Jet Lag: The Enemy of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Other Teams

For a soccer player, being called up by his or her national team is a big reward for effort and performance. However, it has its downside. Travel takes its toll on a person's body.
Jet Lag: The Enemy of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Other Teams
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

FIFA dates include small breaks in competition between soccer clubs to make room for matches between national teams. However, the strongest teams in Europe often have a lot of players who have to travel miles and miles for their matches and, as a result, suffer from jet lag.

Almost like injuries, footballers need extra recovery time when they return from long trips. Thus, clubs such as Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid, and FC Barcelona, among others, don’t count on these players even after returning from their international commitments.

What is “jet lag”?

Jet lag is the imbalance in a person’s internal clock after the change of time zone that occurs when traveling from one country to another in an east-west direction or vice versa. Thus, it can happen that you take off in a country in the afternoon, and when you arrive at your destination after several hours of travel, it’s mid-morning. This would mean skipping a whole night’s rest.

The longer the trip, the greater the effects of jet lag, also known as transoceanic syndrome or circadian dysrhythmia. In general, one day of recovery is needed for each time zone crossed.

Such a change alters the circadian rhythm and, with it, all the basic functions of the body, such as sleep, hunger, and hormone production (influenced by the reception of sunlight). Among the symptoms usually caused by jet lag are the following:

  • Fatigue during the day.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • General malaise and mood swings.
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation or diarrhea.
  • Sleep disturbances, such as daytime drowsiness or insomnia at night.
the consequences of jet lag for soccer players
Returning to your sleep routine after a very long plane trip is a task that often demands a full day of adaptation.

How does jet lag affect the Real Madrid team?

Since the implementation of the UEFA Nations League, players of European teams no longer travel to other continents to play friendly matches. Instead, they play a home game with their national team and then travel to another European country on a trip that doesn’t usually take many hours. Sometimes, the time zone doesn’t even change.

However, the situation is different for South American, African, and Asian players. For example, Real Madrid will not be able to count on Uruguayan Federico Valverde or Brazilians Eder Militão, Vinícius Júnior, and Rodrygo whenever they’re called up by their countries.

Although many national teams organize their matches in Europe to make life easier for the players, sometimes these matches are played in the United States or Asia, which implies a significant transfer. In the first case, for example, the time difference between Spain and the American continent varies between 6 and 9 hours. Meanwhile, those who travel to Asia may see their circadian rhythm affected by a change of approximately 7 hours.

Which other teams suffer from jet lag?

Real Madrid is not the only Spanish team that suffers the effects of jet lag when its players travel to represent their countries, of course. Atlético de Madrid usually has Felipe and Matheus Cunha (Brazil); Nahuel Molina, Ángel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina); and José María Giménez (Uruguay).

FC Barcelona also has a large number of players called up from other national teams in addition to Spain. For example, Ronald Araujo is often called up by Uruguay, Franck Kessié is a regular in the Ivory Coast national team, and Raphinha is also starting to play regularly for Brazil.

Clubs from other countries are in the same situation, such as Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Juventus. Most of the players called up are from European teams, with a few from other countries.

A special case is that of Asian players, who have to travel many more kilometers when their national teams play home games. Some of them are Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal, Son Heung-Min of Tottenham, and Mehdi Taremi of Porto.

jet lag
European clubs are the most affected by FIFA dates, as they usually have players from several different countries.

How to recover from jet lag

Jet lag and its effects usually disappear a few hours or days after the trip. In the meantime, it will be necessary to endure the alterations that can be caused and that have already been mentioned above.

To solve the problems caused by jet lag, there are some tricks and hacks that can help. For example, there are melatonin pills that contribute to relaxation and rest. These should be prescribed by a doctor.

In addition, the use of sleep masks can also help you fall asleep even when there’s still sunlight outside.

Finally, a study found that people with more flexible habits suffer less from jet lag, while being in good physical shape also allows faster adaptation to changes. As a final tip, try to consult your doctor for proper travel planning, especially if you have to take any medication at scheduled times.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.