Guardiola strikes as angry Benítez joins chorus over player welfare | premier league
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Pep Guardiola spoke of the prospect of a strike and Rafael Benítez claimed that “the money is now running the game” as anger grows among Premier League managers over the welfare of the players.
The Premier League has rejected Everton’s request to postpone their Boxing Day game at Burnley due to five positive Covid cases and six injuries in Benitez’s squad. The Everton manager believes his club are being punished for not closing their training ground and that the integrity of the league – as well as its profitability as a salable TV product – could be damaged by successful encounters with academy players.
Guardiola went further, suggesting more direct actions may be needed for gaming authorities to address concerns about demands placed on players. The Manchester City manager said: “Should the players and managers all be together and go on strike? Just by words, it’s not going to be resolved. For Fifa, the Premier League, broadcasters, business is more important than their well-being. The simplest example is that there are five substitutions all over the world; here it is still three. Tell me an argument to take care of the welfare of the players as this one? Here, where everyone decides for themselves, we did not do it.
It is the Premier League clubs, not the organization itself, that have voted to reintroduce the three-substitute rule, but managers are increasingly worried about the party schedule that continues amid a record number of Covid cases. Clearing the backlog in an already condensed season is another issue to be tackled, with two Boxing Day games – Liverpool v Leeds and Wolves v Watford – called off on Thursday. Benítez believes the quality of the Premier League, and by extension its appeal to TV rights holders, will suffer.
He said: “The contracts end in June but we finish playing in May. June might be a good time [to play these games] but then we would have to talk about the World Cup every two years or the World Cup in winter. Money now runs the game and it is quite complicated to find the right solution. We are professionals and have to deal with the situation, but the fans, everyone, want to see the best players on the pitch and play at the best possible level. You sell the TV rights because you play nice and exciting football, but then all of these things happen. “
The Premier League concluded that Everton has enough players to complete Burnley’s game. Their available contingent includes Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has not played for two months due to a new thigh muscle injury, and several academy players with high-level experience. One, 18-year-old midfielder Tyler Onyango, made two 89th-minute substitutes in the Premier League and one 85th-minute substitute in the FA Cup.
Benítez, who believes his players caught Covid while sharing a dressing room at Stamford Bridge last week, said: “They are only talking about the numbers – the 13 plus a keeper – but we have nine available outfielders more three goalies and have to bring in five young players who seem to have enough experience to play. But the reality is that some of those players include Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was injured for two months. We have other players with shots and we will have to push them. They are not in good shape and who will take responsibility if something happens to them because they have to play 90 minutes?
“If you have players coming back from Covid-19, they need to do an ECG. Who will take responsibility for these players if they are on the bench and have to play? This is a very clear example of not following the rules because the rule is very unfair in this case. Some teams are closing their training grounds. We tried to do it right and maybe we are being punished for it. In our case, the analysis was straightforward – they looked at the numbers and said you can play. But the reality is, it’s a risk for some of our players.
Despite the possibility of a strike, Guardiola doesn’t think there is an appetite for one. “No I don’t think so, because we want to play, we want to continue,” said the City manager. “Make people happy to go to the stadium on the 26th, 27th, 29th, 31st and 1st and play games because we love to do that. I am not saying that there is a reason to go on strike. But when people say World Cups, European Cups, Carabao Cup two-round semi-finals and FA Cups and Premier League… more teams and more games and more games and less vacations.
Manchester United’s Ralf Rangnick has also expressed his support for five substitutions and said most players would support that. The Premier League authorized five changes towards the start of the pandemic and the acting manager said: “It was the right decision to do it, to have more options to change players, to save money. energy, especially if they have just recovered from Covid. And it’s the same right now. We are in a similar situation. “
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