Today is a day for celebration after Tottenham Hotspur rocketed to the top of the Premier League table thanks to a 1-0 win over Watford. However, there are concerns heading into the international break.
Specifically, Tottenham’s Argentine contingent — Giovani Lo Celso and Cuti Romero — are set to report for international duty for upcoming World Cup qualifiers in South America, despite the Premier League prohibiting international players from playing in so-called “red-listed” countries due to COVID-19 protocols. FIFA and national team federations have been putting an enormous amount of pressure on players to report for international duty despite the Premier League’s prohibition.
Nuno Espirito Santo confirmed that Lo Celso and Romero were both planning to leave for Argentina’s upcoming matches against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia. When asked about it in a post-match press conference, Nuno said that they’re “working on a plan” and the goal was to minimize the disruption.
“It’s a problem that not affect us but affects all clubs and all the South American players playing in the Premier League. We have to obey the government law. We will try to do so but at the same time we don’t have any kind of help from FIFA, the government or the Premier League in support in this situation.
“We know what it means for all of the players to play for their national teams. It’s something they’re very proud of, so what we are trying to do is anticipate the situations. So expecting that not only for the next international break but also there will be a couple more, so we need to be clear.
“Is there any player when he is called up for his international team that will say no? We are trying to take care of that situation. Trying to anticipate the damage. Us as a club we are working on that.”
Footballers who return from countries on the UK’s “red-list,” countries with high COVID-19 numbers thanks to the ongoing pandemic, are required by UK law to isolate for ten days upon returning, and to pass a negative test before returning to training. For Lo Celso and Romero, their final match is Thursday, September 9 vs. Bolivia. Should then return immediately, they would both be forced to isolate until Sept. 19, meaning they would miss the trip to Crystal Palace on Sept. 11 and the Europa Conference League match at Rennes on Sept. 16.
In theory they would both be available just in time for the home match vs. Chelsea on Sept. 19, but it seems unrealistic that they would be considered ready to play with no training up to that point. That would make the EFL Cup match at Wolves on Sept. 21 as their first realistic opportunity to play football, or the North London Derby on September 26.
It’s not yet known whether Colombia international Davinson Sanchez would also be caught up in this, or if he is planning to report.