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Despite FIFA suspension, Cuti Romero called up to Argentina squad


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Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

This was supposed to be the one international break that Tottenham Hotspur fans knew did not involve Cristian Romero. Cuti had been banned by FIFA for Argentina’s next two international fixtures due to his role in the now infamous World Cup qualifier against Brazil last September that saw Argentina smuggle four Premier League players into Brazil in defiance of COVID travel protocols, and that saw the in-progress match halted by members of Brazil’s independent health regulatory organization, a process that also led to him needing to isolate for ten days in Croatia before returning to England.

Romero was expected to have the next two weeks in London to train under Antonio Conte and prepare for Spurs’ next match against Newcastle on April 3.

Welp. According to David Ornstein writing for The Athletic (£), Romero has been called up by Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni anyway, with the hopes that the suspension can be reduced to one match on appeal. The player has already flown from London to Argentina, knowing that he would at minimum be suspended for the match vs. Venezuela on March 25, but on the possibility that he MIGHT play in the second CONMEBOL qualifier at Ecuador four days later.

Romero was not named in Lionel Scaloni’s squad on Friday but is said to have flown out to join up with the group on Sunday night after an outstanding display in Spurs’ 3-1 win over West Ham, with the Argentine Football Association hoping his ban will be reduced to one game on appeal. If it is, Romero would be eligible for the qualifier against Ecuador on Wednesday, March 30 (UK time). If it isn’t — a decision should be made early this week — Romero faces making a wasted journey to South America and back.

This is, quite frankly, infuriating. There is literally no reason for Scaloni or the AFA to insist that Romero play in these fixtures — Argentina has already more than qualified for next summer’s World Cup, making these matches essentially dead rubber. It’s farcical on its face not to just let Romero serve his suspension in London when Argentina do not in any way, shape or form need him to participate.

In addition, Romero has a history of reporting for CONMEBOL fixtures and returning to London injured. At this point even the best case scenario means Romero has flown to Argentina and back for absolutely no good reason, wasting his time and energy when it could be spent training with his team and preparing for an important upcoming Premier League match. Worst case is he once again picks up an injury playing in a match that has no significance for Argentina.

I have been somewhat moderate in my opinions about players reporting for international duty. I know it can be important to the players involved. I know that they’re often under enormous pressure from their international federations to participate. But I have to be honest, in this situation, calling up Romero to fly to Argentina when he’s literally suspended and for two dead-rubber World Cup qualifiers feels like a giant middle finger from the AFA directed squarely at Tottenham Hotspur.