England go into the rescheduled Euro 2020 with the most top-level experience this season – but will it be a benefit or is burnout a risk?
The Covid-19 pandemic not only saw the tournament postponed from last summer but also led to a stoppage in domestic leagues, with the knock-on effect of a late start to the 2020-21 season and a compressed schedule.
The PA news agency has taken the season’s appearance data from league and UEFA competitions to compare the 24 squads, with England’s players top of the pile having played 77,438 minutes of football across those competitions.
That is almost 3,500 minutes more than second-placed Portugal – a difference of 39 matches, more than an ever-present player in a 20-team league.
While Gareth Southgate will undoubtedly be pleased to see his side in regular top-level action, there will be concerns over the physical toll on his players.
Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire were named in the squad despite injury concerns – albeit the result of an awkward fall in the case of the latter – while Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss the tournament with a thigh injury suffered in the warm-up friendly against Austria and Jack Grealish, who missed a stretch of Aston Villa’s season through injury, finished that game with a conspicuous ice-pack on his calf.
The top eight nations in terms of playing time largely comprise the tournament favourites – Portugal are followed by France, Holland and Germany, all over 70,000 minutes, then Italy, Spain and Belgium in that order with the Red Devils on 56,376.
All of those appearances came in top-level leagues ranked in the top 10 in UEFA’s national coefficients – with the sole exception of Holland goalkeeper Tim Krul, who made 36 appearances totalling 3,190 minutes in Norwich’s Championship-winning campaign – plus the Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup.
Several of those nations, including England, drew all their league appearances from leagues in Europe’s “big five” – the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, LaLiga and Ligue 1.
Portugal have 14,847 minutes from their own domestic league, Holland have 28,542 domestically in addition to Krul in the Championship and Quincy Promes’ 893 minutes for Russian Premier Liga side Spartak Moscow, while Belgium have 8,885 minutes in their own league and the Portuguese Primeira Liga combined.
The top 10 players by minutes include five goalkeepers, led by Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois with 4,500 for Real Madrid, while Bruno Fernandes is the leading outfield player with 4,280 for Manchester United.
The other outfielders in the top 10 include one each from the home nations – Scotland captain Andy Robertson, Wales full-back Connor Roberts and Maguire – as well as another Portugal player from the Premier League in Manchester City defender Ruben Dias. Like Krul, Swansea’s Roberts played his football in the Championship.
Alexander-Arnold was third among England players with 3,742 minutes played, just behind Marcus Rashford who was troubled by a foot injury in the latter stages of United’s campaign.
Scotland had 30,344 minutes across those top 10 leagues and UEFA competition, led by Robertson, Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn and United’s Scott McTominay, while Ethan Ampadu was the biggest contributor to Wales’ 11,578 at that level. Both were well represented in the Championship, and Scotland in their domestic Premiership.
Finland and North Macedonia had the lowest representation in those top leagues, with Hungary also below 20,000 minutes.