Jurgen Klopp has made another plea to reduce the workload of elite-level players, highlighting 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 to beyond his 45th birthday.
The 2022 NFL season will be the 23rd of his career, and he stands as the player with the most Super Bowl victories in history, having made his first start for the New England Patriots as a 24-year-old in 2001.
Of course, NFL and football are completely different sports – and, in particular, the physical demands on a quarterback are less than almost any position in football – but Brady’s longevity is inspiring to Klopp.
Speaking ahead of the fifth international break of the season, the Liverpool manager used the 44-year-old as an example for why football needs to do more to protect players.
“We want to see, in their prime, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing all the time,” he told reporters.
“Or every other brilliant player, in our team as well, you want to see them playing all the time.
“But that’s actually not possible without getting injured or being lucky. You can prepare yourself as good as possible, [but] in the end it’s really tough.
“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.
“Of contact sports, football is the only sport with no break for players.
“OK, if we want to have it like this, we have to make sure these top-class players get a better chance to have a 15, 16, 17-year career.”
Two of the key points Klopp made when it comes to reducing the workload on players is the introduction of five substitutes for the Premier League and the avoidance of international friendlies where possible.
The Liverpool manager has been a vocal proponent of the five sub rule, but has been met with opposition from other coaches, namely Burnley‘s Sean Dyche.
“I know it’s a tradition with three subs and stuff like this, it’s fine, but the game developed extremely and that’s why I’m sure it should be like this,” Klopp continued.
“And the fun part of it is we only discuss it in this country as an advantage for the better sides.
“All the teams who are now at the bottom of the table, I’m really sorry, they are now there with three subs and they would be there with five subs.
“That’s nothing to do with it, but it helps all the players.
“The teams who play one game a week tell us: ‘For me, it’s OK’. We talk not about you in the first place, we talk about the players who have no 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 qualifiers – and now they organise friendly games.
“Boom, ‘just play them’. That’s how it is.
“We just have to make sure that we really protect the most important ingredients of this game – and that’s the players and nobody else.”
One popular argument against changes to the fabric of the English game, such as with the five sub rule, is that, in the past, top-level players were able to play every week with no issue.
For example, Liverpool legend Phil Neal went six seasons without missing a single game and would go on to play 650 times for the club – however, Neal’s career spanned the late 1960s to the late 1980s, not the modern era.
“When I watch games from when I played, not me playing but the time, it looks like slow-motion,” Klopp continued.
“And we were already exhausted at that time when the game was finished, but it looks like slow-motion.
“Everything is quicker in this game. Have a look at these [old] games: brilliant players, bad pitches, bad balls, all these 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. Players are better trained.
“It’s a little bit like medicine. In medicine, you have pretty early a diagnosis, you know that, but the treatment is not there yet.
“We know what it is, ‘OK, what can we do? Let’s see’. It’s exactly now the same [in football].”