FIFA Virus: The Victim Diaries

The killing factor. If you look closer, you might see Sepp Blatter’s reflection.

It’s this time of the year again. The temperature outdoor reaches new lows; the cold wind starts blowing from the East; the Sun shuts down – and the footballers’ health goes to shit. Like a little kid, bringing a nasty mutation of common cold home to disrupt their parents’ life for a gruesome week – FIFA, the malevolent organisation under a process of persecution, brings their own, international virus and implants it in the bodies of helpless players. There is literally no escape from it: if you’re a top-class club manager, every now and then, you have to resign yourself to the fact that your key player will give in to an abstract sense of duty to his country and he’ll then receive a body blow in exchange for his loyalty – all, while he’s being paid and nurtured back to health by you. Often times, there’s not even any national-team trophy that would justify such trouble. Depressing, isn’t it?

This year, the F1F4 breed is much stronger than H5N1 or SARS. Even stronger than Ebola. It’s been only a week and the outbreak has infected more than a dozen of European starlets. Those below are only the most shocking samples: but think also about Nemanja Matić, Kevin Trapp, Fabio Coentrão, Shay Given… Even Luka Modrić and Paul Pogba were close to bringing their fans to heart attacks before the physios confirmed they were actually fine. It keeps repeating, it keeps frustrating everyone and it’s getting worse – while nobody in Zürich is willing to address it in any way. So, while inviting you to read the newest chapter of FIFA Virus Diaries, I’m also wondering: when will this epidemy be cured completely? Or, rather: are we really doomed to suffer from it forever – exactly as we’re suffering from a common cold?

Case #1

Victim’s Name: Sergio Agüero
Date of Infection: October 8th 2015
Exact Time: 22 minutes inside a game vs Ecuador (WC 2018 quals)
Circumstances: chasing the ball at full speed and stopping abruptly
Type of Infection: muscle injury (thigh)
Expected Break: 6-8 weeks
Games to Miss: 6 (including Sevilla and Man Utd)
Impact Factor: 9/10; Agüero was easily City’s best finisher

Few days after his five-goal frenzy against Newcastle; few days before the highlight derby against Manchester United. Agüero seemed like one of the few Premier League players good enough to join Real Madrid or FC Barcelona in the foreseeable future. And now, it’s over – he was the first star to contract the FIFA Virus during this outbreak. It seems that when it comes to scoring goals, De Bruyne and Wilfried Bony will have to do it alone.

Case #2

Victim’s Name: Mario Götze
Date of Infection: October 8th 2015
Exact Time: 35 minutes inside a game vs Ireland (EURO 2016 quals)
Circumstances: getting kicked by the opponent in a duel
Type of Infection: groin injury
Expected Break: 10-12 weeks
Games to Miss: 14 (including Arsenal, Wolfsburg, Schalke and Gladbach)
Impact Factor: 6/10; Götze was in a good shape but can be replaced

Unlike Lewandowski or Douglas Costa, Mario hasn’t been the crucial player for FC Bayern recently. However, a long and nagging injury will surely annoy Pep Guardiola anyway; after all, he had so many of them during his spell at Allianz Arena. It’s almost as if the fate hated the prospect of Bavarians having a clean bill of health; just before Götze’s injury, both Ribéry and Robben started to return to their normal fitness.

Case #3

Victim’s Name: Branislav Ivanović
Date of Infection: October 8th 2015
Exact Time: 65 minutes inside a game vs Albania (EURO 2016 quals)
Circumstances: experiencing pain without any contact
Type of Infection: tendon injury (hamstring)
Expected Break: 1-2 weeks
Games to Miss: 2 (Aston Villa, Dynamo Kyiv)
Impact Factor: –2/10; Ivanović was simply horrendous this season

He’s been playing so badly these days, Chelsea fans on Twitter actually, unironically expressed the relief after the guys’ knock against Albania. Ivanović, known this season for being a kamikaze winger and the man brutally skinned by his compatriot Dušan Tadić, will finally get some rest to rethink his performance. And Chelsea? They have a choice of playing Zouma, Ramires or Azpilicueta in the Serb’s position.

Case #4

Victim’s Name: Karim Benzema
Date of Infection: October 8th 2015
Exact Time: 80 minutes inside a game vs Armenia (friendly)
Circumstances: celebrating and having a teammate jump on his back
Type of Infection: muscle injury (thigh)
Expected Break: 3 weeks
Games to Miss: 5 (Levante, PSG, Celta, Las Palmas and PSG)
Impact Factor: 8/10; Benzema was in a roaring form recently

Quite a blow to Real Madrid. Not only because Benzema was leading the goalscoring charts of La Liga prior to his misfortune against Armenia. What’s worse is that the striker’s trouble started in ridiculous circumstances – when Antoine Griezmann jumped on his back while celebrating a goal! The good side of this cabaret? Well, at least now, Cristiano Ronaldo won’t feel the pressure for passing the ball to anyone, anymore.

Case #5

Victim’s Name: David Silva
Date of Infection: October 9th 2015
Exact Time: 9 minutes inside a game vs Luxembourg (EURO 2016 quals)
Circumstances: dribbling and recieving an ugly tackle from behind
Type of Infection: ankle injury (sprain)
Expected Break: 2-3 weeks
Games to Miss: 5 (including Sevilla and Man Utd)
Impact Factor: 8/10; Silva was outstanding for City this season

Another Man City player with glass legs and another long-term problem. What’s even more frustrating is that he didn’t really need to play on this occasion. Let’s face it: Spain could probably beat Luxembourg 2-0 by fielding Segunda Divison players instead of their brightest stars. Instead, they’ve won 4-0 at cost of their most gifted mediapunta. Somewhere, somehow, there must be a hell in Manuel Pellegrini’s head right now…

Case #6

Victim’s Name: David Luiz
Date of Infection: October 9th 2015
Exact Time: 33 minutes inside a game vs Chile (WC 2018 quals)
Circumstances: making an awkward challenge on an opponent
Type of Infection: ligament injury (knee)
Expected Break: 4 weeks
Games to Miss: 6 (including Real Madrid, St-Etienne and Rennes)
Impact Factor: 7/10; Luiz was an important part of PSG’s backline

Both Argentina and Brazil lost their games and their star players. For David Luiz, these have been particularly painful days, as he was just about to fix his defensive play and become a monolithic centre-back at PSG. Bam! And the plan is gone. Since Laurent Blanc is also facing Kevin Trapp’s health problems, I think it’s safe to predict that Les Parisiens might see some sub-par defensive performances very soon.

Case #7

Victim’s Name: Álvaro Morata
Date of Infection: October 9th 2015
Exact Time: 23 minutes inside a game vs Luxembourg (EURO 2016 quals)
Circumstances: trying to head an aerial cross and falling awkwardly
Type of Infection: muscle injury (calf)
Expected Break: 1 week
Games to Miss: 1 (Ukraine)
Impact Factor: 2/10; Morata should be fit to play Inter this weekend

Juventus are a little bit of a mess this season. No Pirlo, no Vidal, many new players, few painful defeats and, of course, the injuries. Álvaro Morata can count himself lucky: what initially seemed like a broken bone, turned out to be just a bad bruising. Nevertheless, Zebrette still have injury concerns in form of Claudio Marchisio and Mario Mandžukić. With Napoli and Fiorentina rising, the Scudetto fight won’t be a one-horse race anymore.

Case #8

Victim’s Name: Tim Krul
Date of Infection: October 10th 2015
Exact Time: 81 minutes inside a game vs Kazakhstan (EURO 2016 quals)
Circumstances: falling awkwardly on his right knee
Type of Infection: ligament injury (knee)
Expected Break: 8 months
Games to Miss: 30 (the entire reminder of 2015/16 season)
Impact Factor: 10/10; Krul was the key to Newcastle’s BPL survival

Newcastle are fucked this season. Fucked. They. Are. Zero wins, zero clean sheets, no confidence, not good enough manager, complete newcomer playing as the left-back, one more gigantic flop in form of Thauvin and now this. Without Krul, Magpies had to recall a teenager Freddie Woodman from loan at Crawley Town, just to have a healthy keeper at their disposal. If this isn’t a relegation tragedy coming, I don’t know what is.

Perhaps it’s about time to put Sepp Blatter into a jail and start a ground-breaking reform that eases up the burden of the football elite? Because, I don’t know about you – but for me, I’d rather see all those players healthy through a 40-game season than most of them sidelined in a 60-70 game season like the one we’re having. Still, at first – someone surely has to make a move. Brand new FIFA president, maybe?

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