Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa has launched a damning assessment on the future of elite-level football.
At his pre-match press conference for Tuesday night’s visit of Crystal Palace, the Whites’ chief had plenty to say about the congested nature of the English football calendar – and the long-term impact it could have on the game.
Leeds made the trip south to play out a goalless draw with Brighton on Saturday evening, leaving them barely 72 hours rest before taking on Patrick Vieira’s men at Elland Road.
Fixture congestion is nothing new to Premier League side’s around this time of year – with the packed festive schedule a tradition in England.
It does, however, understandably put a large strain on players and staff, something which Bielsa believes leads to a decline in the overall quality of the football on show.
Bielsa: “Football is deteriorating”
“It brings me great sadness how football is deteriorating,” said the 66-year-old Argentinian, per the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Bielsa is a man known for his intricate preparation for matches, but with his side facing seven Premier League fixtures in 29 days – beginning with the Palace clash – both he and his players will inevitably have to cut corners somewhere with their usual routine.
“The calendar is so overcharged it doesn’t bear in mind the development of the preparation,” he told members of the media.
“It is considered to sell more games but it ignores whether the teams are in conditions to offer better results”.
Granted, Bielsa’s discontent at his Leeds’ pile-up of games is unlikely to have been helped by his side’s current injury woes.
Striker Patrick Bamford and defender Luke Ayling are both soon to return to action after injury and, ideally, the Leeds boss would prefer a less hectic schedule to reintroduce the pair.
His comments, however, are not solely made in reference to his team – or the Premier League.
Rumours persist regarding the World Cup being staged every two years as opposed to its current four-year cycle. There can be little doubt that such a move would be almost entirely financially motivated – while increasing the workload of the globe’s top players yet again.
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“I have serious doubts over the future of professional football because it is constantly commercialised and the product every time is constantly worse,” insisted Bielsa.
It’s a strong statement, but one many fans showed they agreed with earlier this year when they reacted angrily to plans for a European Super League. That project was ultimately shelved, although further attempts to monetise the game are surely never far away.
While global interest in football continues to be high, there’ll always be demand for more games to satisfy that appetite. The issue facing the sport’s governing bodies is how to balance the financial incentive with the well-being of the players on the pitch.
Bielsa, for one, certainly doesn’t feel this is being achieved at present.
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