The 2021/2022 season was a successful one for Argentina's Nicolás Tagliafico, who not only confirmed his pivotal role in his country's national team ahead of the upcoming World Cup, but also scored a goal in the match that crowned his Ajax side as Eredivisie champions in the Netherlands.
However, like many South American players plying their trade in Europe, the season has tested the defender's limits both physically and mentally, due to the pressures of long-distance travel and short breaks.
Speaking to FIFPRO, the Argentinian analysed the impact of the congested fixture schedule on players in his situation. "It was quite a tough year, with a lot of competition," he said. "And not just the training itself, both for international and club matches. But also because of the stress of being in top competition all the time".
To establish a benchmark, it's best to look at the statistics. Tagliafico, 29, played almost as many minutes as team-mate Daley Blind in the last three seasons: 14,215 and 14,346 respectively. However, there is one difference: the Argentinian travelled three times more than his Dutch colleague.
"As a South American I have to face more travel than other players. Being from Argentina, I have flights of at least 12 hours. And then we go to places I would never imagine, like Asia or North America," explains the left-back, who is part of FIFPRO's analysis in this season's Player Workload Monitoring report.
“Without players there would be no football”
"When you see the data on paper and in statistics you are surprised. Mostly because of the schedule changes. You don't realise it but the body takes its toll with mini injuries," he added.
Tagliafico was part of the Argentina squad that won the Copa America in July 2021 in Brazil. A fantastic achievement, even greater when you consider the mental effort to maintain focus and strength after a gruelling season in the Dutch league.
"I remember I had a few days off before the Copa America," explains the Argentine who, in the last seven years, has never enjoyed a four-week holiday. "Whether you want to or not, you never really switch off. Your head is not focused on rest. On the contrary, it's focused on what's to come".
Aware of the need for rest in footballers and its impact on the quality of play developed afterwards, Tagliafico finally insists on the importance of "having people who can defend what we are and represent as footballers. Without players there would be no football.”