Can A Substituted Player ACTUALLY Come Back To Play In Football?

Last updated on January 19th, 2023

A football match starts with a total maximum of eleven or a minimum of seven players from each team.

During the game, the coach is able to make a substitution due to many causes. A player can get exhausted, or injured, or the coach may want to change the way his team plays.

However, can he actually bring back a player who’s already been substituted? In this article, the football laws will give you the answer to this question.

Can a substituted player come back on in football?

The coach is usually allowed to make up to five substitutions in a 90-minute match. This number can change if there is extra time, or if FIFA decides to do so depending on the competition.

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Now, the coach may think that he made the wrong decision, or wants to revert the changes he made in the tactics.

So, can a substituted player come back into the game?

According to Law 3 of the Laws of the Game, once a substituted player cannot come back into play.

This rule states that:

  • the player being substituted must go immediately to the technical area or dressing room and
  • takes no further part in the match, except where return substitutions are permitted

What is a return substitution?

Return substitutions are actually possible if a football match is played in the non-professional leagues. This would mean that someone who has already been substituted will be able to come back on during the game.

The Football Laws say that:

The use of return substitutions is only permitted in youth, veterans, disability, and grassroots football. Subject to the agreement of the national football association, confederation, or FIFA.

Can a substituted player come on to take a penalty?

A substituted player is unable to return back to the pitch to take a penalty, even during a penalty shootout. Once a player has been substituted, he is no longer able to take part in the match.

One such example was during the 2022 World Cup Finals, where key players like Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembélé were all substituted before the penalty shootout.

This may have been a reason why France eventually lost the shootout against Argentina, and cost them the World Cup.

Why can’t substituted players come back on?

This rule prevents the coach from reverting the changes he made in the tactics and allows for all the players to get some playtime.

Potentially allowing a substitute player to return to the pitch could be unfair. It can give an advantage while also causing confusion and chaos around the other players.

All in all, this is an important rule in the game which assures that fair play is established.

Can a substitute player be substituted again?

Imagine a scenario where a substitute player comes in but doesn’t bring anything to the game. Or he or she, unfortunately, gets injured.

Can the coach substitute him again?

There isn’t a rule that directly permits or forbids this, so we should look at the general rules in the Laws of the Game.

Law 3 states that:

The number of substitutes, up to a maximum of five, which may be used in any match played in an official competition will be determined by FIFA, the confederation, or the national football association.

This means that as long as the coach has substitutions left, he can choose to substitute whoever is on the field.

The same law states:

The substitution is completed when a substitute enters the field of play. From that moment, the replaced player becomes a substituted player and the substitute becomes a player and can take any restart.

When a substitute player comes onto the field he gets the same treatment as the starters. This means that the same rules (along with the substitution ones) apply to him.

In conclusion, a substitute player can be substituted again.

Examples of substitute players being substituted again

Here are some examples where a substituted player was subbed out afterwards.

In a Premier League match in October 2015 when Chelsea played Southampton.

When the scores were level at half-time, Jose Mourinho substituted Ramires for another midfielder, Nemanja Matić.

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However, he only played 28 minutes, and was substituted out for a striker, after Chelsea conceded another goal.

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This also took place in a La Liga match between Barcelona and Las Palmas in October 2017.

As the score was 0-0 at halftime, Andres Iniesta came on as a substitute to inspire a win.

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As Barcelona were comfortably winning 3-0 at the closing stages of the match, Iniesta was substituted again in the 86th minute.

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You can find out whether Barcelona and Barcelona B are actually the same team in this article here.


Substitutions play a key role in any manager’s strategy, and it is possible for them to sub off players that they’ve previously subbed on!

You can find out more about what happens when a player refuses to be substituted in this article here.

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