Arsene Wenger has sparked the latest row in the club versus country debate over the decision by Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk to go against his wishes by selecting Robin van Persie in the Dutch squad the upcoming friendly against Turkey. As he will only be returning to full training at the end of the week after recovering from an ankle injury incurred against Blackburn which has kept him out since August. Clearly he will therefore not be back to full fitness and ready to undertake a full 90 minutes on the 17th November when the friendly is scheduled. But if he is returning to match fitness and this was an Arsenal game it is safe to say that this could be targeted as a return date. So why is it so frowned upon when the Dutch national team makes the same decision? Couldn’t it even be beneficial to Arsenal to have van Persie eased back into action with say a half in an international friendly? In order to get some match time under his belt, rather than being thrown straight into the hectic pace of the Premiership where Arsenal are obviously required to be consistently picking up points?
It is commonly perceived that club managers do not care much for the international game, seeing it as a hindrance to their club to be negotiated, an inconvenience to their preparations.
The season is set out in a way that when international breaks occur players are allowed to be called up to the national teams. So then during periods when a player is at the disposal of the national team, surely any decision regarding their injury and/or fitness should be taken by the national coaching team. Just as the national coaching team would have no input if a player were to play for their club, so it should work the other way.
The arguments from clubs appear to come from a general distrust of how the national team will handle a prized asset. Although there are obvious risks of injury when on international duty these are no greater than when playing domestically. You could even argue they are less so, as the Premiership prides itself on having the most fast paced football in the world, compared to the slower pace of the European and International game which offers players greater protection from the referees. Also it is in the interest of the international team to look after a player as much as the club. A player who is fit and playing well for his club can carry this into his national side. Where as a player who remains injured say due to the national side being too eager to rush him into the team, could take time to regain form and fitness, which would obviously be to the detriment of the national team in the long run.
There is a sense of hypocrisy in this argument as if towards the end of the season a player is injured playing for his club and say therefore misses the World Cup the following summer. There are never any arguments that the national side has been hard done by the club. Another argument offered by clubs and supporters is that the clubs should take precedence as they pay the players’ wages. In my min this places too much focus on money over football matters and forgets that national sides also pay their players for turning out for the country. Added to this it assumes a precedence of club football over international football, which I believe just isn’t there as the World Cup is still the biggest and most important competition any player can win.
Generally an atmosphere of mistrust has developed between the clubs and national teams with regard to injuries. With so many players recalled from international duty these days by their club it is hardly surprising national coaches do not trust these diagnosis and wish to have their own people look over the players before deciding whether to play them or not. However this obviously adds to the tension which is not helpful for either camp and involves endless trips back and forth to different physiotherapists and doctors for the player. These in turn are not beneficial to the player and exacerbate the whole situation. Yet with no clear solution only one thing is sure this latest chapter indicates the club versus country row will not die down any time soon.