Gareth Bale says Manchester City talisman Kevin De Bruyne could pay as many as 79 games next season, with just a three-week break to prepare.

Bale was discussing the hectic fixture schedule for international players, with the current season about to come to an end, before pre-season for most will begin in July. Then, the Premier League starts early to accommodate the winter World Cup in November and December, with two further international breaks before next summer’s break.

And to illustrate his point, Bale pointed to City and Belgium star De Bruyne, who will be targeting four domestic trophies as well as the World Cup, taking him well over 70 games if friendlies are included.

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“Someone mentioned on the table at lunch that Kevin De Bruyne could play 79 games next season and have a three-week break,” said Wales international Bale ahead of their fixture with Belgium.

“It is too much. Things obviously need to change. I think every player will tell you there are way too many games – it is impossible to play at a high level for that amount of games and there will be consequences in the long term.

“People’s bodies can’t deal with that kind of calendar year after year. Something has to change. People at the top of the game have to do something but, unfortunately, money comes into it. For player welfare, money needs to be overlooked and you need to look after the players because without the players, there’s no product.”

De Bruyne regularly speaks of these issues, and complained that the current set of four Nations League fixtures were unnecessary and hard to get motivated for.

If City reach the finals of the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League next season, they will play 62 games, and have two friendlies scheduled in the US in July, plus the Community Shield. They could also have FA Cup replays if they draw in the third and fourth rounds.

For Belgium, they have two Nations League fixtures in September and would play seven World Cup games if they got to the final or third-place play-off. The 2024 European Championship qualifiers then get underway in March, with two fixtures and another two at the end of the season in June.

That takes De Bruyne to 78 games including City friendlies and potential replays, with the potential for Belgium to add a friendly or two before the World Cup group games begin.

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