Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez spoke yesterday of his frustration at the latest mess-up to his plans to be caused by international games.
Rafa has already spoken of how unjust he finds it to have players involved in internationals as late as Wednesday night when Liverpool have a game to play a couple of days later on the Saturday lunchtime. The same problem will occur this weekend, although there's a slightly later kick-off on Saturday. Not that those couple of hours makes much of a difference.
This time, on top of that lack of preparation, comes a big worry over striker Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt was injured on international duty for the Dutch at the weekend and their coach Marco van Basten admitted he was doubtful for their Wednesday night fixture. What frustrates Rafa is that he senses Kuyt is far from being fully fit but will be forced to play if the Dutch feel it's worth a risk. Perhaps even more frustrating for Rafa is that he's not a part of the decision-making process over a player who Liverpool need to get more than one game out of.
Rafa told the Liverpool Echo of his annoyance: "If Kuyt is a doubt for Wednesday, it means he is not fit. They were talking about seeing if he can play. If he plays, he may miss the next three or four games for Liverpool, including Blackburn, the Champions League and Manchester United."
Rafa has managed to get LFC's Dr Waller to speak to the Dutch medical staff, but clearly doesn't feel happy: "Our doctor spoke to the Dutch doctor yesterday and they said he would have a scan."
Rafa wants the international federations to start paying for the use of club players. There's an argument that smaller countries couldn't afford to do this, but the larger nations certainly could, especially the most successful ones. FIFA and UEFA though would be able to deal with that by allocating prize money and sponsorship funds in a different way. Rafa said: "When people talk about the national teams, no-one ever talks about the money they make; it's always about the pride of playing for your country. Last season we had a situation where Riise was injured in a friendly for Norway and missed the Champions League game with Benfica. Where was our compensation? The national associations should pay. I believe they should pay 50 per cent of a player's wage when they play for their country, and 100 per cent if they are injured, for as long as they can't play a competitive game."
What's even more frustrating for Rafa is that some of his players, the Spanish ones, won't be back at training until Thursday afternoon. Not because of a competitive match, because of a friendly. He's got an answer to what might stop this happening: "Spain are playing a friendly with Argentina on Wednesday? Why? Maybe it would be different if they had to pay fifty percent of their salaries."
Another solution is to switch around the way the games are played. Instead of giving the national teams a week to prepare there should be a week for the club sides to get their players back to fitness and involved in preparation for the next club game: "We will have two days to work with the players before the game on Saturday. Instead of playing a game on Saturday and Wednesday, they should be playing Wednesday and then Saturday, so we still have a week to prepare."
Unfortunately for Rafa this seems unlikely to happen. For most Liverpool fans LFC come first before their country, no matter how patriotic they are, but for the likes of FIFA and UEFA club games aren't really all that important, certainly domestic club games. The fact is that it's difficult to keep national managers and club managers happy. The idea of an international calendar came about because some clubs would be penalised more than others due to some nations playing games at totally different times to each other. The international calendar is a good first step, but it doesn't solve all the problems. With Rafa showing his dislike so much of late, perhaps Liverpool will mention it the next time the G14 meet up.