The entire world is seeing massive shifts in their day to day life. You don’t need me to tell you that, you are likely going through it every day. The world of football is no different as it faces a suspended season, battles over what to do with player wages, how to keep club staff paid, and the looming questions of how to move forward.
Governing bodies have set high hopes along the way as they continue to move back the goal posts on when the season should resume. The Euro’s have already been postponed for a full year and the Premier League is determined to finish their season, but active cases and rising death totals across the world suggest the return is far from the horizon.
Recently, Matteo Guendouzi took a hard stance on the return of football stating that there should be no return, games, nor practice until this pandemic is stopped. In a chat with TF1 journalist Julien Maynard, he said:
“For me, what I think is most important is to not start things up again, no games, no training, until this epidemic stops. What’s most important is everybody’s health, and not just in the football world, but in the medical world and the world in general. That’s really what’s most important.
“I’m in favour of nothing starting up again until this virus is taken off this world.”
To his credit, it is a very mature statement from a young midfielder that is a part of the age demographic least at risk from COVID-19. Not only is he least at risk, but also at an age where playing time and training within his career will have a huge impact on his future. To willingly set that aside and suggest there should be no playing or training is a pretty selfless statement.
Will that happen? Likely not, but it is an interesting idea because of the timeline that would create for football’s return. That would mean, according to some scientists, a return in the middle of 2021 at the earliest – possibly 2022.
The question at that point, and even a question we can ask now, is “what will football look like when it returns?” If it returns in the next couple of months, it’s not likely to have major alterations. There will be a time period where clubs are a little more frugal, some alterations to their structure to help futureproof against this happening again, and an altered schedule.
But what happens if football is forced to take a year off? Two years off? We will ignore the economic recession side of things, even if that’s nearly impossible to do, and look just at the footballing landscape and players themselves. Taking that kind of time off would see clubs fold, players in their prime miss out on the opportunity to sign their large contracts, prospects would be two years older without any advancement in their game, and contracts would likely be a mess.
Take Arsenal’s current lineup. Leno would be 30, Ozil 33 or 34, Luiz 34, Xhaka 30, Aubameyang 32 or 33, Lacazette 30 essentially lowering their values or ending their careers. Younger players like Pepe, Torreira, Bellerin, or Ceballos would be catapulted into the prime of their career (age wise) without playing a single match. Players like Martinelli, Saka, Willock, Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Guendouzi, and even Tierney would be moved out of the bracket of “youthful prospect” and into an age where they should be making routine starts and have established a high level of consistency to their game.
This doesn’t even touch on the aspects that surround the club itself having to deal with this financially. The longer this goes, the longer they go without a source of income. For a club like Arsenal that already reported a loss, went another year without Champions League qualification, and are slipping down the list of wealthy clubs, these are worrying times.
According to Delloite’s Football Money League 2020 report Arsenal sit in 11th place right between clubs that are financially secure given their participation in Champions League and clubs that are having to get creative in how they restructure themselves to make a push toward that financial security. This certainly creates a worrying aspect for the Gunners and one that is not helped by this current situation.
So what will football be like when it finally returns?