Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero are in hot water with Tottenham Hotspur after going against the club’s wishes to play in the abandoned World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.
The match in São Paulo was halted in the seventh minute when local health officials entered the pitch and accused the two Spurs players, and the Aston Villa pair Emiliano Martínez and Emiliano Buendía, of violating Covid-19 protocols in order to enter the country. Regardless of that intervention, their return to the UK was always going to be a concern given all of mainland South America is on the government’s red list, and it has emerged that Spurs did not give Lo Celso and Romero permission to join up with Argentina.
That stance was in line with a broader Premier League decision not to release players for national team games in red list countries, owing to the stipulation that they must undergo a hotel quarantine for 10 days on return. Villa came to a different agreement for Martínez and Buendía, allowing them to play for Argentina against Brazil and in last week’s match with Venezuela but arranging that they would miss Friday’s game with Bolivia. That ensured they would be ruled out of only Saturday’s visit to Chelsea.
Tottenham had come to no such bargain with their representatives, though, meaning Lo Celso and Romero are likely to be disciplined. Davinson Sánchez will have similarly tough questions to answer after electing to play for Colombia in Bolivia and Paraguay over the past four days.
In order to mitigate the fitness issues that would arise from 10 days of confinement to a quarantine hotel, the five players planned to spend that time training in green-listed Croatia before returning to their clubs. The Guardian understands Martínez and Buendía will travel to Croatia on Monday and expect to rejoin the Villa squad next week as scheduled; the onward movements of Lo Celso, Romero and Sánchez are unclear. It is believed Lo Celso and Romero have been released by Argentina. Whatever the case, as a minimum, the trio will miss Spurs’ visit to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
In a statement following Sunday’s extraordinary events, Fifa said: “Fifa regrets the scenes preceding the suspension of the match between Brazil and Argentina for the Conmebol qualifiers of the Fifa World Cup 2022 which prevented millions of fans from enjoying a match between two of the most important football nations in the world.
“The first match official reports have been sent to Fifa. This information will be analysed by the competent disciplinary bodies and a decision will be taken in due course.”
Speaking on Monday, the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, appeared to lament the inflexibility of some governments in not allowing players quarantine exemptions. The UK was among those to reject Fifa’s plea for a lenient approach to footballers in this international break.
“We have been trying since last year to find compromises, to find agreements with clubs, with countries, with governments,” Infantino said. “We have been given assurances by some governments. Some of these assurances were respected. Others were not, of course. We are living in a particular situation, so we need to take this into account.”
Referring to events in São Paulo he said: “It’s crazy but we need to deal with these challenges, we need to deal with these issues which come on top of the Covid crisis.”