During yesterday's CAF World Cup qualification match between Algeria and Tanzania, Tottenham Hotspur and Algerian midfielder Nabil Bentaleb was substituted off in the 35th minute. The substitution came shortly after a Tanzanian player accidentally stepped on Bentaleb's ankle.
Naturally, we all feared the worst. Bentaleb had missed the past 11 Spurs matches with an ankle injury and was only now starting to play competitive football. Another injury in a (relatively) meaningless WCQ thumping would be a catastrophic setback for the young midfielder. Also, international football is the worst.
This is why we can’t have nice things. https://t.co/IPy4odh2ky— Cartilage Free Capt. (@cartilagefree) November 17, 2015
However, there's (cautious) room for optimism. Reports are trickling out on Twitter that Bentaleb's substitution may not have been injury related at all.
Algerian FA confirm Bentaleb was substituted against Tanzania after 36-minutes having received a yellow card and NOT because of injury #THFC— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) November 18, 2015
OK, so there's a bit to unpack here, so bear with me. First, this is coming from a non-verified source, so it's wise to be skeptical. I can't find any official confirmation from the Algerian FA about this story, but it's possible that it's out there in French or Arabic somewhere and my Google-fu is failing me.
Also weird: Nabil was subbed off after only 35 minutes, so making a yellow card substitution at that point in the match only makes sense if the player is completely raging on the pitch and is imminent danger of picking up a second yellow card. That doesn't seem to be the case here. Algeria was leading 2-0 at that point and ended up winning the match 7-0. Either way, it's a pretty bizarre coaching decision,
However, there's still some decent circumstantial evidence that Bentaleb is probably fine. There's video of his substitution, and he's also not noticeably limping, nor does he appear to be in any obvious pain. He is, however, pretty ticked off to be leaving so early.
Also, and this is hardly proof of anything, Nabil posted a selfie on his Instagram account on the flight back to London stating that he's ready to get "back to Prem business." Not exactly the post of a guy who just re-injured his ankle.
So what does this all mean? There's not conclusive proof either way, but there's just enough evidence to suggest that there probably isn't that much to worry about. We won't know for sure if Nabil's injured again until he gets back with the club and starts training. Either the club will update us about his status, or it won't. Either he'll be on the bench Sunday against West Ham, or he won't. But the circumstantial evidence doesn't really support being all that worried, and that's good news.