Most of Liverpool’s players will be back from their summer breaks in time to be ready to face West Ham in the season opener on August 12th, but for Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Dejan Lovren the story is rather different.
Henderson and Alexander-Arnold played in the third-place game at the World Cup while Lovren made it to the final with Croatia, and they’re expected back just a few days before West Ham. Though for Henderson, getting him to accept that was a struggle.
“It was a hard fight to convince Jordan that he needed a holiday,” manager Jürgen Klopp noted. “I knew that would happen. He feels like he needs training every day [but] Jordan needs a holiday so that means August 5th he will be back.
“Dejan played a day later and had a party in Croatia so he will be back on August 6th. That would mean five days training after three weeks holiday. I hope we are in a situation where we don’t need to think about using these two against West Ham.”
While the schedule is set and settled for Henderson and Lovren, Klopp did say that Alexander-Arnold could end up back earlier given the player’s age and that he was less involved at the World Cup than his two more senior club teammates.
“With Trent I have an agreement,” Klopp said. “He wants to be in earlier as well. As he’s very young I said, ‘Okay, have two weeks holiday and then we’ll speak and see’. I’m not sure. I want to have them desperately but the season is really long.
While on one hand that desire to return quickly and get back to training certainly seems commendable, players do need extended breaks to avoid burnout, fatigue, and injury, and an increasingly busy international calendar can make that very difficult.
And often, it’s the clubs that have to deal with the fallout, something Klopp is worried about more than usual right now with the introduction of the UEFA Nations League—an alternate, and additional, route to Euros qualification that will replace most friendlies.
It likely won’t add up to any extra games for players involved, but it will mean that the games they do play will now be more competitive and that managers will be less free to tinker with changed sides and to rest tired stars in low-stakes friendlies.
“I don’t want to get too football political,” Klopp added, “but if they don’t stop with these games—they are now making it the Nations League to make it more important—then all these players who played at the World Cup have to go there again.
“I don’t understand that. We had four players in the semis which is okay, we can deal with that. Tottenham had nine players in the semis. I have no clue how they will do it. That’s a big challenge. We have to change it.
“They play the World Cup, then the Nations League, next summer is the final of the Nations League which is really crazy. Everything is now so important in football and we have to collect their bones afterwards, more or less.”