The new Premier League season is less than a week away, but there is something that could ruin the opening weekend before that – the dreaded international break.
Football’s governing bodies, in all their wisdom, have decided that we need a round of international friendlies just three days before the start of the competition in England and other countries.
It is also important to bear in mind the fact that we have not only had Euro 2012 this summer, but the Olympic football tournament has only just finished.
Football associations welcome the chance to exhibit the talents of their nations best players because it is one of the few ways in which they generate income, but the games obviously aren’t as great a pull as they once were.
An exclusive GMF poll of 12,535 football fans revealed that a whopping 88.7 per cent believe it is a problem that this round of fixtures is being held in such close proximity to the big kick-off.
Money seems to be the only real argument for having the matches – any suggestion of it being a chance for the squads to gel more isn’t taking into consideration the waves of substitutions each side are most likely to make; either that or they overestimate how much you can gain by spending a couple of days training between flights.
It is important for all players to have a good start to the season and making them stuff a useless friendly in the middle of the final preparations for their first game is brainless, as it is only likely to cause them harm.
Not all national teams have felt the need to call up their entire squad; Germany’s Joachim Loew has allowed Arsenal players Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski to stay with the Gunners to ensure they can settle as well as possible.
Mertesacker suffered a serious injury at the back end of last season, while Loew recognised that Germany were better served if Podolski has as much time as possible with his new club and getting used to his new surroundings.
Manchester City were likely wincing when they heard that David Silva would be travelling to Puerto Rico for Spain’s latest Harlem Globetrotters-esque exhibition match.
The reigning World and European champions are quite regularly dragged half way across the globe so the Spanish FA can flog the spectacle of their amazing tiki-taka sprites.
Fernando Torres of Chelsea will also be on the plane to the Caribbean archipelago – a man who could do with as much time as possible with his team-mates, if last season’s form is anything to go by.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is openly disdainful of these friendlies and his mood was unlikely lightened when he heard is brand spanking new signing Santi Cazorla would be making the trip.
Cazorla was plucked from the chaos that has enveloped La Liga side Malaga, before heading to London to complete a medical, then heading to Germany with the squad for their training camp and making his debut in the friendly with FC Cologne.
The 27-year-old will now be forced to make a close to 8500-mile round trip so he can, most-likely, play a half of football, before then heading back to London with just about a day to prepare for the clash with Sunderland at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Robert di Matteo will find some relief in the fact that Juan Mata has been spared the trip due to Olympic participation – all three games and no goals of it.
The good news is that this should be the last time August will see the ridiculously timed friendlies, with the European Clubs Association successfully persuaded UEFA to drop the date while FIFA have admitted some dates will need to be removed.
Thank goodness for good sense, though it is baffling as to why it took so long.
The clubs don’t want it, you can’t imagine the players are too pleased about and nearly 90 per cent of fans have a problem with it. Good riddance, it seems.