Love it or hate it, the international break is here to stay with a mixture of qualification matches for either the World Cup or European Championship as well as friendlies.
Playing international football used to be the pinnacle of a professional’s career but, such is the prevalence of the top European leagues plus the Champions League, it can now seem like an irritation at times.
Attempting to qualify for the biennial major events can be an exciting journey for both players and fans. But, a glance at a less-than-full Wembley Stadium in recent times, shows the ambivalence shown by a football crazy country towards the national team.
But what of the clubs who have to release their stars to fly to the far-flung corners of the globe every couple of months?
The obvious pro is the fact that those not involved will get a couple of weeks away from the action and players with niggling injuries will be given time to recover.
Some English clubs opt to take their players away for a ‘warm-weather break’ to recharge their batteries and if the international stars return without any injuries, the league hiatus can prove to be a blessing in disguise.
From a player’s point of view, an international call-up is still a special thing, with the possibility of playing in a major tournament the next summer.
Since there are so many foreign stars plying their trade in the Premier League, it means that fringe players at club level seeing little action are given a game – a quite bizarre situation, but one that is not uncommon.
This means that managers get a chance to see their stars in action at the top level and a decent showing could influence selection back at their clubs.
Major tournaments can be a platform for players to showcase their skills and there is no greater example than Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez. The 26-year-old excelled for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup and was immediately snapped up by the Spanish giants after the relative obscurity of playing for Monaco.
His is not an isolated example and scouts from all the top clubs will be in attendance when the world’s elite descend on eastern Europe in the summer of 2018.
Whether or not international football is seen as a positive or negative can very much depend on the attitude of a player, with someone like David Beckham embracing every moment of wearing the Three Lions shirt.
Towards the end of his career he was probably past his best but still clung on to the hope of one more game for his national side as it had become a massive part of his life. He was proud to represent his country every time he stepped out onto the pitch and a few others would do well to follow his example.
There are some exciting games, especially towards the business end of qualifying, but international football can be tedious and quite often the games do not live up to the hype.
That is understandable as the squads do not get much time together to prepare for games and maybe everyone just expects too much.
Club managers and coaches will continue to do all they can to protect their players and it is inevitable that there will be several players who are ‘not fit’ for November’s friendlies.
However, those same managers who have blasted the national coaches across Europe for overusing their stars will come cap in hand to the clubs if they then get the call to coach their nation.
There are certainly plusses and negatives. The biggest drawback is that already tired players are forced to play a couple of games using unfamiliar systems. These players also must take to the pitch with players they usually try to kick lumps out of on a Saturday afternoon.
There is always the risk of injury. It must be galling for managers across Europe who have been planning for a huge game see their star man crocked while wearing his country’s colours.
Even those who come through unscathed may only have three or four days to recover before it is back to domestic action. On top of this, domestic games are probably more intense that the one they played in while on international duty.
The club versus country row has been rumbling on for years and there is no doubt that players have exaggerated injuries to pull out of international games. Commonly, friendlies are pulled out of with key club players training one eye on upcoming league encounters.
That is understandable given the stakes they are all now playing for across the world, with so much football on offer for clubs involved in Europe.
In the English game, the League Cup is now a virtual second team competition as managers rest the top players due to their workload, and it has clearly been devalued.
Even a prestigious competition such as the FA Cup can witness games with fringe players being allowed a run-out to ensure the regulars are rested for bigger things to follow.
International football just increases the playing time for the elite and it is undoubtedly affecting the domestic games.
With qualification for the World Cup now complete for most nations, players will be forced to participate in friendlies as managers try to ‘find their best 11’ for the Russia showpiece.
There will be several withdrawals from the various squads and international managers will have to call on fringe players to fill the void, with the merit of fielding a side that has no chance of taking to the pitch next summer open to debate.
International bosses will continue to trot out the line that it was a ‘worthwhile experiment’ to change all 11 players at half time but some of the football seen at international level can be diabolical. This is due to a lack of effort and direction at times.
It will all culminate in the World Cup, where those who have fought tooth and nail to make it will huff and puff for a few weeks before either Brazil or Germany lift the trophy, while countries who fail to make it out of the group stage sack their manager and promise sweeping changes ahead of the next qualification games.
But it is not all bad news and there is an argument that international football can be beneficial to both players and clubs.
Written by Ian Waterhouse
Ian Waterhouse is a sports, fitness and betting writer with extensive experience in all sectors of the gambling industry. When he’s not trawling through the odds, you’ll probably find Ian on the golf course – probably the bunker!