There was a time when all professional footballers complained about was squad rotation and not getting enough game time, doing anything possible to manufacture transfers that would guarantee their name was on the team sheet week in and week out.
However, as bulging club fixture schedules clashed with international commitments and lengthy pre-season tours, something changed, as players and their agents realised that perhaps spending the odd game on the bench or with your feet up on a leopard skin sofa is not such a bad thing after all.
Here are all the reasons why some of the biggest strikers in the game are trading packed schedules for a more relaxed approach.
Being Top Dog Is Draining – Harry Kane
Long before he was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur, José Mourinho was bemoaning his side’s packed fixture schedule. The club battled on multiple fronts, with a squad that was depleted by injuries and suspensions, and a chairman who appeared to be more interested in making Spurs European Super League also-rans, rather than genuine Premier league title contenders.
Fast forward to the end of the 20/21 Premier League season and Spurs are now languishing well short of the Champions League spots, and look set to lose their star striker. While the England number 10’s representatives have cited his desire to win major trophies as being the reason he wishes to leave, there is also the fact the effects of fixture congestion combined with the big man’s vulnerable ankles could have him worried about his longevity in the sport.
International Football Appeals More – Cristiano Ronaldo
There are increasingly two separate camps of elite level striker: the first are young whipper snappers like Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland and the second are those ageing superstars whose personal brands still dominate the game, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Eyebrows were raised when the Portuguese star swapped La Liga for Serie A, but it was clearly a conscious decision to go to a league where the style of play was less frenetic, and he could be part of team where he was not expected to be the linchpin in every single game.
This change of pace meant that CR7 could also focus on the one thing he realised could set him apart from other greats: international tournament victories. He got the taste for them in 2016 and he clearly wants to defend his European Championship crown in 2021, a feat that will be made possible by the fact his domestic season was easier to handle.
A Soft League Means Chilled Weekends – Kylian Mbappé & Neymar
Many observers thought that Kylian Mbappé and Neymar were just cynically taking easy money when they moved to the cash-rich PSG, but scratch beneath the surface and there may be other more considered reasons for wanting to ply their trade in Ligue 1.
For the Brazilian, the allure of the French capital is that he can escape the bubble that is Barcelona, as well as stepping out of Messi’s shadow. There is also the fact that PSG do not employ the high pressing game that the Catalans do, meaning he can spend more time on the front foot rather than tracking back and picking up injuries.
For the French World Cup winner, he gets to stay close to his family and remain in contact with the international team that he has helped to such success in recent years. These are all things which would be taken away from him if he started adding flights and additional fixtures to his already busy lifestyle.
Career Longevity Depends on Less Games – Edinson Cavani
There is so much more to building a strong squad than just talented players, with a dressing room also needing men who lead by example.
Edison Cavani is proving to be one such player at Man Utd, where he mixes playing a small number of games with providing invaluable insights to the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood. By performing such a role, Cavani can prolong his playing career and perhaps prepare himself for a management job when he hangs his boots up.