After playing 63 club games and heading off on international duty every month or two, one might have been forgiven for thinking full time in the Champions League final last weekend would signal the end of the 2021-22 season and a break for players.
For many, though, that wasn’t the case, as the end of the club season simply rolled on into more games at the international level for clearly exhausted players—and for many, there are more games to come. For Virgil van Dijk, though, the season is now officially over.
“My season is done,” Van Dijk said following the Netherlands’ 4-1 Nations League win over Belgium. “A season that had tough moments, but most of all full of happy moments. Happy that I was able to contribute again, after being out for such a long time.
“I’m blessed and privileged and I really don’t take any of that for granted. I will keep continuing to improve and to get better but now is time to rest and completely switch off. Thanks to my teammates, the staff and fans at LFC and Oranje. I’ll see you next season.”
While Van Dijk has been given leave by his national team after a long season, the Nations League slog isn’t over for most as the Netherlands now have games against Wales, Poland, and Wales again before breaking for the summer on June 15th.
It’s a situation Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne hit out at recently, noting that he hasn’t had a proper break from football in close to a decade and saying that the constant addition of new games and new competitions is growing unsustainable for the players.
“For me, the Nations League is unimportant,” De Bruyne said ahead of their match against Van Dijk and the Netherlands on Friday evening. “We have to play those matches, but it’s a kind of practice campaign. Everyone has had a very tough season.”
Belgium now have three more games, against Poland, Wales, and Poland again, and it’s the same for most other star players: England and Trent Alexander-Arnold still have to face Germany, Italy, and Hungary in UEFA’s money-grab Nations League.
Those who play to the end then get just two weeks away from football before returning for club pre-season ahead of a campaign in which they will be expected to fit in all their usual games as well as a winter World Cup and sportswashing endeavour in Qatar.