We ask this same question almost every time the international games come around: should players be allowed to remain with the national squads when clearly there are injury or fitness issues that exclude them from playing?
Despite Gareth Bale having come off the pitch ten minutes from the end of the Alavés game with muscle fatigue, he still travelled to meet up with the Welsh national squad.
Julen Lopetegui must be wondering what on earth is happening. On arrival in Wales Gareth was immediately ruled out of making an appearance against his Real team mates on Thursday and at that time was reported to have only a 50 - 50 chance of playing in Wales’ second international this Tuesday against Ireland.
Finally some common sense has prevailed and Gareth will be returning to Madrid on Monday; but it’s still almost unbelievable that he’s been in Wales for more than a week after such a negative prognosis from the Wales medical team.
You have to ask whether there was any point in Gareth staying with the Welsh squad as long as he did once the decision not to risk him in either of the two games had been taken.
It doesn’t seem as though much has changed since this time last year when we were looking at Zinedine Zidane worrying about players going away with the national teams and returning injured!
This time around it’s Julen Lopetegui who will be keeping an eye on his mobile phone for updates.
Like last term, Real Madrid haven’t started too well; and with the injuries that have been sustained already this season to Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, and latterly Karim Benzema to name but three, Madrid’s coach is finding himself in much the same situation as Zidane did a year ago.
He’s also waiting for updates on Raphaël Varane who was withdrawn in France’s game against Iceland the other day and with more matches to come can only wait and hope that nobody else in the Real Madrid squad returns injured.
The difficulty clubs have when players are away with their national teams often lies in conflicting medical opinions between club and international medical staff.
The argument that the club management know their players better than anyone else is often challenged by the various football federations who insist that an examination from the international medical people provides another opinion.
We are often told that a “fresh pair of eyes won’t do any harm” and I can see this argument from both sides; but the last thing any coach needs is for players to be away and still come back unfit at the end of the period.
I can remember when the Croatian Federation were blaming Real Madrid for Luka Modrić’s injuries a few seasons ago; but since then it appears that whenever these international weeks come around the countries are quick to call their players up even when fitness levels are clearly in doubt.
Gareth Bale clearly wants to play for his country and is undoubtedly patriotic from that aspect. But although he probably won’t want to admit it, perhaps Zinedine Zidane’s selection policies last season were right after all.
Maybe Gareth’s playing schedule needs to be managed in such a way that allows him a lot more time for rest and recovery instead of playing in successive matches week in week out; something that won’t go down too well with Gareth at the present time.
But there will be a strong case for him not travelling with Wales for future internationals if he shows even the slightest niggle beforehand.
If that situation arises then clearly the preferred option from the club’s point of view would be for Gareth to stay in Madrid and work on his fitness.
Julen Lopetegui is having a hard enough time as it is at the moment as we all know; but at least he doesn’t have having to stand by anymore and wait for the call to say that Gareth isn’t really that much further forward in terms of fitness than he was a week ago.
Although he’ll be able to assess Gareth’s fitness levels for himself along with Madrid’s medical staff, the real question is whether any injured players should be away in the first place - particularly in Gareth’s case when he didn’t see out the ninety minutes in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Coming off the field early as opposed to completing the ninety minutes is surely enough of a cause for concern at any stage of the season.