International breaks are insufferable for many Madridistas. This past week, 12 first-team players left Valdebebas for national team duties. Even though the Club promotes these players showcasing their talents on that stage, it is a double-edged sword. When a Liga title comes down to the wire, points lost are magnified. This past decade, Real Madrid let not one, or two, but three Liga titles slip through their fingers because of international breaks.
Ever since 2013, FIFA instituted four international breaks during the league season. Three breaks occur between September and November and a final one in March. While half the Real Madrid team is away for 10 days, domestic opponents with their full squad spend those two weeks preparing for the Liga fixture against Real Madrid immediately following the break. The table below paints the depressing picture:
The only years this decade when Real Madrid had a perfect record after the international break was in 2012 and 2017. Coincidentally, these were the last two Liga titles won by Los Blancos.
While the Club prides itself in housing the best international players in the world, the price is paid dearly during these fixtures. One prominent example of a fundamental player who suffers this double duty is Brazilian midfielder Casemiro. During the break last month, he flew to the United States to play in two exhibitions for the national team in Miami and Los Angeles. He returned to Madrid on a Thursday morning with less than 48 hours to rest and prepare (mentally and physically) to start in the game against Levante on a Saturday afternoon. There are other top starters who share this burden and unfortunately are susceptible to poor play if called upon to start these games.
Despite the recent European and international glory, the Club should explore a different formula to win La Liga. Creating a base of eight to nine players who compete exclusively in La Liga is a step in the right direction. The Champions League tournament should be left exclusively to the top international players as those fixtures are spread out further and opposing teams have similar national team level talent. The last season when Real Madrid won the Double (Champions League and Liga titles won) was 2016 - 2017. During that magical season, 20 players registered over 1,000 total game minutes each. Rotations were key to winning those two titles. The possibility to build a Liga dynasty while maintaining a top-flight program to win Champions League is there. Does the Club have enough ambition to change course domestically? We shall see. ¡Hala Madrid y nada más!
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)