley jumped back into the conversation with the idea that resonated with me the most [4:38 in the video]:
“For me, I would have just abolished international friendlies full stop,” Burley said. “Because you don’t really learn much. You can throw a few kids in here and there but really the nuts and bolts of all international competition are qualifiers and the main tournament.”
Playing a friendly in Singapore does not prepare Brazil for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 at all. It doesn’t make them a better team and it’s a complete and utter waste of time with a huge downside in that these star players could pick up an injury and force their club teams to scramble once the international break is over.
It may be too difficult to change the laws requiring clubs to release players to their national teams, but abolishing international friendlies is 100 percent something those in power should look into doing as soon as possible.
In 2016, the New York Times reported on the fact that footballers play entirely too many games during the season and their offseason is virtually non-existent with national team commitments. There is only so much punishment the human body can take before breaking down and while you can justify some tournaments, cash-grabs in Singapore are a tougher pill to swallow.
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