The 20 most-used internationals
Football fans across the globe will be looking forward to the World Cup in Russia now that 2018 is upon us, but we've decided to look back at the year just gone to uncover the 20 European footballers who played the most minutes in international football.
Germany triumphed at the Confederations Cup last summer, but this slideshow - based on data compiled by the CIES Football Observatory - features players from far smaller countries too. What are you waiting for?
20. Kostakis Artymatas, Cyprus (815 minutes)
Previously a member of Nottingham Forest’s academy, the APOEL man’s 815 minutes of international football in 2017 is enough for him to sneak into the top 20 European players.
Comfortable as both a centre-half and a defensive midfielder, the Cypriot missed only eight minutes of his country’s World Cup qualifiers last year – those came in the 2-1 defeat of Gibraltar in June – while he also played in friendly fixtures against Armenia, Georgia, Portugal and Kazakhstan.
19. Ciro Immobile, Italy (820 minutes)
The last 12 months will rank as some of the worst in the history of Italian football, as the Azzurri failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Although former manager Giampiero Ventura was widely considered the chief culprit, Immobile was scapegoated by a number of supporters for his profligacy in the two-legged play-off loss to Sweden. The Lazio striker played more minutes for Italy than anyone else last year, though, making 10 appearances and finishing on the winning team against Uruguay and the Netherlands among others.
18. Taijo Teniste, Estonia (833 minutes)
Right-back Teniste, who plays his club football for Brann in Norway, was Estonia’s most-used player in 2017. The defender appeared in 10 of his country’s games as the Baltic nation finished fourth in a World Cup qualification group containing Belgium, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus and Gibraltar, with Estonia losing just two of the six competitive matches in which Teniste played last year.
The 29-year-old also featured in four friendlies, the highlight of which was a shock 3-0 triumph over Croatia – who were admittedly without Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic – in March.
15= Darren Randolph, Republic of Ireland (855 minutes)
When long-serving goalkeeper Shay Given hung up his gloves in 2016, the Republic of Ireland’s No.1 jersey was suddenly up for grabs. Randolph – initially of West Ham, moving to Middlesbrough in summer – fought off competition from Rob Elliot and Keiren Westwood to claim the position last year, playing 855 of a possible 990 minutes for the national team.
Unfortunately for Randolph and Ireland, the last of his 10 appearances ended in disaster as Martin O’Neill’s men shipped five goals in the second leg of their World Cup qualification play-off with Denmark. They got that far, though, because Randolph kept vital clean sheets against Wales (twice), Serbia and Moldova.
15= Viktor Vasin, Russia (855 minutes)
Vasin made his debut for Russia way back in 2010, but playing time proved hard to come by until last year. The centre-back finally nailed down a place in the starting XI in 2017, scoring his first international goals against Belgium and Chile among 10 international appearances.
Three of those came at the Confederations Cup, Vasin completing the full 90 minutes against each of New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico; the 29-year-old also played his part in friendly wins against Hungary and South Korea.
15= Guram Kashia, Georgia (855 minutes)
Kashia became the joint-10th highest appearance maker in the history of the Georgian national team in 2017, with 10 of his 58 caps won in the last 12 months. The Vitesse defender was on the pitch for his country for 855 minutes, playing in World Cup qualifiers against Wales, Austria, the Republic of Ireland, Serbia (twice) and Moldova.
The 30-year-old was also involved in four of his country’s friendlies, tussling with Belarus, Cyprus, Latvia and St Kitts and Nevis as Georgia went unbeaten in non-competitive fixtures between March and December.
14. Antonio Rudiger, Germany (861 minutes)
Rudiger enjoyed a successful 2017, securing a big-money move from Roma to Chelsea and a regular starting spot in the Germany line-up.
The central defender completed Confederations Cup clashes with Australia, Cameroon, Mexico and Chile last summer – he sat out the group-stage meeting with the Chileans – and was also involved as Joachim Low’s charges overcame Czech Republic, Norway and Azerbaijan in their successful bid to return to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
13. Jonas Hector, Germany (864 minutes)
Left-back is arguably Germany’s weak spot as they prepare to defend their World Cup crown this summer, but Hector looks to have won the battle to be Joachim Low’s principal option on that side of the defence.
The Koln man featured in four of die Mannschaft’s six triumphant World Cup qualifiers in 2017, also playing four times at the Confederations Cup in Russia. Friendly starts against Denmark and England took his overall tally for the year to 864 minutes.
12. Daley Blind, Netherlands (888 minutes)
Premier League starts have been few and far between for Blind in the first half of the 2017/18 campaign, but the Manchester United defender was virtually ever-present for the Netherlands in the last year.
It was another disappointing 12 months for the three-time World Cup runners-up, who failed to qualify for the upcoming tournament in Russia. Blind appeared in the fatal losses to Bulgaria and France, although he also played in victories over the Bulgarians, Sweden, Belarus, Luxembourg, Ivory Coast, Scotland and Romania.
9= Samuel Umtiti, France (900 minutes)
Umtiti has arguably been Europe’s outstanding centre-half in the first few months of the 2017/18 campaign, with the Barcelona defender able to look back on a brilliant year last time out. The ex-Lyon man only made his France debut at Euro 2016, but he’s now one of the first names on Didier Deschamps’ team sheet as Les Bleus prepare for the World Cup.
Umtiti completed the 90 minutes on 10 separate occasions last year, featuring in France’s qualification victories over Bulgaria, Belarus and the Netherlands – as well as the shock scoreless stalemate with Luxembourg in September.
9= Marc-Andre ter Stege, Germany (900 minutes)
With Manuel Neuer currently sidelined by a broken foot and Ter Stegen in tremendous form for Barcelona, Joachim Low could have a big decision to make when it comes to choosing his No.1 this summer.
The latter goalkeeper played 900 minutes for Germany last year, starting and finishing 10 games as die Mannschaft won the Confederations Cup and qualified for the World Cup without dropping a single point. Clean sheets against Norway, Chile and England (twice) certainly won’t do Ter Stegen’s prospects any harm whatsoever.
9= Radu Ginsari, Moldova (900 minutes)
Ginsari may not be a household name across Europe, but the Hapoel Haifa man was probably his country’s most important player in 2017. The midfielder appeared in 10 international games last year, as Igor Dobrovolski's men finished bottom of their qualification group in a failed bid to reach the World Cup for the first time in the nation’s history.
As well as featuring in six competitive fixtures – five of which were lost, the other drawn – Ginsari appeared in friendlies against Israel, Qatar, Turkey and San Marino.
8. Cyrus Christie, Republic of Ireland (901 minutes)
Christie had only won six Republic of Ireland caps before last year, but in 2017 he became a mainstay for the Boys in Green. The Middlesbrough defender’s 11 appearances in the last 12 months totalled 901 minutes, although he was unable to help Martin O’Neill’s men qualify for the World Cup as Ireland suffered a 5-1 aggregate loss to Denmark in the play-offs.
Christie will be pleased with how 2017 went on an individual level, though, with Seamus Coleman’s injury giving him the chance to establish himself as his country’s first-choice right-back.
7. Pepe, Portugal (906 minutes)
Although he’s approaching his 35th birthday, Pepe remains an integral part of Fernando Santos’ Portugal side. The Besiktas centre-half racked up 906 minutes for his country in the last 12 months, the most important of which came in the World Cup qualification-sealing victory over Switzerland in October.
The ex-Real Madrid stopper also completed the full 90 minutes in four of Portugal’s five matches at the Confederations Cup, where they finished third after a play-off triumph over Mexico.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal (918 minutes)
Ronaldo may turn 33 in February, but judging by his international minutes in 2017 he’s showing few signs of slowing down. Only five European players featured for longer than the Real Madrid man, who scored eight goals in four World Cup qualification fixtures to help Portugal book their place in Russia.
The former Manchester United forward also played four of his country’s five games at the Confederations Cup, as well as appearing in a friendly defeat by Sweden in March.
5. Fyodor Kudryashov, Russia (959 minutes)
With national team stalwarts Vasili Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich both retiring from international football after Euro 2016, Russia have been forced to bed in new centre-backs ahead of the World Cup.
Kudryashov, who has also been deployed at left-back by manager Stanislav Cherchesov, looks like a guaranteed starter this summer after playing 959 minutes in 2017. The Rubin Kazan defender made 11 appearances for his country last year, including all three of Russia’s matches at the Confederations Cup on home soil.
4. Andre Silva, Portugal (1,031 minutes)
One of only four players to break the 1000-minute barrier, Silva established himself as a regular starter for Portugal in 2017. The Milan striker has struggled for game time at San Siro this season, but he featured in 13 of his country’s 15 matches last year, scoring five goals in World Cup qualification and another in the 4-0 victory over New Zealand at the Confederations Cup.
Silva, who also played in friendly wins against Cyprus and Saudi Arabia, looks set to partner Cristiano Ronaldo up front in Russia this summer.
3. Julian Draxler, Germany (1,041 minutes)
Joachim Low opted to leave many of Germany’s big names behind when his side travelled to Russia for the Confederations Cup last June, with fringe players like Draxler given a chance to impress in the World Cup warm-up.
The PSG forward certainly took his chance, winning the Player of the Tournament award as the Germans scooped the trophy. Draxler played 1,041 international minutes in total last year and will be pushing for a starting place back in Russia this summer.
2. Rui Patricio, Portugal (1,140 minutes)
There are few countries in the world who can call upon as much exciting young talent as Portugal, but manager Fernando Santos remains reliant on a handful of veterans heading into 2018.
Rui Patricio will only be 30 by the time the World Cup gets under way, but the Sporting CP goalkeeper has now been a regular in the national team set-up for seven years. He played 12 times for his country in 2017, including all five of Portugal’s encounters at the Confederations Cup, clocking up 1,140 minutes for the European champions.
1. Joshua Kimmich, Germany (1,260 minutes)
With 1,260 minutes of action for Germany, Kimmich tops our list of the most-used internationals in 2017. The Bayern Munich right-back, who has also been deployed in midfield for both club and country, played the full 90 minutes on 14 occasions, helping Joachim Low’s side win the Confederations Cup and qualify for the World Cup in style.
The 22-year-old even found the net twice last year, notching in die Mannschaft’s triumphs over Northern Ireland and Norway. The only game Kimmich missed came in November, when he was an unused substitute in the 2-2 draw with France.
Lists, Joshua Kimmich, Antonio Rüdiger, Chelsea, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Republic of Ireland, France, Samuel Umtiti, Darren Randolph, Moldova, Netherlands, Georgia, Estonia, Italy, Cyprus, Sporting CP, PSG, Rubin Kazan', Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Beşiktaş, Middlesbrough, Hapoel Haifa, Köln, Manchester United, Vitesse, CSKA Moskva, Sogndal, Lazio, Kerkyra, Ciro Immobile, Viktor Vasin, Jonas Hector, Daley Blind, Marc-André ter Stegen, Cyrus Christie, Pepe, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Julian Draxler, Rui Patricio