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Man United star Raphael Varane slams FA for ‘refusing’ to listen to players | Football News

Global football is facing huge issues in terms of increasingly concentrated and heavy schedules, with athletes playing more and more matches in smaller timeframes. The 2022/23 season was perhaps the worst culprit yet, with the two-month window cut out for the Qatar World Cup in November and December last year forcing top professionals to play an incredible number of games with very little opportunity to take a breath.

Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vini Jr. (L) fights for the ball with Manchester United's French defender Raphael Varane(AFP)
Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vini Jr. (L) fights for the ball with Manchester United’s French defender Raphael Varane(AFP)

Manchester United were one of the worst-affected teams, playing in over 60 matches across 4 competitions, and having a roster of players who were largely all present at the World Cup. Their defender Raphael Varane has become the latest player to speak out against the inflexibility and the weight of the number of matches, releasing a statement on his social media channels to call out how football governance bodies are taking the health and safety of their players for granted.

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This comes in response to the British FA announcing that they would place “World Cup-like” stoppage time in matches in their competitions, extending the period added on in matches to upwards of 6 or 7 minutes. Varane didn’t mince words when criticising the FA’s decision, calling them out for actively ignoring pleas from the PFA players’ union.

In his statement, Varane wrote: “We had a meeting last week with the FA. They recommended from the referees new decisions and rules. From the managers and players, we have shared our concerns for many years now that there are too many games, the schedule is overcrowded, and it’s at a dangerous level for players’ physical and mental well-being.”

“Despite our previous feedbacks, they have now recommended for next season: longer games, more intensity, and less emotions to be shown by players,” continued the Frenchman. “We just want to be in good condition on the pitch to give 100% to our club and fans. Why are our opinions not being heard?”

The 2018 champion missed the Qatar World Cup as a result of an injury sustained in the build-up to the tournament, with United in particular struggling with the heavy weight of fixtures. Between October and March, United were forced into playing 2 matches in every week, leading to injuries for important players such as Lisandro Martinez, Anthony Martial, and Antony.

Varane, who begins his third season at United, continued to demand more care given by the FA in their decision-making. “As a player I feel very privileged to do the job I love every day but I feel these changes are damaging our game. We want to be at our maximum level, the best we can be and put on amazing performances for fans to celebrate every week. I believe it is important that we, players and managers, highlight these important issues as we want to protect the game we love and give the fans our best,” concluded the former Real Madrid man.

The first example of the FA’s new extended injury time rule was in action during the Community Shield, where 10 minutes were added on. Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard took advantage, scoring the equaliser in the 11th minute of stoppage time. Arsenal would go on to beat Manchester City, after which City manager Pep Guardiola would complain, “If the new regulations are continued, matches will go on till the next morning.”

Top teams like United are expected to play a minimum of 46 matches in a 40-week window, but that number is often further inflated by deep runs in cup competitions. United won the Carabao Cup and reached the FA Cup final, as well as having to play the newly-added round of 32 tie in the Europa League.

Alongside Varane and Guardiola, high-profile figures such as Jurgen Klopp have also complained about the tightness of the schedule being unforgiving and leading to more injuries, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears. Many view the FA’s actions as putting players at risk in the name of more matches and profit, and with football calendars reaching the point of crisis, Varane leads what is sure to be a powerful battle against the sport’s rulemakers.

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