Matt’s Monday Musings: A new series that I (Matt) am embarking on every Monday. Some weeks may be long form, others just short anecdotal thoughts. Either way, I’ll be posting reflective content on the current on goings of the club:
How long do players really need to rest?
Ah the off-season, a time to reflect and recharge ahead of the next 9-10 months of competitive football. Some fans will joke that the best thing a player like Vinicius Junior could do in the off-season, remembering that this is a player who has played over 4,200 minutes and traveled from Europe to South America on multiple occasions, is to literally do nothing. To sit on a beach, disconnect, and barely raise a finger.
But, that would actually do more harm than good. A study from University of Copenhagen found that it takes only 2 weeks of no physical activity to lose “significant” muscle mass and for an athlete’s V02 max (measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise) to drop by 10% or more. Barcelona’s “innovation hub”, a department within the Catalan club dedicated to using data and science to enhance knowledge of the game, produced the following on player rest:
So rather than rest completely, players should focus on mentally disconnecting. The off-season should be used as a time to “get away” - a vacation in a new part of the world, time with friends and family, experience other sports like tennis or basketball. The key is to rest the mind. The mind needs a break from the constant pressures of the professional football world, but the body has to continue to maintain a good level of activity.
Thus the off season is an opportunity. An opportunity to work muscles that elite athletes may not be able to train in the middle of the season. Ramos said as much during the COVID lockdown in April 2020: “I’m in better condition now than I usually am during the middle of the season because then you are playing once every three days and you don’t have time to work, you only rest. I’m stronger - working different muscles. We knew that this was going to be long but now we see the end of the tunnel and are relaxing a bit so that we don’t come back with too much muscle”.
So Vinicius Junior and the rest of the Real Madrid squad have earned a well deserved rest, but not a total shut down.
Living in the present
Marcelo officially announced his departure from Real Madrid this morning. The legend will be leaving through the front door. Despite Marcelo spending 16 years at Real Madrid, his peak came and went in the blink of an eye. For 5-6 years, from 2011-2017, Marcelo was the best left back in the world. He was a playmaker from deep, an x-factor in the offense, he had a deceiving change of pace that could break lines when carrying the ball, and the overall fluidness of his game was unparalleled.
But this is not a Marcelo farewell piece, instead, I would like to focus on enjoying the current crop of players entering their peak. How long will Vinicius be this explosive? Will it be 5 years or 10 years? Can Fede run until his legs give out for another decade? Time will tell, but we should not take for granted the current versions of these players. It may be gone in a blink of an eye. History has shown us that football is impossible to predict. Savor the moment, savor these players rising into their peaks - they may not be the same version of themselves in 5-7 years. This moment in time will come and go quicker than we all expect.