It's that time of year again, just days before the start of the Premier League season, and the annual debate on the August international friendly fixture has risen again. While this is the last time this fixture will feature in the footballing calendar, opinions on the benefit of these games continue to differ.
International managers will claim that this game gives them a chance to assess potential squad candidates and players' fitness levels, whilst also testing out tactics ahead of crucial World Cup Qualifiers in September and October.
Club bosses on the other hand see these fixtures as disruptive, meaningless and potentially damaging to their clubs' starts to the season, should they lose a player to injury.
One possible solution has been mooted by former Stoke City Manager Tony Pulis, who suggests that international friendlies should be reduced to just two per calendar year, with the gaps left in the schedule replaced with squad 'get-togethers'.
This idea does have potential, an international manager could call a squad of perhaps thirty to a training camp lasting a couple of days, he could work on tactics, team-spirit and potential line-ups, without having to risk any players in a competitive match, reducing the risk of player injury.
There are however a few drawbacks. From an international team perspective, there are only certain things you can learn from players in a training scenario, and often you need the competitive fixture against quality opposition to work out the perfect line-up and team set-up. Financially, international football associations will lose out on TV funding, ticketing and sponsorship, should the number of friendlies be cut.
Club sides may also continue to have issues. They would argue that even just taking players away for a couple of days per month will disrupt their planning, and the risk of injury will still be prevalent.
The reality is that club sides and international associations, in conjunction with FIFA and UEFA, will have to settle on a compromise. The number of international friendlies is excessive at the moment, but a large cut is also not feasible, and unlikely to be accepted from football associations keen to make a quick buck from a glamour tie, but international get-togethers, may well become an integral part of future international football calendars.
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