Gareth Bale calls for more player protection in face of ‘crazy’ schedule | Wales

Gareth Bale has criticized the “crazy” schedule facing players and says he has sympathy for Kevin De Bruyne, who could play almost 80 games next season. Bale said “something has to change” and that governing bodies must prioritise player welfare because “without the players, there’s no product”.

Bale and De Bruyne will duel when Wales host Belgium in the Nations League on Saturday hoping for their first win in Group A4, and the Wales captain said the Manchester City player conversation cropped up in a recent when the subject of welfare player arose on camp. Next season De Bruyne could play 63 matches across four competitions for Manchester City, plus the Community Shield, as well as four Nations League matches, four European Championship qualifiers and seven World Cup games.

“Someone mentioned on the table at lunch that Kevin De Bruyne could play 79 games next season, and have a three-week break,” Bale said. “It is too much. Things obviously need to change. I think every player will tell you there are way too many games – it is impossible to play at a high level for that amount of games and there will be consequences in the long term. People’s bodies can’t deal with that kind of calendar year after year.

“Something has to change. People at the top of the game have to do something but, unfortunately, money comes into it – they want to make more money and it’s a business at the end of the day. For player welfare, money needs to be overlooked and you need to look after the players because without the players, there’s no product.”

Kevin De Bruyne could play 79 games if successful with club and country next season. Photograph: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Bale is a free agent after leaving Real Madrid and has played down suggestions that he would require special treatment from his next club. “I don’t just sit at home doing nothing, even though I’m not playing so much,” the 32-year-old said. “I’m pretty much fine to do anything. There’s always been a lot of speculation that I don’t train a lot but I pretty much train every day. Of course, there might be some days I need to take it a little bit easier, rather than go full pelt because of my age but I think that’s the same with a lot of players.

“Once I get back into playing regular football, my body will get more robust and a bit better, rather than in and out. It’s very difficult when you’re in and out of a team to get a rhythm in terms of your fitness and health. Any player will tell you, playing week in week out, your body becomes more robust, you get used to it and you get fitter by doing that. I just need to play games and I’ll be good to go.”

Asked whether he was close to making a decision on his future, Bale replied: “No. But I’m not going to Getafe, that’s for sure.”

Wales have called up the Salford City goalkeeper Tom King after Danny Ward aggravated a knee problem during defeat by the Netherlands on Wednesday. The striker Joe Morrell broke a toe in the same game and the striker Kieffer Moore has left the squad after sustaining a back injury.