International weeks almost inevitably see fresh outbreaks of the perennial club versus country issue, and David Moyes joined forces with Arsène Wenger yesterday to protest about the inconvenience of players representing their countries.
Moyes, the Everton manager, was irate about the late return to Merseyside of his Australian midfielder Tim Cahill, who played two matches in Australia, a friendly against Paraguay in Brisbane and then an Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain in Sydney.
He arrived at Heathrow yesterday lunchtime before flying to Merseyside, where he tried to sleep in an attempt to counter jet lag. Moyes also organised for Cahill to fly to Newcastle on his own late last night to join up with the rest of the squad who are playing away at Middlesbrough today.
Moyes, who has also seen England's Phil Neville (hamstring) and Portugal's Nuno Valente (groin) return from international duty with injuries, said: "It is always a difficult problem, but in Tim's case it is worse because it is on the other side of the world. He played in Australia at 8pm, which is about 11am Wednesday our time, then he didn't fly home until Thursday evening. I find that incredible.
"From Wednesday night after the game he cannot get on a flight for almost 24 hours. It should be done quicker, it's something Fifa should look at with players arriving back so late. Australia always want their players as soon as they can to get maximum recovery and preparation for their games, but yet they stay on a day longer in Australia and then don't get them back to us until Friday, midday.
"It's difficult. They could push all the Premiership games to the Sunday but then that will have an impact on clubs playing in the Champions' League the following week. That is probably not a real solution because if it was it would have been tried by now.
"We have to ask Fifa why players do not get back with their clubs until Friday midday which means they cannot train or prepare for our game because they have stepped off a 24-hour flight."
His Arsenal counterpart Wenger has a more radical suggestion - reducing the qualifying stages of major tournaments. "In the qualifying tournaments you have groups of seven and eight and England has now played four games. They still have eight to play," he said. "I want to reduce the number of countries who play in the qualifying competitions. It looks to me wise to have groups of four to qualify."
Atletico Madrid would doubtless concur with Wenger. The Spanish side said yesterday that they are studying the options available to claim compensation for their player Maxi Rodriguez, who sustained a serious injury with Argentina during the week.
The forward tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during Argentina's 2-1 friendly defeat to Spain in Murcia on Wednesday and is expected to be out for around six months. "It does not make sense that clubs buy players and pay their salaries so that third parties like Fifa and the national teams can use them," Atletico's majority shareholder, Miguel Angel, said.
"Not only do they not pay for them, but they don't want to know anything about cases such as this."
Belgium's Charleroi are suing Fifa after their player Abdelmajid Oulmers was injured playing for Morocco in 2004, and the Uefa spokesman William Gaillard said yesterday that if they win their case, international football will be destroyed. A Charleroi victory would mean clubs would become entitled to compensation while their players are away on international duty, and Gaillard said: "It would be the end of the national team game. A World Cup would take place with only Spain, Germany, Italy, France and England."Reuse content