Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino: 'Football business' disregards player welfare
Mauricio Pochettino said the intensity of the football calendar has become dangerous for players, and that the introduction of the UEFA Nations League has compounded the problem.
Five of the Tottenham players who were in action at the World Cup have suffered muscle injuries already this season, and Pochettino said: "[The calendar] is dangerous.
"The problem is that football is massive business, and it's not easy. The football business today doesn't care about the player. It's all about games, games, games.
"The problems come after because you need a big squad and the club needs to spend a lot of money. But then when you build a bigger squad, 25 players, not all can play every week and people aren't happy. It doesn't help the dynamic of the group inside.
"If we don't protect football, every day we're pushing the sense of football far away -- the values."
The upcoming international break can provide respite for some players, but European countries will be playing in the newly-launched Nations League and Spurs' England contingent -- Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier -- face challenging, competitive clashes with World Cup finalists Croatia and Spain in the next 10 days.
"It's so difficult to understand this competition," said Pochettino. "You finish the World Cup, then in the first international break you start to compete again in an official tournament.
"It's normal if you say to the player 'it's better if you stay for training, recovery, rest.' No, because they need to go.
"I understand the national teams want their best players. But again the problem is always for the clubs. Our position is to understand the players, the national teams, FIFA, UEFA, VAR, referees. But who understands us?"
Dele Alli is one of five Spurs players who will miss Saturday's match against Cardiff due to injury, having suffered a recurrence of a hamstring problem that he picked up while on England duty last month. But the Spurs manager has no issue with Gareth Southgate or the national squad's medical team and feels his player must be held accountable.
"I cannot blame the national team, England, because he got injured," said Pochettino. "Always the first responsibility is the player's. Being honest, I think he felt from the beginning the problem but carried on playing.
"Players always push to play because they want to play. For some it looks like 'if I'm on the bench it's a dishonour -- me, on the bench! I want to play even though I'm tired.'
"We expect and hope that all the players learn if they make a mistake. The problem is if they say the mistake is always away from themselves. You need to be more critical with yourself and to be honest, it is a difficult thing to find today in football."
Earlier on Friday, Pochettino voiced irritation at the fact that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez announced Jan Vertonghen is likely to be out of action for at least six weeks with a hamstring injury, even though the defender is still awaiting a second scan.
While he insists he is not angry, Pochettino feels confidentiality issues can arise in such scenarios.
"I'm not disappointed," he said. "It's only that sometimes, for me, it's about responsibility with providing information about the players.
"Of course the national teams have the right to talk. But they need to know that these are Tottenham players and it's our responsibility and we need to manage them. Of course they decide not to ask us but it's their decision.
"In this situation, a big part is the player, because sometimes you have to agree with the player 'what do you want to explain outside?' Because they have the right about their injuries, diseases or whatever they have.
"What happens if one player says 'no, I don't want to say anything in public?' When you go to the doctor, the doctor cannot go outside and say 'Mauricio, come to see me for this and this and this.' Sometimes we forget and we talk too freely."