How Five Substitutions Can Change The Careers of Footballers

Any football fan that follows Real Madrid closely, for example, notices the use that Ancelotti makes of Toni Kroos and Modric, for example.

The Italian coach plans carefully how to field the talented midfielders that are the backbone of Real Madrid’s team.

And he needs to do so. While Kroos is not so old (33), the German player and his Croatian teammate, Modric (37), play in such a way that fitness is always a major concern.

If a private citizen wants to lose weight or keep fit, then accountability from personal trainers is all that is needed, it’s something between you and a professional. But if you’re a La Liga star, your fitness will be scrutinized by millions of fans if you’re a Real Madrid or Barcelona player, for example.

Football recently introduced 5 substitutions at all top-flight leagues, which can have interesting effects in the future of The Beautiful game.

Five Substitutions and The Future of Soccer

Some talent is hard to replace. And even if you’re blessed with a lot of quality and tons of squad depth, experience is also an asset.

Penalty shootouts come to mind, as well as extra time or simply the final minutes of a regular domestic league game.

There’s significant pressure to introduce even more substitutions in the long run. If very talented players like Modric, for example, are used only let’s say 30-45 minutes per game, then the career of stars can be much longer than they are these days.

Some positions like striker, center-back and GKs come to mind as viable opportunities for the fans to keep enjoying the career and brightness of certain stars for a long time.

We had cases, for example, like Ibrahimovic, that returned from the MLS to shine bright again in Italy, and he remains to this day a useful asset at AC Milan together with Giroud, another veteran.

In La Liga, we had the case of Villarreal: when Rulli was sold to Ajax for €8m, Pepe Reina became the regular GK of a top-flight club once again, aged 39. He was a squad rotation player that became important once again.

However, sometimes the rational and limited use of veterans is easier said than done. Throughout the 2022/23 season, it’s fair to say Ancelotti had to use the veterans more than expected.

Several games were started with Vázquez as a Right Back, to rest Carvajal, and Ceballos and other subs to rest Kroos and Modric, and even the late substitutions of Kroos and Modric to join the team didn’t change some negative ongoing scores.


The use of 5 substitutions can make it easier for the managers to keep one substitution exclusively for the use of one veteran if necessary.

Back when we had just 3 substitutions, the regulars of any big team usually had more accumulated fatigue, as less squad rotation happened as the manager couldn’t bring the regulars from the bench.

This is also another positive factor when considering 5 substitutions.

If soccer becomes like some American sports with unlimited substitutions, maybe we’ll have professional footballers in their 50s in the future as a common thing? Maybe some stars even coming back from retirement?


Time will tell.