Jude Bellingham PWM (1)

Six player workload findings for 2023/24 season


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Jude Bellingham PWM (1)

As the 2023/24 club season reaches its climax with the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday, we are reminded of the gruelling toll elite-level players have had to endure in a congested season with minimal rest periods.

Workload data from FIFPRO and Football Benchmark, detailing the most overworked players from around the world, was presented to player unions and representatives from leagues such as the Premier League and La Liga in London on Thursday. It followed fruitful dialogue between stakeholders on what this extreme calendar congestion means for players and the need for collective action to push for change.

FIFPRO brings you six key findings on player workload from an arduous 2023/24 campaign – from the players who have had to endure the most minutes this year to the ones who could suffer the most with expanded UEFA competitions and a 32-team FIFA Club World Cup in the 2024/25 season.

1. Premier League players among those enduring high workload

Seventy inclusions mean no player featured in more matchday squads than Manchester City and Argentina forward Julian Alvarez. He is followed by City team-mate Phil Foden and Liverpool duo Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott with 69 matchday squad appearances.

Meanwhile, Benfica midfielder Fredrik Aursnes, who retired from international football with Norway earlier this year, made the most appearances (66) along with John McGinn (Aston Villa/Scotland) and Saud Abdulhamid (Al Hilal/Saudi Arabia). Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta/Albania) played the most back-to-back matches (18), while Cristian Romero clocked up the most international travel with a staggering 139,130 kilometres.

Foden Alvarez
Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez

2. Demanding season for Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid stars

Players from UEFA Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid have suffered a congested 2023/24 campaign, playing more than one game every week since the start of pre-season en route to European football’s top prize.

Many star players will then have little rest as they prepare for national team competitions after Saturday’s final. By mid-July 2024, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde could add nine and eight more games respectively if they were to play as many games as possible in this year's Copa America and the pre-tournament friendlies scheduled by Brazil and Uruguay.

Valverdde PWM
Federico Valverde

3. Young players’ career longevity at risk

Players in the current game are amassing alarmingly high minutes at a younger age than ever before. For instance, Jude Bellingham has already accumulated close to 20,000 on-pitch minutes, despite only turning 21 in June.

Around 10 percent of those came in senior national team appearances for England, while the rest was recorded in competitive club matches for Birmingham City, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. His playing time before turning 21 far surpasses the comparable record of past England players.

4. Workload impact has become truly global

The latest editions of the AFC Asian Cup and the CAF Africa Cup of Nations were both held during the 2023/24 club season, resulting in many players reporting back to play for their clubs mere days after their last appearance at the tournaments. Takumi Minamino, for example, played for Monaco just one day after representing Japan at the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.

International travel, acclimatisation to other time zones and climates also made players’ recovery even more challenging.

Takumi Minamino
Takumi Minamino

5. Extreme club workload forcing players to sacrifice international football

Fredrik Aursnes made the most appearances (66) along with John McGinn (Aston Villa/Scotland) and Saud Abdulhamid (Al Hilal/Saudi Arabia) this season and was ever-present on the pitch for Benfica. Aursnes retired from international football at the age of 28 with the Norwegian writing on social media: “I want more time and freedom to prioritise other things than football in my life.”

Aursnes is not the only player who has had to retire from international football due to the demanding match calendar. World Cup winner Raphael Varane called time on his France career at 29 years of age, stating to Canal+ at the time: "The very highest level is like a washing machine: you play all the time and you never stop. We have overloaded schedules and play non-stop. Right now, I feel like I'm suffocating and that the player is gobbling up the man."

Fredrik Aursnes
Fredrik Aursnes

6. Upcoming calendar remains packed

If Kylian Mbappe’s club and national teams advance to the finals of every competition and the Frenchman is selected in the squad for every match, then he could potentially rack up 208 squad inclusions between August 2022 and July 2025. That equates to 1.4 matches every week. The expanded UEFA Champions League, the new 32-team FIFA Club World Cup and Mbappe’s potential inclusion in the France squad for the Paris Olympic Games all add to his workload.

Meanwhile, the 2025 Club World Cup will feature two English sides: Chelsea and Manchester City. National team players of these clubs could conceivably play up to 86 matches during the 2024/25 season due to their involvement in the Club World Cup, the expanded UEFA club competition format, and their other commitments. The addition of a few pre-season friendly matches for their clubs could take this total above 90.