When a player with Jude Bellingham’s engine mentions player fatigue and admits himself to feeling the strain, you know there is an issue to be looked into. The Borussia Dortmund midfield dynamo is a player who goes to the limit in every game, but the signs are there that even he is beginning to feel the strain of this current period of non-stop football.
The sight of Bellingham increasingly berating the lineman against Sevilla in the Champions League was an early indication that all was not well with the 19-year-old. The BVB team as a whole didn’t produce their best performance and the Englishman explained perhaps why that was the case after the final whistle.
“The strain is taking its toll on me personally. I didn’t feel good before the game. I was very, very tired after the game. I was not mentally as sharp as in the previous game [versus Bayern] which took a lot of strength physically and mentally.
Bellingham has played in every single minute of Dortmund’s matches this season (Bundesliga and Champions League) as well as playing the entire 90 minutes for England during both their recent Nations Cup fixtures. Now wonder he has referred to it as “freak season.”
With the World Cup in Qatar being played mid-season in November, fixtures are being squeezed in so that the bigger clubs are playing two matches every week virtually.
The concern raised by Bellingham has been echoed by teammate Julian Brandt and other top coaches. “Personally, I regenerate pretty well, but when I see some guys at the training ground or after the games, I have to say that they’re pretty close to the limit” Brandt explained recently.
“Football is only really good when the best are on the field,” Jürgen Klopp said in a Kicker interview. “There is only one direction this leads to – and that is against the wall.”
Oliver Glasner, coach of Champions League participant Eintracht Frankfurt, said: “The limit is exceeded.” And Leipzig’s Marco Rose said: “When you see our national players, then of course you have to say that it’s too much for the boys and that at some point they will reach their limits.”
Of course fans want to see as much football as they can, but if the product suffers as a result of over-playing then it is self-defeating. The crazy decision to award the World Cup to Qatar knowing they couldn’t stage it in the summer has been widely documented, but the way things are going the actual quality of the World Cup will suffer with players missing out because of injuries or simply not being at their sharpest going into the finals tournament.
Bellingham is Dortmund’s very own ‘Duracell Bunny,’ but when even he starts to wilt there is a problem. The show must go on, but what happens when the show has no actors left?