The 10 World Cup players with the most minutes this season: Kante, KDB, Messi
While the tournament is the home to some of the best players in the world, it is also a test of how players can keep fresh following long campaigns at club level.
We’ve looked at the 10 players to have played the most minutes for their clubs this season from the eight tournament favourites – Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, Argentina, Belgium, England and Portugal – to see who may be at risk of burnout.
10. N’Golo Kante – 4,177 minutes
Edging out the likes of Hector Bellerin, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Florian Thauvin, Kante has endured a tireless past few seasons.
Kante was the dynamo in Leicester midfield as they stunned the Premier League before making it back-to-back title wins in his first season at Chelsea.
This season has been more difficult at Stamford Bridge but the 27-year-old proved in the FA Cup final that he still has the energy to disrupt and frustrate the opposition.
9. Roberto Firmino – 4,188 minutes
“He’s a footballer, from his head to his toes,” Jurgen Klopp said after Firmino penned a new Liverpool contract last month. “He enjoys playing and he’s not bothered about hard work which is another important thing.”
Klopp went on to add: “I often think that because he doesn’t give himself a rest I have to do it from time to time. That’s all good and how football should be.”
The Liverpool boss may be conscious of overplaying Firmino, but the Brazilian’s thirst for work has meant the forward has rarely needed a rest as he spearheaded the Reds’ attack, scoring 27 goals in all competitions and often setting the tone for Klopp’s intense pressing game.
🇧🇷| Roberto Firmino joined Brazil squad 30 hours earlier than he was supposed to:
🗣Firmino "It's always a dream to represent my country and to be part of the World Cup squad. I came running as soon as I could. No I didn't run, I took the train actually." #LFC pic.twitter.com/4vrqCgYcHE
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) May 29, 2018
8. Kevin De Bruyne – 4,189 minutes
We won’t get into whether De Bruyne was or was not the best player in the Premier League, but let’s just all agree he was pretty bloody special.
After inspiring Manchester City to the title, Belgium’s hopes now rest on De Bruyne replicating his form and supplying the killer passes for that sublime attack.
7. Jan Vertonghen – 4,286 minutes
If De Bruyne is the man to unlock Belgium’s attack, Vertonghen will be tasked with keeping things tight at the back and is coming off arguably his best season for Tottenham.
With Roberto Martinez in charge, Belgium have deployed a back three in recent fixtures, allowing Vertonghen to play in his more natural position of centre-back rather than left-back.
6. Gelson Martins – 4,368 minutes
Perennially linked with a move to the Premier League for the last few seasons, Martins enjoyed his best season for Sporting Lisbon in 2017-18, scoring 13 goals and providing 13 assists in all competitions.
Expect the rumour mill to go into overdrive this summer if Martins brings that form into the World Cup.
5. Lionel Messi – 4,468 minutes
You may have heard of him. Quite good, isn’t he?
To say the pressure is on Messi in what could be his final World Cup is quite the understatement – and he will have to produce the goods having made more La Liga appearance than all bar two of the seasons in his career.
Naming the finalists of the World Cup is pretty tough, but with Messi knowing this could be his last shot it would take a brave man to bet against him.
Lionel Messi scored more goals (45) across all competitions in 2017/18 than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.
The Man with the Golden Hoofs. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/q12jjNkvxG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 27, 2018
4. Bruno Fernandes – 4,707 minutes
Having finished 10 points behind Primeira Liga winners Porto in third, Sporting Lisbon may be starting to regret running some of their players into the ground.
Attacking midfielder Fernandes made 56 appearances in all competitions, scoring 16 goals, breaking into the Portugal set-up and winning his first cap in November.
Bruno Fernandes this season:
– transfer to Sporting CP for 10M€ (Sporting's second most expensive transfer ever) 💰
– 56 games ✅
– 16 goals ⚽️
– 20 assists 🅰️
– international debut 🇵🇹
– World Cup call-up 🌍
Dream year. pic.twitter.com/vVjweLuHMS
— FootballTalentScout (@FTalentScout) May 23, 2018
3. Cesar Azpilicueta – 4,725 minutes
The second Chelsea player in this list and the first of two Spain men to feature in the top three.
Azpilicueta played every minute of Chelsea’s title triumph last term and missed just one Premier League game this season while being an ever-present in the Champions League.
2. Saul Niguez – 4,751 minutes
Iniesta, Koke, Isco, Thiago, Asensio, Silva, Busquets and Saul – it’s enough to make you weep, and that’s without mentioning the fact they could afford to leave Cesc Fabregas at home.
Koke – who also played over 4,000 minutes – and Saul have both played their part in mammoth seasons for Atletico Madrid, having helped the club recover from failing to make it out of their Champions League group by winning the Europa League.
1. Adil Rami – 4,814 minutes
A surprise name at the top of the list given he is now 32-years-old, but Rami is coming off the back of his joint-busiest season after making 53 appearances in all competitions as Marseille reached the Europa League final.
Going out with Pamela Anderson – yes, really – seems to have given the defender a new lease of life.