Players are returning to training this week ahead of a proposed mid-July return for the Premier League, and it’s clear that not everyone is entirely comfortable about the idea of any sport coming back while the threat of coronavirus still exists.
Watford’s Troy Deeney says he’s “not going in” due to concerns for the health of his family, while Newcastle fullback Danny Rose hit out at players being treated like “lab rats.” And if any Liverpool players feel similarly uneasy, Jürgen Klopp says he understands.
“It is the players’ choice and that is clear,” Klopp told Sky today. “I said before the session, ‘You are here on free will. Usually you sign a contract and you have to be in when I tell you, but in this case if you don’t feel safe, you don’t have to be here.’”
Klopp is on record as having been angry Liverpool’s match against Atletico Madrid went ahead before football was shut down. He was also reportedly one of the loudest voices advocating player safety in recent meetings between managers and the league.
Yesterday, though, he said he was “over the moon” at the chance to get back to Melwood along with the players to begin training—and that he believes, at this point, that return to training and potentially to live football next month isn’t being rushed.
For some, perhaps—players and fans alike—that will provide some comfort. But if it doesn’t, and if players individually feel they aren’t ready to return, that will be entirely their call, with no pressure or threat of punishment used to get them to come back.
“There are no restrictions, no punishment,” Klopp added. “It’s their own decision and we respect that. We would never put anybody in danger to do what we want to do. Yes, we love football, yes, it’s our job, but it’s not more important than our lives.”