Kylian Mbappé warns of NBA-style load management as European soccer schedule lengthens

Kylian Mbappe drew some NBA parallels during a recent interview. (Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images)

Kylian Mbappé sees that the European soccer schedule keeps getting longer, and he’s worried about how players will adapt.

The 25-year-old played in 63 games for Paris Saint-Germain and the national team during the 2022-23 season. In an interview with GQ Sports, he used the NBA’s controversial load-management problem as a cautionary tale.

“We are approaching the NBA model with 70-game seasons,” he said. “Personally I am not against playing so much, but we will not be able to be good every time and give the audience the expected show. In the NBA, players do not play every match and franchises practice load management. But, today, if I decided to say, ‘I’m tired, I’m not playing on Saturday,’ it wouldn’t work.”

Mbappé dealt with his share of injuries last season, including a hamstring injury that kept him out for three weeks in February. He was sidelined due to an ankle issue in September. The NBA reportedly released an analytical report to teams this month that claims there is no correlation between load management and its primary goal of decreased injury risk.

The NBA has also instated multiple directives aimed at keeping players on the court. Last year, the league reserved the right to fine teams, starting at $100,000 and escalating up to $1 million, for sitting players for nationally televised games. Additionally, there’s a new rule requiring players to reach a 65-game threshold to be eligible for regular-season awards, including All-NBA honors.

For soccer, Mbappé hopes the approach will be less adversarial.

“I don’t want to preach, but we need to think together about how to offer the best possible solution so that players, spectators and football’s governing bodies can all embrace it,” he said.

The NBA parallels continued, as Mbappé cited Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James as a mentor.

“He is much farther along in his career than I am, and projects outside of sport have cemented his place as a sporting legend,” Mbappé said. “Being able to ask for advice from inspiring figures like him provides an opportunity to adjust my plan and create my own approach that is as effective as possible in terms of helping young people today.”

Beyond their influence as sports figures, James and Mbappé could probably have an interesting conversation about leaving their home teams for another opportunity.

Mbappé’s name has long been linked in rumors about a move to 14-time Champions League winner Real Madrid. Some of the club’s players are under the impression that they’ll be joined by Mbappé next season, per ESPN.

The French captain opted not to dispel any of those media reports. He went as far as citing the possibility of playing club football outside Europe eventually, similar to former PSG teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar. They went on to sign with Inter Miami of Major League Soccer and Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, respectively.

“Many great players who have shaped the history of football have left Europe this summer, and we are entering a new era,” Mbappé said. “It’s become part of the cycle of this sport, and at some point, it will be my turn to leave. I’m not worried about these changes. I’m simply thinking about continuing my career and following my own path.”

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