World Soccer Talk

Analyzing The Club And Country Debate

Chelsea’s dynamic duo of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas are the latest soccer stars to receive criticism for not training with their national team. Despite both Spanish players completing a full 90 minutes during Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool, a reported groin injury for Costa and hamstring problem for Fabregas has seen Spain veteran Sergio Ramos question the duo’s loyalty to their country.

Ramos, who has collected 122 total caps for Spain, spoke on the issue on the two important players missing out due to perceived small injures. The 28-year-old stated, “Laying out rules is difficult. Often with injuries there can be a world of difference between what we have and what is said in public. Above all I would have liked the players to show the same commitment to the national team as they do to their club.”

The Real Madrid defender also went on to say that he has previously reported to his national team despite not being fully fit, “I came the last time; I had a test and was not able to play due to a small tear in my calf muscle. But there are times I have played despite having some niggles. It depends on the DNA of the player.”

Spain’s manager, Vincente del Bosque, has even suggested that there may not even be anything wrong with Fabregas at all. Del Bosque said, “We had to wait a few days to evaluate Cesc’s injury and we opted for him not to continue with us. His muscle seems alright but he complains and he is the best doctor. I prefer to be deceived but I cannot be distrustful. When a player of his caliber tells you that he is injured, you have to believe him.”

While players showing an alleged lack of loyalty to their country may not be something necessarily new, there appears to be more and more pressure on these players to not risk injury with their national teams.

Just last month, many England fans had issues with Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling sitting out of a 2016 Euro qualifier because he was “too tired”. Former England national team member Danny Mills was one of Sterling’s critics. Mills stated, “I don’t really believe a player his age will have gone to the manager and told him he’s tired. Has there been influence from elsewhere? The club manager, for example? Who knows.”

Tottenham Hotspur youngster Eric Dier recently told England’s U-21 manager to not select him for upcoming youth friendlies with Portugal and France, not because he was sick or injured, but because the defender wanted to train with his club. Dier, who has been deployed at the right-back position with the U-21 squad, wants to focus at the center-back position in hopes of attaining more first-team playing time in central defense with the Premier League side.

With the recent influx of money pouring into European clubs, there seems to be a bit of a divide between these clubs and national teams. Club managers do not want to see their most important (and expensive) players miss out of league matches due to an injury with the national team. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho spent roughly £58 million combined on Costa and Fabregas over the summer, and Sterling is arguably Brendan Rodgers’s most important player at Liverpool.

Is it likely that these club managers are persuading their players to rest during the international breaks? Yes. Nonetheless, the final call on whether or not to play for their country should ultimately fall on the players’ shoulders. Loyalty to one’s country appears to have become a bit diminished over the years for some players, and it seems as if these players are now willing to align with their club rather than their national team.

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