Despite there being no major men's international tournament, players in Europe's top five leagues still played a lot of football in 2023. More than 50 of them played more than 4,500 minutes for club and country (the equivalent of 50 full 90-minute matches), and a select group clocked up more than 5,000 minutes. However, there is one player who stands way out in front of them all when it comes to sheer consistency and stamina: Manchester United and Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes, 29, is the only player among Europe's elite to have played more than 70 games in 2023, and the only one to have seen more than 6,000 minutes of action in that calendar year. The Manchester United captain appeared in the Premier League, the Champions League and the Europa League as well as the FA Cup and Carabao Cup for his club. At international level, he was ever-present for Portugal in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
Here we examine the top 10 players in Europe's top five leagues -- the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 -- to have played the most minutes in 2023 for both club (not including friendlies) and country (senior international games, including friendlies) combined.
There are six Premier League players in the top 10 and no fewer than three Manchester City players therein, perhaps no surprise considering their team won the treble last season. Their triumph in the Champions League meant they were obliged to play not only the UEFA Super Cup but also the FIFA Club World Cup this term.
Not a single Ligue 1 or Bundesliga player is in the top 10, with Harry Kane of Bayern Munich the only one to be found in the top 25 -- largely due to the vast amount of football he has played with Tottenham Hotspur and England throughout the year.
While the ranking of players by total minutes played is dominated by defensive players, there are a few who play higher up the pitch who have proved themselves to be just as indispensable and resilient. But the indefatigable Fernandes stands head and shoulders above them all.
An outstanding save from Ederson! 🤩 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/giFJTDF9n2— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 28, 2023
City are rarely without their No. 1, who has played all 90 minutes in 36 of his side's 40 Premier League games in 2023. Indeed, Ederson has played every minute of every game he's featured in for his side in 2023-24, with the Brazil international making 24 appearances across six competitions so far.
From the start of 2023, he also played 90 minutes in every single 2022-23 Champions League knockout game as City became European champions and every minute in 19 of 22 league games as his side also wrapped up the 2022-23 Premier League title. He also played 45 minutes in the fifth round of the FA Cup (coming on for the injured Stefan Ortega against Bristol City) to ensure he featured in all three pillars of City's league, cup and European treble.
9. Bryan Cristante (AS Roma and Italy): 5,230 minutes, 65 games
Cristante has made it his business to anchor the Roma midfield and did so for every single minute of the Giallorossi's progress through to the final of the 2022-23 Europa League. Indeed, the Italy international played every single minute of all nine knockout games, including two 120-minute second legs of the quarterfinal and final, which Roma lost against Sevilla after a penalty shootout (Cristante scored his side's first spot kick).
The Italy international has also played 38 times in Serie A in 2023, including every single minute of all 17 league outings for Roma so far this season. He has also played nine times for the national team, including seven Euro 2024 qualifiers and two outings in the semifinal and third-place playoff of the 2022-23 Nations League.
8. Francesco Acerbi (Inter Milan and Italy): 5,236 minutes, 62 games
The oldest player on this list by some margin, 35-year-old Acerbi spent the 2022-23 season on loan at Inter from Lazio and played a total of 49 times for the club in his debut campaign -- with 35 of those appearances coming in 2023 alone. Defying his relatively advanced age, he also played the full 90 minutes on 34 occasions for club and country over the calendar year, during which time he played six times for the Italian national team.
The veteran centre-back also played every single minute of the Nerazzurri's 2022-23 Champions League knockout phase, including against Manchester City in the final.
He then signed for Inter on a permanent deal in July 2023 and has since played almost every single minute of the 20 games he has started during the first half of the 2023-24 campaign, barring a 14-minute substitute cameo against Real Sociedad in their Champions League group stage opener.
7. Federico Valverde (Real Madrid and Uruguay): 5,317 minutes, 67 games
The first of two ultra-dependable Real players to feature in the top 10, Valverde has featured in all 18 of his side's LaLiga games in 2023-24, playing 90 minutes in 12 of them. This in addition to the 19 league games he played at the tail end of last season. All in all, he has appeared in seven different competitions for club and country in 2023.
The hard-working midfielder played the full 90 minutes in all six legs of Madrid's 2022-23 Champions League knockout phase (eventually ending with defeat against Man City in the semifinals) before appearing in all six of their opening group stage games the following season as Los Blancos sailed through without dropping a single point.
Valverde has also been ever-present in Uruguay's World Cup qualification campaign so far, playing all six of their games from start to finish as they ended the year second in the CONMEBOL standings.
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The lynchpin of Pep Guardiola's midfield, Rodri has already made 24 appearances across five competitions for City in the first half of this season -- playing the full 90 minutes in 18 of those fixtures, scoring five goals and laying on six assists in all competitions.
Rodri also enjoyed a monumentally successful conclusion to the 2022-23 campaign during which he played 90 minutes in six of City's seven outings in the Champions League knockout phase, scoring against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals and also notching the only goal of the final against Inter Milan to seal his club's first European Cup title and complete the treble.
The 27-year-old also played nine times for Spain over the course of 2023 as he helped his side emerge victorious in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League in June, scoring in the penalty shootout in the final after 120 goalless minutes against Croatia.
5. Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla and Serbia): 5,420 minutes, 64 games
Gudelj has featured in five club competitions with Sevilla in 2023, having appeared in LaLiga, the Copa del Rey, Europa League, Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup as well as eight of his country's 10 Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Usually deployed as a centre-back or defensive midfielder, the Serbia stalwart played in all but five of Sevilla's 41 LaLiga fixtures for the year, mustering the full 90 minutes in 30 of them.
4. Manuel Akanji (Manchester City and Switzerland): 5,434 minutes, 68 games
Having arrived at City only ahead of the 2022-23 season, Akanji quickly became a staple of Guardiola's defence having already made 72 appearances for the Premier League champions in all competitions.
The versatile centre-back has already played in seven different competitions for City in 2023: the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, Community Shield, FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup. He has also won five of them.
On the international front, Akanji won another 10 caps for Switzerland in 2023 while playing the full 90 minutes in nine of his country's Euro 2024 qualifying fixtures.
3. Declan Rice (Arsenal and England): 5,437 minutes, 65 games
Shaka Hislop praises Declan Rice after his late winner for Arsenal against Luton Town.
Rice has been an instant success at Arsenal after completing his record £105 million transfer over the summer. The all-action central midfielder has made 27 appearances in four competitions since arriving at the Emirates, including every single Premier League and Champions League fixture -- playing a full 90 minutes in 19 of them.
This is in addition to the 29 Premier League games he mustered for West Ham United in the latter half of the 2022-23 campaign as the Hammers powered through to win the 2022-23 Europa Conference League.
Rice also played nine times for England over the calendar year, featuring in eight of his country's Euro 2024 qualifiers (and even scoring in a 2-1 win against Italy in March) while also playing 90 minutes against Scotland in a friendly in September.
2. Antonio Rüdiger (Real Madrid and Germany): 5,514 minutes, 67 games
The beating heart of Real Madrid's defensive line, Rudiger missed just four league fixtures for the club this calendar year. Furthermore, he has sat out only one LaLiga game this season, when he was suspended for the 5-1 win over Valencia on Nov. 11.
Rudiger, 30, was part of Madrid's run to the Champions League semifinals last season and has featured in their six group games this term, playing 90 minutes in all but the last outing against Union Berlin in which he came on for the final 19 minutes to help shore things up and preserve his side's 100% record. On top of that he also played both of Madrid fixtures in the Spanish Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup at the start of the year, and played all five matches of his club's victorious Copa del Rey campaign.
With Germany automatically qualifying for Euro 2024 as hosts, Rudiger has instead taken part in nine international friendlies over the course of 2023, playing 90 minutes in each and every one of them.
1. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United and Portugal): 6,288 minutes, 72 games
Bruno Fernandes explains his hopes to play for the Portugal national team for as long as he's able to.
Topping the chart by almost nine full matches' worth of playing time is Fernandes, a key asset for both club and country who has racked up well over 6,000 minutes of first-team action in 2023.
The second half of the 2022-23 season saw the attacking midfielder turn out in four competitions for Manchester United: the Premier League, the Europa League, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup. He featured in two domestic cup finals, emerging victorious in the Carabao Cup while finishing as a runner-up in the FA Cup after playing in every game from the third round through to the Wembley showpiece, including an extended 101-minute stint against Brighton & Hove Albion in the semis.
Fernandes also played in all 22 of United's Premier League fixtures, completing the full 90 minutes in 20 of them while also turning out in five of his side's six Europa League knockout games -- missing only the quarterfinal second leg against Sevilla through suspension.
Overall, the Portuguese has featured in 25 of United's 27 fixtures during the 2023-24 campaign thus far, putting in full 90-minute shifts in 23 of them. He has played in 18 of 19 Premier League games (missing one game through suspension) and all six of United's Champions League group games -- scoring five goals and providing five assists across all competitions.
At international level, Fernandes has been equally active having started all 10 games in Portugal's part of their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. He amassed a further 844 minutes of competitive game time while contributing six goals and seven assists as the Selecao won all 10 of their matches in Group J.
With goal contributions that vital and regular, it's little wonder he's called upon so often.