September 2 – Argentina says it will defy the wishes of English Premier League clubs and hold on to its English-based players for all three of its upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
In defiance of the clubs who voted to prevent their players traveling due to COVID-19 quarantine rules imposed by the British government, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said Wednesday he was not aware of any deal to release members of his squad.
Any Premier League players who go to South America and then return to Britain have to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine and have little chance of training.
Brazil, Chile and Paraguay are among the national teams whose England-based players did not come for qualifiers due to the issue.
Argentina have called up the likes of Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia and Tottenham’s Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero.
“We gave a list for three matches and there’s no doubt about that. Players are here to play all three,” Scaloni said at a press conference in Caracas before Thursday’s match against Venezuela.
“Many said they would not release their players. I want to stress the will of our players to be with the national team. We are thankful for their presence. We did not have any refusal from clubs.”
Aston Villa said in a statement that both of its Argentinian players “have agreed to make themselves available for Argentina’s vital first two World Cup qualifying matches against Venezuela and Brazil, but will not take part in the third international match against Bolivia.”
Colombian media reported that Tottenham defender Davinson Sánchez was allowed to travel as long as he arrives back in England in time for a Premier League match against Chelsea on September 19. That would leave Sánchez out of Colombia’s fixture against Chile.
The reason for the heightened sensitivities around the club versus country issue is that FIFA granted two additional days for South American countries to play games in both September and October so that three qualifiers can be played in each window, rather than the usual two. It warned there could be consequences for clubs who refuse to comply.
Nine Brazilian players reportedly did show up for the current international programme. Two of them were midfielder Claudinho and striker Malcom who returned to Russia due to pressure from their club Zenit St Petersburg according to the Brazilian soccer confederation which said it has sent a formal complaint to FIFA “so that all punishments applicable to Zenit can be delivered.”
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