Premier League’s Argentinian players are set to defy orders not to travel on international duty in a remarkable split between club and country.
Villa keeper Emi Martinez on Saturday night confirmed he was travelling to play despite the Premier League’s refusal to release players and manager Dean Smith urging him to stay.
The club’s £33million record signing Emi Buendia is expected to follow suit.
Sources close to the Argentinian FA have told The Mail on Sunday they are confident Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero will also join up with the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia.
It’s an extraordinary show of rebellion after the Premier League announced last week that those who faced quarantine for playing in red-list countries would not be allowed to play for their national team unless they were granted exemptions.
Clubs were then forced to hold urgent talks with some of their South American stars after they expressed unhappiness at being forced to stay behind while their countries played huge World Cup games.
Argentina are on the red list so they would have to quarantine in a Government hotel for 10 days on their return, ruling them out of two rounds of Premier League fixtures against Chelsea and Everton with potentially more on top of that as they would need to regain fitness. That would likely include a Carabao Cup tie against Chelsea.
Martinez and Buendia are two of four Argentinian players in the Premier League alongside Tottenham duo Lo Celso and Romero, the club’s new £47m signing.
Tottenham would not confirm on Saturday night whether Lo Celso or Romero would also travel and insisted that the stance in the Premier League statement still applied.
If they travel, they would miss a trip to Crystal Palace before taking on Chelsea at home. They would also be absent for the Carabao Cup game against Wolves and at least the opening Europa Conference League group match against Rennes.
Villa boss Dean Smith was unsure whether Buendia and Martinez would travel when asked after their 1-1 draw against Brentford on Saturday in which Buendia scored his first goal for the club.
‘I don’t know [if Buendia and Martinez will travel]. We have sat down with them and told them the Premier League are banning players going to Argentina so we’ve told them we don’t want them to go out.
‘I don’t know what their plans are but they certainly know what our wishes are, that they don’t go, because they’d have to isolate in a government hotel for 10 days when they come back.’
However, on Saturday night goalkeeper Martinez revealed his plans when he tweeted that he was off to play for his country, saying ‘A hard-fought point this afternoon…now on to’ followed by an emoji of the Argentina flag.
The club-versus-country row began after The Mail on Sunday revealed that FIFA had removed their temporary law that allowed clubs to refuse to release their players if they faced quarantine.
The Premier League, the FA and FIFA president Gianni Infantino have all pleaded with the Government to allow the players to travel without quarantine but no exemption has yet been granted.
Top-flight clubs held an emergency meeting last week when it was agreed all clubs, with the backing of the European Club Association, would refuse to release their red-list players. It was a decision that affected up to 60 players from 19 clubs, with Burnley the only exception.
There is also frustration at the decision to extend the South American international break window to cram in an extra game, which would see some players feature in games in the early hours of Friday morning, less than 36 hours before the Premier League matches.
Serie A and La Liga followed the Premier League in announcing they would refuse to release their South American players but it is understood Inter Milan’s Argentinian pair Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa are set to fly out to Venezuela on Sunday night alongside other team-mates from the Spanish and Italian leagues. Lionel Messi is also expected to fly out.
Brazil, meanwhile, have announced a new second-string squad as they expect their players not to challenge the decision despite urging their stars, such as Liverpool trio of Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and Alisson and Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson to put pressure on their clubs.
Tite, the team’s coach, was bombarded with messages from agents to tell him their players were available for selection.
One of those originally selected was Manchester United midfielder Fred. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that if players are forced to quarantine, it could be up to a month before they are fit to play Premier League matches again.
‘It’s a fact that if you have to have 10 days in a hotel quarantining with no chance to train, no chance to keep your fitness up then you’ll need another 10 to 14 days to get back up to fitness again and then you’ve got to fly again,’ said Solskjaer. ‘It’s an impossible situation for the clubs, it’s an impossible situation for the players.
‘I don’t want to be the moaning one but if there was a choice for me, playing for Norway or playing for Man United, I know who my employer is. Yes, it’s my country but the rules are as they are at the moment.’
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