Brazil v Argentina controversy will make clubs ‘nervous’ to release players says Aston Villa CEO

Emi Martinez
Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez started for Argentina against Brazil before the game was abandoned on Sunday

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow says the controversy surrounding Brazil and Argentina’s World Cup qualifier will make clubs “incredibly nervous” about releasing their players in future.

Villa allowed Argentine duo Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia to travel to South America for Argentina’s first two matches.

That was despite Premier League clubs deciding not to release players for matches in red-list countries during September’s international break as they would miss several games because of the 10-day isolation period required on their return to the UK.

Martinez and Tottenham duo Giovani lo Celso and Cristian Romero started Sunday’s match against Brazil.

All four Premier League-based stars have now been released back to their clubs.

Purslow feels the situation needs to change before the October matches, when, again, South America will host a triple header of qualifiers as they try to catch up on games postponed due to the pandemic.

“It is a mess,” he said.

“What happened in Brazil on Sunday was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve seen watching football in all my life.

“I don’t quite understand how it happened but it was very regrettable and very damaging to sport, when we had done everything we could to come to an amicable and sensible arrangement with the Argentine FA to enable our players to play in very important games.

“We already have a significant congestion issue with World Cup qualifying games in South America so between now and October I really hope to see a sensible arrangement put in place because nobody wants to see a repeat of what happened.

“That would make any reasonable club executive feel incredibly nervous about releasing players for overseas travel while we are in the midst of this crisis.”

No World Cup matches were played in South America in September 2020 and March 2021 due to the travel restrictions in place, leaving Conmebol to fit four qualifiers into the existing calendar.

Fifa has already sanctioned a two-match international window for January – when the Premier League will have its winter break – and then added two days to the period when clubs should release their players both this month and next.

That move has already created an issue for major European leagues, who face being without key players for this weekend’s fixtures.

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