International breaks in the time of COVID-19 have been a very tricky affair from the beginning. Restrictions on international travel, varying degrees of spread throughout the many countries players must travel to, and the inability or lack of effort to take measures to reduce potential COVID exposure by national teams has left clubs and fans alike waiting with bated breath to see if all of their players would return from the breaks virus free.
For the upcoming March international break, FIFA has given clubs a potential lifeline by allowing them to refuse to release players for international duty if their national team travel would require a quarantine period of five or more days upon their return. When asked about this during his pre-Chelsea press conference today, Jürgen Klopp wouldn’t commit to refusing to release players, but it’s very clear Liverpool are considering it.
“I have different things I could say but we are concerned, yes. About all the things,” said Klopp. “All the things that happened in the last few months. Whenever someone had to leave the bubble. In the bubble, we have had cases but we are without cases for a long time, but it never spread. There was self-isolation.”
While COVID case numbers continue to trend in the right direction in England, the concerns from previous international breaks are clearly still present in the German manager’s mind.
“There were two periods in the last international break when more cases come up and the Christmas period obviously which we were all involved. It was a challenge for all of society. It’s going in the right direction in England and looks positive and promising. Yes, we are concerned by these things.”
Based on current travel restrictions and rules, Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, and Diogo Jota would all have to quarantine for ten days upon their return to England if they joined their national teams during the upcoming break. This, of course, would rule them out of training and playing in any matches over that ten-day period.
Missing four key players from an already depleted roster because they’re in quarantine is clearly not something Klopp wants to deal with. While he didn’t outright say Liverpool won’t release them, he didn’t exactly hide how he feels about the situation. He even went so far as to make the point that the players are paid by their clubs, not their national teams, so the clubs’ needs take priority in these unprecedented times.
“We don’t have to let the players go this time and all the clubs agree we cannot let the players just go and sort the situation when they come back with a 10-day quarantine in a hotel.”
“I understand the need of the different FAs, but this is a time where you can’t make everyone happy and we have to admit the players are paid by the clubs.”
“That means we have to be first priority. That’s how it is. That means, with the competitions coming up in the summer, you cannot make everyone happy at the same time in this period of our lives.”