International Break Roundup

A fan greets Argentina's Lionel Messi during the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier football match against Uruguay in Mendoza, Argentina, on September 1, 2016. / AFP / ANDRES LARROVERE (Photo credit should read ANDRES LARROVERE/AFP/Getty Images)

The international break is a weird phenomenon — essentially hitting pause on early season progress while players travel thousands of miles for another team. So club fans hold their breath and look at their watches until it’s over, hoping everyone comes out unscathed.

Barça’s return to action against Alavés tomorrow is a welcome relief after 16 members of the squad were called up for nine different countries for friendlies and World Cup qualifying.

Ahead of the weekend, let’s see how (and where) Barça fared internationally.

Lionel Messi

  • Minutes played: 90
  • Miles traveled: 13,676

Leo had a spectacular performance in Argentina’s first qualifier against Uruguay, scoring the only goal and reminding viewers everywhere the difference he makes in the Argentina squad. Unfortunately, he aggravated a recurring groin issue and did not travel for the second match in Venezuela, and is now questionable for tomorrow against Alavés.


Javier Mascherano

  • Minutes played: 180
  • Miles traveled: 16,174

Mascherano played the full 90 minutes for both of Argentina’s games, a victory against Uruguay in Mendoza and a comeback from 0-2 down to draw against Venezuela.



  • Minutes played: 180
  • Miles traveled: 8,932

Neymar put an emphatic finish on his post-Olympic victory tour, scoring and assisting in each of Brazil’s qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia, respectively. After 100 days away, he returns to Barcelona with a gold medal and a solid push for Brazil’s World Cup qualification campaign in tow.



Luis Suárez

  • Minutes played: 166
  • Miles traveled: 14,023

Suárez was opposite Messi and Mascherano in a frustrating 0-1 defeat for Uruguay, but rebounded against Paraguay, scoring once and assisting Edinson Cavani twice in his 76 minutes on the pitch.


Ivan Rakitić

  • Minutes played: 64
  • Miles traveled: 1,510

Rakitić played 64 minutes in Croatia’s single qualifier against Turkey, scoring the side’s only goal with his 44th minute penalty in an eventual 1-1 draw.


Samuel Umtiti

  • Minutes played: 3
  • Miles traveled: 3,313

Umtiti came on in stoppage time during France’s friendly against Italy and did not feature in their qualifier later in the week, which ended in a 0-0 draw with Belarus.


Lucas Digne

  • Minutes played: 7
  • Miles traveled: 3,313

Like Umtiti, Digne played the final minutes of France’s victory against Italy but stayed on the bench for the Belarus match.


Marc-André ter Stegen

  • Minutes played: 45
  • Miles traveled: 2,667

ter Stegen kept a clean sheet for the first half of Germany’s friendly 2-0 victory against Finland. He did not play in their World Cup qualifier five days later, a comfortable 3-0 against Norway.

Jasper Cillessen

  • Minutes played: 0
  • Miles traveled: 5,532

Cillessen was called up for the Netherlands two matches, but stayed on the bench for the team’s 2-1 loss in a friendly with Greece, as well as their 1-1 qualifying draw with Sweden.


André Gomes

  • Minutes played: 27
  • Miles traveled: 1,978

Gomes featured for nearly half an hour in Portugal’s friendly against Gibraltar, but due to a muscular contusion on his right leg, he did not play in their World Cup qualifier, a 0-2 loss to Switzerland.


Gerard Piqué

  • Minutes played: 149
  • Miles traveled: 1,807

Piqué played the opening 60 minutes of Spain’s friendly with Belgium, and the full 90 in their 8-0 rout of Lichtenstein, where four Barça players were on the pitch for the entire match.


Jordi Alba

  • Minutes played: 149
  • Miles traveled: 1,807

Like Piqué, Alba featured for 60 minutes against Belgium and the full 90 against Lichtenstein.


Sergio Busquets

  • Minutes played: 180
  • Miles traveled: 1,807

Busquets remains a mainstay in the Spanish midfield, playing the full 90 in both matches.


Sergi Roberto

  • Minutes played: 95
  • Miles traveled: 1,807

Roberto came on for a token five minutes in the Belgium friendly, and went on to start the World Cup qualifier, where he scored his first goal with the senior national team, Spain’s second of eight in the match.

@ure by WiFu10

Paco Alcácer

  • Minutes played: 0
  • Miles traveled: 1,807

Barça’s newest signing traveled with the Spanish squad but stayed on the bench for both matches.


Denis Suárez

  • Minutes played: 162
  • Miles traveled: 2,484

Denis Suárez was called up for Spain’s U21 squad, and played 72 and 90 minutes in their Euro qualifying matches against San Marino and Sweden, respectively.

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  • Eivind Niclasen

    It didn´t look like anyone was ready to face Alavés today. The international media is in ecstasy over their miraculous win tonight, but their tactics were taken straight out of Didier Drogba´s book of Unsporting Behaviour For Beginners. Had the referee taken into account the level of time-wasting by the visitors, he would have added a full hour of extra time. Barca played badly tonight, especially Mascherano and Vidal, but chances were still created. As I see it, the FIFA virus had its usual way with our boys following yet another international break.

    • Pabman

      Hi Eivind – hope you’re well.

      To be honest, we just deserved to lose this one. I’m frustrated with Enrique, as that seemed to be amateur management. In fact, an amateur would not have been so niaive! 8 bench players, many either unplayed, or disproven in their positions. I don’t care if the team was tired, or unfit… It’s the third bloody game of the season!
      We didn’t even deserve the one goal scored, as it wasn’t a corner kick.
      I’ve seen all the fans online suggesting how we should field this kind of squad. Well they have had their wish!

      • Eivind Niclasen

        Hi, same wishes to you. It´s hard to disagree, but some frustration concerning the positive attitude taken by Spanish officials towards time wasting is still lingering on from last season. Yes, Barca played horribly. You could see it early on, too; the passing was insufferably slow, players didn´t gel with one another, the gameplan looked random at the best of times, while Alavés performed a gameplan that consisted of constant playacting, bus parking and some rare excursions into Barca´s half. The team did lose deservedly tonight to a crap opponent, and how well deserved it was.
        There is also reason to still cling on to the claim that we only have one reliable player for the RB position. Vidal is, frankly, useless. Mascherano possibly played his worst ever game as a Barca player and our celebrated trident radiated impotence at the highest level.
        One more thing, it must be a slap in the face for Neymar every time Messi walks in from the right, and hogs his freekicks. Neymar and Suarez are more than capable of holding their own when it comes to scoring directly from setpieces. Why can´t Messi accept that? Isn´t he man enough yet? Some generosity would suit him.

        • Pabman

          It makes absolutely no sense to have the two players standing over the ball for every free kick. I was thinking exactly the same as you tonight. Would it not be better to have Leo take them from the left, Ney from the right. Surely having one of them in the box, whilst the other takes it is more of a threat. They are not fooling anyone, with both hovering over the ball, as nobody on planet Earth, except Neymar maybe, thinks Messi isn’t kicking that ball!

          • Eivind Niclasen

            Damn right. If Messi and Neymar had both been standing over a ball prior to taking a freekick, and Neymar actually took it, it would create headlines! Anyway, let´s hope that Luis Enrique learned not to underestimate his opponent again, no matter who that opponent may be. He is obviously going for rotation again, which I personally agree with, but tonight was way excessive. He probably damaged Paco Alcacer´s confidence, played a drunk Mascherano and extinguished any threat from the right flank by choosing Vidal. To be honest, Barca only has one right back, and his name sure isn´t Aleix Vidal. Darmian is said to be leaving Man Utd in January, so bring him in. He´s top quality and can contribute at both ends of the pitch.

          • Travis Morphy

            Guy i believe we are going too much on these guys yes i agree they play badly but if you look at the line up it’s like a difference barca yes the international break counts but i preferred we lose now than playing Madrid or any of our title rival which we can retrieve the 3 point from. Also it will do good to the new comers so they don’t get too complacent thinking barca is all about win win they have to improve so some how these will have a psychological effect on them It will also take pressure from Barca because everybody will be expecting the new comers play week in week out which is not possible barca they have to gradually integrate into the team with time. I bet you from now on LE will start using our normal Galla 11 and we will back to winning ways nothing to panic about it’s good Messi and Suarez and Iniesta had a rest because if you look at our champions league group it seems like easy but it’s actually going be cracker there is no easy team in that group so yes we certainly didn’t plan to lose that Alves game and we didn’t inetend to win it either we just played a lottery and thats how it was suppose to be because common guy messi is not even fully fit suarez been all over the place iniesta just got back from injury we cant be foolish to rush them in which can result in us winning nothing imagine if messi and iniesta started and the get injured again for ever longer term so yeah it was good for all parties we win some times we lose some times we just have to pass through the pain with the team when these happens even more to encourage them the season is still young Treble is still a possibility perhaps i prefer madrid to lead the lines until classico so we can damage their confidence at the camp nou cheers guys