Premier League managers remain in the dark over whether their Brazilian internationals will be available to play in this weekend's fixtures after FIFA's intervention into a dispute with Brazil's football federation (CBF).
Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Leeds all face the prospect of having to do without key first-team players after FIFA informed them that anyone who was called up for Brazil's recent World Cup qualifiers and did not travel would be subject to the five-day ruling which blocks clubs from selecting those players until Sept. 15.
Such a policy exists to ensure that clubs and players do not feign injuries that will keep them out of international duty but in this instance has been applied after the Premier League refused to allow anyone to travel to countries on the COVID red list. That meant Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Raphinha (Leeds), Gabriel Jesus, Ederson (Manchester City), Thiago Silva (Chelsea) and Fred (Manchester United) took no part in Brazil's games but are at risk of being unable to feature this weekend. Indeed the latter duo would also miss their side's opening Champions League matches on Tuesday.
Any player who had travelled to a red list country would be obliged to quarantine in a hotel room for 10 days on their return to the United Kingdom or -- as Argentine internationals Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia are doing in Croatia before joining up with Aston Villa -- spend that period in another country. Talks are ongoing to find a resolution with the CBF and FIFA that allows the Brazil players to feature this weekend but time is running out as managers look to finalize their tactics and selection.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Soskjaer described the situation as a "farce" in his pre-match press conference. "I think it's a lose, lose, lose situation for everyone - national teams, players, clubs," he said. "It's been a farce... For me, I'm disappointed with the whole thing. Common sense might not be so common anymore and we need to prepare a game without Fred."
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In comments shared by many of his counterparts, Pep Guardiola offered a hopeful assessment over whether Jesus and Ederson could feature for Manchester City against Leicester City on Saturday but acknowledged he was in the dark. "Hopefully they can play, we'll wait and see if there is good news, the club didn't inform me anything. The problem is I don't understand the situation for the fact that I don't know what we have to do, he said.
"Argentina players can travel and they can't play the game. Brazil asked to ban players who can not travel. They can not play there and they can not play here. It's crazy. Right now I think they are going to play because I don't have other instructions. We will wait for FIFA and the Premier League and after tomorrow we are going to decide."
Ederson's absence would be particularly keenly felt by City. With backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen sidelined due to COVID-19 the champions would have to call on Scott Carson for what would be only his second senior appearance for the club. A unified stance by Premier League clubs in defiance of FIFA might be welcome news for Guardiola but he is not overly optimistic.
"This kind of situation, I am not a big fan of that, everyone thinks for themselves," he said. "From my experience... people go for what is the best for themselves."
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said he will make a decision over the involvement of center back Thiago Silva tomorrow and did not rule the veteran defender out of his side's game against Aston Villa. "I don't understand it and it makes no sense from whatever side you look," he said of the storm between the CBF and Premier League. "Did if make sense for Brazil? No. Did it make sense for us? No, because he may not be able to play two matches.
"If we had sent him, he would've been out for 10 days in a hotel room, not able to train. I understand because these are the travel restrictions, there's nothing to go around it."
The situation has been complicated by Richarlison's availability for Everton. They released their star forward for both the Copa America and Olympic Games this summer and it appears that the CBF have therefore opted against blocking him from playing against Burnley on Monday night.
"I think we are in a much better position than anyone because when we allowed him to go to the Olympic Games we were in contact with (the CBF)," said Toffees boss Rafael Benitez. "We told them it was a complicated situation for us but we could understand how important the Olympic Games were for the association. We have a very good relationship with them and they said they understand and Richarlison was not an issue."
Wolverhampton Wanderers have also reached an agreement with the Mexican federation that will allow Raul Jimenez to play for them against Watford this weekend. However their opponents look set to be without Chilean international Francisco Sierralta. Newcastle secured an agreement with Paraguay that means Miguel Almiron will be able to play for them.
Meanwhile joining Martinez and Buendia in Croatia are the Tottenham trio of Giovanni Lo Celso, Cristian Romero and Davinson Sanchez, all of whom travelled to South America for international matches without the club's permission. In scenes of high farce last week the presence of Lo Celso, Romero and Martinez in the Argentina squad led to the cancellation of their World Cup qualifier against Brazil as health officials entered the field in a bid to enforce quarantine regulations on the arrivals from the United Kingdom.