Soccer Magazine

The Main Reason Why South American Footballers Aren’t Successful In Europe

By Simplyfutb01 @simplyjuan11

Tired soccer playerAtlético Nacional is in the middle of a terrible slump after their big win against Peñarol in Copa Libertadores. Their 2-2 draw against Huila yet again confirmed that the club was one that had one of the most explosive offenses in South American football; but their defense has the solidity of watered down Jell-o.

My article is not about the performance of Nacional, instead it is more about the encapsulation of what is wrong with the mentality of South American footballers right now. After the match, embattled coach Santiago Escobar went out and defended the players only to make them look even worse.

Sachi went out and defended the players because they had a hectic schedule as they are fighting three front this semester. “The players have lots on their minds and they are overlooking these types of matches. The players are tired and have to be given a break.”  He was babying a group of players that were one of the biggest investments in South American football and the patience is running very thin.

Using the fatigue card just exacerbated things that much more.  That excuse does not bode well in a country where the minimum wage is $500,000 per month (US$ 284.41).

If there is a problem with South American players it’s exactly that. There is a great issue in several leagues where players are claiming fatigue by playing only one match per week. At the same time several players at clubs like Nacional are looking to take the next big step and play in Europe.

“You’re kidding me, right?” should be the first thing that should have been coming out of the mouths of many of you.

One of the things that players have to condition themselves to do if they want to head over to Europe is be physically and mentally prepared to play essentially every 72 hours.  Between league, cup and even (if you are lucky to be in it) European competitions players do not have time for fitness.

A few years ago I saw an interview with Sergio Agüero and he talked about the biggest adaptation that he had to make from playing at Independiente to Atlético Madrid was the amount of matches that he had to play.  He was talking about the lack of fitness that teams in Europe need to undergo during the season because they virtually play two times a week.

This attitude is being propelled all throughout South America, save for Brazil who have only one month off in between the end of the Brasileirão and the beginning of the Estadaduais (state tournaments).   Santos super star Neymar endured a hectic schedule the past two years as he  played 116 matches in all competitions.  That comes out to a match a week for two years straight.  

Of course, for us to say something from the outside is preposterous.  It is obvious that a footballer’s life is one that is full of dedication for body, mind and career.  There are no breaks and a drop in fitness or form can spell the end of a career and paycheck.  We are always aware of the Ronaldo and Messi money, but they are part of the 0.1%.  Most players in South America make enough to be able to feed their families- when they do get paid.

All in all, it does come from fitness, but it also comes from a mindset of complacency that has them believe that their talent alone will get them to Europe.  In part they are right.  There are players that have so much talent, they will catch the eyes of several teams.

I have a partner at work that gave me a great saying that is very true regarding the Colombian footballer.  ”(Colombian) players are like avocados.  We ripen them up by using newspapers.”   The media tell them how good they are and talk about what they will do once they hit the Old Continent.  They place them on these pedestals and truly have no one to guide them in the appropriate way, thus believing all the hype.  Many players believe that less is more and that they are good enough to take that next step.   That example is not just for Colombian players only.  I could truly put a (fill in the blank) and add most South American leagues and they would fit in as of right now.

There are few individuals or clubs looking out for the best interest of many of these players. Their maturity level might not deem them ready for a big jump.  Clubs are not caring about the well-being of the players.  As soon as they are able to score a couple of times, the goal is to sell them to the highest bidder as soon as possible- regardless of what might happen to them in the process.

The problem with all this about propping young players is that as soon as they fall, the collective triumvirate (fans, media and friends) are not there to catch them.  Instead, the same groups that called a players the “next big thing” all of a sudden look at him as the worst individual out there.

As well as not mentally preparing players for the rigors of the game, clubs also failing to help bring youngsters in with a more professional atitude towards the game.  Things such as time management and even nutrition are not even discussed at clubs in South America.  Very few are the ones that keep tabs on these aspects of the fitness aspect of player preparation.

So players complaining about fatigue just a month and a half into season tells many that there is something wrong.  The problem is where the blame should lie.  Is it deserved of the players who might work hard but their preparation is off significantly?

Or is the big issue at the organizational level?  Is it the coaches, administration and economic situation of the game at this point that really complicates things for a player to reach their potential?

One thing is for sure, most of South American football is now using this particular excuse as a crutch.  Yet another crutch that continues to preserve the regression that the game has suffered in a region that was at the vanguard at one point.

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