FIFA Men's Player of the Year Luka Modric said that he is yet to return to peak fitness this season, with only three weeks off after an emotionally and physically draining World Cup campaign with Croatia.
Midfielder Modric played a major role in Croatia's run to the World Cup final in Russia, where they were beaten by France. He had earlier helped his club side Real Madrid claim a third consecutive Champions League crown.
"I had only three weeks of like, let's say holidays. I think that is the least since I'm playing football," the 33-year-old Modric, who was named player of the tournament in Russia, said.
"First week we spend in celebration... and was not easy to start again after all these emotional moments you are drained completely and I needed time to get back to my better level."
International players' association FIFPro conducted a survey https://www.fifpro.org/news/fifpro-survey-match-calendar-congestion/en this year involving 543 players and found that nearly half of all international players (46 percent) who play 50 or more games per season were being stretched by the schedule.
The 300 international players surveyed said they needed five weeks of vacation between seasons, not including pre-season training, to fully recover.
Modric, who has already featured in eight games for Madrid in all competitions this season and once for the national side, said in a video interview released by FIFPro that he needed more time to return to his best.
"Now each day I feel better... I just need more games... but it wasn't easy because we were so eager to achieve something great with Croatia and when we did all these emotions come down on us and it was not easy to recover."
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