Does The World Cup Really Have A Major Effect On Next Season’s Club Football?
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If you want to watch something truly pathetic today, here’s Jose Mourinho, the manager of 20-time English champion Manchester United (squad value of just over $1 billion), acting scared shitless at the prospect of playing Brighton & Hove Albion (squad value of $183 million) in the second week of Premier League action because of the World Cup impact on club season preparations.
Jose Mourinho is absolutely thrilled about pre-season and the 2018/19 campaign. pic.twitter.com/mdc68i9BHq— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 25, 2018
Looking at recent history, is the United manager right to fear a trip to the Amex to take on the Seagulls (who only sent three players to Russia)?
Manchester United sent 12 players to the 2018 World Cup (Manchester City sent the most with 16). Back in 2014, Chelsea led the way by sending 14 players to the World Cup. The Blues won all three of their August matches, didn’t lose until Match Day 15, stayed at the top of the table for 10 straight months and finished eight points above City (who sent the second most) as champions.
That Chelsea side's manager? Jose Mourinho.
Here's what he was saying exactly four years ago in this same situation: “We feel our squad is what we want. We don’t want a squad of only finished products. We want to bring to the first team three or four under-21 players. We are going to develop players and are happy with this balance we have.”
What a depressing difference four years makes.
Mourinho’s comments about Brighton and Leicester (the Foxes actually sent 10 players to Russia, so Mourinho seems confused there) also have little credence. Sunderland only sent one player to the 2014 World Cup and so must’ve had a “dream” preseason. The Black Cats didn’t win a match until Week 7. In all, Sunderland won only two of its opening 16 matches.
West Brom also only sent one player to the 2014 World Cup. The Baggies didn’t win a match in the 2014-15 season until Week 5 and won only three games from the opening 15.
So much for those unified preseasons.
The differences in squad quality, depth and cost between the top six in England and the rest of the pack make Mourinho’s comments tone-deaf in the extreme, but perhaps he’s just preparing the sacrificial altar upon which the exciting careers of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford can finally be decapitated.
However, when analyzing the club seasons that Germany players had before the 2014 World Cup and after, there’s really no reason to believe that a sort of World Cup postpartum depression really exists.
Of all the players that starred for Germany at the 2014 World Cup, only Bastian Schweinsteiger suffered a discernible drop in output following the triumph.
Perhaps, however, there is a real worry with regards to younger professionals who reach the game’s ultimate pinnacle so early: Andre Schurrle had enjoyed a promising start to his Chelsea career in 2013-14, but by January of 2015, he was being loaned to Wolfsburg after a rough start to the 2014-15 campaign.
Likewise, Mario Gotze looked to be a future Ballon d’Or winner after a promising 2013-14 debut season with Bayern coupled with the game-winner in the World Cup final, but his 2014-15 campaign was decidedly less impressive and club legend Franz Beckenbauer slammed him for behaving like a child.
But does anyone truly believe that Kylian Mbappe could possibly fade dramatically at this point?
Obviously club managers want all of their players at their disposal during preseason, but Mourinho isn’t alone in his situation. Of the 16 City players that went to the World Cup, only Bernardo Silva has returned.
“It is what it is,” manager Pep Guardiola said. “We spoke — they have to come back ready. If they are tired and they don’t want to fight for the Community Shield, play at Arsenal, then stay on holidays. If they are ready, they’ll help us and, if not, we’ll wait for them. If they are not mentally and physically ready, they won’t come back.”
City will play Huddersfield (which only sent four to Russia) on Match Day 2 in the EPL. No word yet on whether Guardiola will follow Mourinho’s lead and simply forfeit because of the injustice of it all.