Neymar has suggested that the World Cup in Qatar next year is likely to be his last and Thibaut Courtois has slammed UEFA and FIFA over player welfare at the Nations League. Amid all the talk of a biennial World Cup, this fightback from players over football’s chaotic schedule could be the thing that stops Arsene Wenger’s plan in its tracks.
"I think it  will be my last World Cup," Neymar said. "I am facing it like the last World Cup because I don't know whether I will be able, mentally, to endure more soccer."
As one of the most entertaining players on the planet, Neymar has a big influence on the game. The Brazilian is now just 29, but given the amount of games he has played since bursting onto the scene as a 17-year-old, his fatigue is understandable. For those in charge of the game with dollar signs in their eyes, more games and more tournaments makes perfect sense, but for the players and the fans, it doesn’t.
Additional football means that the quality of the games goes down and players are more likely to suffer serious injuries. Doubling how often a World Cup takes place completely dilutes the product and surely all elite players will be against the idea. Just like the Super League, it is going to take fans and players speaking out against it for the idea to be stopped.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtois was also left disgusted having played in Belgium’s Nations League third-place play-off. "It's just a money game, and we have to be honest about it," he said.
"For UEFA, it's extra money and it's an extra game because it's on TV. Of course everyone wants to play, but look at how much both teams changed. If the teams had been in the final, there would have been other players playing. This just shows that we play too many games. Next year we have a World Cup in November, we'll have to play until the latter stages of June again," Courtois continued.
We will get injured. Nobody cares about the players. In June, after a long season, you'll have to play four games in the Nations League, you'll get two weeks holiday. That's not enough for players to continue for 12 months at the highest level. If we never say anything, it's always the same.
Thibaut Courtois accused UEFA and FIFA of prioritising money over player welfare after Belgium were beaten 2-1 by Italy in the Nations League third-place play-off.
The Nations League as a concept is a brilliant way for international teams to play fellow teams of a similar quality, allowing them to improve and provide a pathway to major tournaments. But when you combine the potential for an additional World Cup and the fact that the Champions League group stages are being extended from 2024, players will not get any time off at all.
Football’s schedule has already tipped towards insanity, and the changes to the Champions League and World Cup are likely to tip it over the edge. With greed at the centre of these changes, the only ones who are going to be able to stop it are the players.
It feels as though this could be the start of the tide turning. Courtois and Neymar’s words may just be the beginning of a wider player fightback against those running the game. Without the players, there is no football.