The conflict between club and country has been an ongoing battle over the years, especially as the money on the club side has grown to astronomical proportions. Occasionally, situations arise that bring tensions between the sides to a head as they squabble over players.
This past window saw one of the more chaotic situations in recent memory with the Brazilians playing for Liverpool and other Premier League clubs were blocked from returning home for World Cup Qualifiers despite being called up. The clubs, backed by the Premier League, decided not to allow players to go to countries listed by the UK government that would require a 10 day quarantine when the players returned. The quarantine would mean the players would miss two Premier League games, as well as the opening game of the Champions League.
In retribution, Brazil has asked FIFA to invoke a rule requiring the players who did not return for international duty be suspended for five days, and the international governing body complied. As of now, Fabinho, Allison, and Raphina will all be ineligible to play this weekend when Liverpool take on Leeds.
The clubs are in negotiations with the Brazilian FA with hopes to come to some sort of resolution. Melissa Reddy reported that it seems likely that an agreement will be made, but there has been no resolution as of yet.
No resolution yet but there’s growing confidence that the players will be allowed to feature for their clubs following discussions between the Premier League, FIFA, FA and the government. https://t.co/YJ7iNGIJHP— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) September 8, 2021
The players, of course, are the ones most impacted by this power struggle. Fabinho spoke to ESPN Brasil about the situation, and described what is has been like being caught in the middle.
“It’s a difficult situation, because we want to defend our country, we want to play for the Brazilian team. But I don’t think it’s just between club and national team. It’s a government rule, I don’t think the English FA could change that, I think. I believe that FIFA would not be able to change either, neither CONMEBOL nor the CBF. We players are in the middle of this kind of dispute, right, without much to do. Because it was a Premier League decision not to release us. And on the one hand, we even understand, because on the way back I would have to stay 10 days in a hotel. Maybe lose three games. And 10 days is enough for you to lose a game rhythm. So it’s hard. But we also understand the side of the national team, that the national team cannot have nine players. Nine players, that’s a lot of players. So we stay in the middle of this dispute hoping that there is really a solution.”
For Fabinho and the other players, it must be a very frustrating situation. The clubs are the ones who pay their massive wages, and returning to a quarantine would mean missing three big games, including the opening Champions League game against AC Milan.
Still, the allure of helping your country qualify for the World Cup is difficult to deny. For some of these players on the fringes of being in the squad, or having a regular role, not being able compete for their spots could cost them a trip to the World Cup itself.
It’s an unenviable position to be in, and one not of the players’ own making. Let’s hope the clubs ans the Brazilian FA can sort something out, or we could see this whole drama unfold several more times over the upcoming international breaks this fall.