England’s World Cup players played less club football this season than their Spain, France and Brazil counterparts.
Received wisdom suggests players in the Premier League play more than other major leagues, but Gareth Southgate’s squad have played the fourth most minutes of all the nations to qualify for the finals in Russia.
Spain’s squad have played almost a combined 10,000 minutes more than England’s, with France about 5,000 and Brazil 4,000 ahead of England.
The data, provided by independent research group CIES Football Observatory, encompasses domestic and continental competitions between 1 July 2017 and 31 May 2018.
It shows that:
- England’s 23-man squad have featured in 994 competitive games between them since last July
- Each player has played an average of 43 matches
- The 76,476 minutes played by England’s players equates to an average of 3,325 minutes or 37 full matches per player
Which players have played the most?
Portugal and Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper Rui Patricio tops the 736-player list with 5,490 minutes over 61 games.
Croatia defender Duje Caleta-Car, who helped RB Salzburg to the Europa League semi-finals, has played the most games of any outfield player who will be at the World Cup.
His 5,117 minutes are 108 more than Atletico Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Saul Niguez, with Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi fourth.
There are six England players in the top 100 – Kyle Walker,in 43rd, Harry Maguire, Jordan Pickford, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli.
Premier League players occupy 28 of the top 100 spots and there are five players from the Championship, spread across 16 nationalities.
La Liga has the next highest figure among the European leagues, with 21 players – of 10 different nationalities – while Serie A has 11 players and Ligue 1 nine.
|Duje Caleta–Car||RB Salzburg||Croatia||58||5,117|
|Saul Niguez||At Madrid||Spain||62||5,009|
|Marc-Andre ter Stegen||Barcelona||Germany||54||4,860|
What about in the Champions League?
The England squad also spent less time on the pitch in the Champions League knockout stages this season compared to Brazil, Germany, Spain, France and Argentina players.
Brazil lead the way – almost 2,000 minutes more than Spain – thanks in part to Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Casemiro and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino reaching the final, and Roma goalkeeper Alisson making it as far as the semis.
Portugal’s tally is boosted by the input of Cristiano Ronaldo, who played every minute in Real Madrid’s 13-match run to victory in Kiev – the only player to do so.
Ronaldo’s 1,170 minutes on the pitch were more than England’s Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham) and Danny Rose (Tottenham) combined.
Of Southgate’s squad, only Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (19th) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (21st) played more than 800 minutes – the equivalent of just over nine full games.
What about the winter break argument?
Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson told BBC Sport that Southgate’s squad will face problems with fatigue in Russia.
Eriksson, who led England to three major tournaments between 2002 and 2006, was an advocate of introducing a winter break to the English season during his five years in charge.
Each of the 23 players selected by Southgate plays in the Premier League, which, in contrast to the top flights of Spain, Germany, Italy and France, does not pause for a spell during the winter.
“If you play in the Premier League, you play a lot of games,” said Swede Eriksson, England’s first foreign manager. “That’s the biggest reason why England struggle to make a big impact in big tournaments.”
However, the England squad selected by Roy Hodgson for the 2014 World Cup played almost 4,000 fewer minutes than Joachim Low’s tournament-winning Germany squad.
Germany became world champions for the fourth time by beating Argentina after extra-time in the final, while England finished bottom of their group.