Jurgen Klopp has made another plea to reduce the workload of elite-level players, pointing to the longevity of NFL quarterback Tom Brady as an example.
Earlier this month, legendary quarterback Brady reversed his decision to retire and extended his stay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beyond his 45th birthday.
The 2022 NFL season will be the 23rd of his career, and he is the player with the most Super Bowl wins in history, having made his first start for the New England Patriots at age 24. years in 2001.
Of course, the NFL and football are completely different sports — and, in particular, the physical demands of a quarterback are lower than almost any position in football — but Brady’s longevity inspires Klopp.
Speaking ahead of the fifth international break of the season, the Liverpool manager used the 44-year-old as an example of why football needs to do more to protect players.
“We want to see, at their peak, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing all the time,” he told reporters.
“Or all the other brilliant players, in our team as well, you want to see them playing all the time.
“But it’s actually not possible without getting injured or getting lucky. You can prepare for the best, [but] in the end it’s really hard.
“It’s the same in other sports. But in other contact sports, they all have long breaks in the summer.
“We saw Tom Brady in Manchester talking to Cristiano. He had a four-month break, that’s why he can play until he’s 54 or whatever.
“Among contact sports, football is the only sport without respite for players.
“OK, if we want it to be like this, we have to make sure that these top players have a better chance of having a career of 15, 16, 17 years.”
Two of the key points Klopp has made when it comes to reducing player workloads are introducing five Premier League substitutes and avoiding international friendlies where possible.
The Liverpool manager has been a strong supporter of the five cent rule but has faced opposition from other managers, namely Burnley’s Sean Dyche.
“I know it’s a tradition with three subs and stuff like that, it’s fine, but the game has developed extremely and that’s why I’m sure it should be like that,” Klopp continued. .
“And the funny part is that we only discuss it in this country as an advantage for the top teams.
“All the teams that are now at the bottom of the table, I’m really sorry, they are now there with three substitutes and they would be there with five substitutes.
“It has nothing to do with it, but it helps all the players.
“Teams that play one game a week tell us: ‘For me, it’s fine’. We’re not talking about you in the first place, we’re talking about the players who don’t have an international break.
“Because I have a week off next week and, I’m not sure, Scotland would have a week off because they don’t have qualifying – and now they’re having friendlies.
“Boom, ‘just play them’. That’s how it is.
“We just have to make sure that we really protect the most important ingredients in this game – and that’s the players and no one else.”
A popular argument against changes to the fabric of the English game, such as with the five cent rule, is that in the past top players could play every week without issue.
For example, Liverpool legend Phil Neal went six seasons without missing a game and played 650 times for the club. However, Neal’s career spanned the late 1960s through the late 1980s, not the modern era.
“When I watch games from when I played, it’s not me playing but the time, it feels like slow motion,” Klopp continued.
“And we were already exhausted by then when the game ended, but it feels like slow motion.
“Everything is faster in this game. Take a look at these [old] games: brilliant players, bad shots, bad balls, all those kinds of things, it was unbelievable.
“All the players who were world class at that time would be world class now, but the physical level is so different. The players are trained better.
“It’s a bit like medicine. In medicine, you have a diagnosis quite early, you know that, but the treatment is not there yet.
“We know what it’s like, ‘OK, what can we do? Let’s see’. It’s exactly the same now [in football].”