With the Champions League entering its later stages, the remaining eight teams in the competition all harbour genuine hopes of lifting the trophy in Berlin in June. Unfortunately, there is a real chance that some players will be missing on the big day, regardless of whether their team reaches the final or not. Gavin Nolan discusses.
This year the final of the world’s biggest club competition is being held much later than it has been for the last decade. The match normally takes place between the 17th and the 28th of May but this year it is being played on June 6th .This is where the controversy comes to the fore.
FIFA are demanding that every club release their players for international duty for the Copa America, the South American equivalent of the European Championships, by May 29th. The competition starts on June 11th and with the Champions League final being five days before that, it is conceivable that a good few players may be forced to sit the game out if their team makes it that far.
This could be catastrophic for the chances of some of the teams left in the competition. Atletico Madrid could be without four players, including star defender Diego Godin, while Porto could miss a number of key players such as Mexico’s Hector Herrera.
Bayern Munich only lose one player, Dante, if they reach the final, but this won’t be seen as a big headache for Pep Guardiola as the big Brazilian is currently fourth in the pecking order behind Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Mehdi Benatia.
Juventus and Real Madrid would be without two players each although the problem is far worse for the Italian side than it is for Madrid. The Bianconeri would lose two talismanic players in Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez. Only Marcelo and James Rodriguez would be absent for Los Blancos and given Madrid’s riches of talent, they would have a much easier time filling the voids than Juve would in replacing Tevez and Vidal.
The problem really comes to a head with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. Between them they could be without a combined 13 players if they progress to the final.
The Blaugrana would be without the services of Claudio Bravo, Javier Mascherano, and Daniel Alves, while marquee names Neymar and Lionel Messi would also be notable absentees.
Incidentally, Luis Suarez is available for club services due to his inability to stop biting other professionals and the subsequent suspension that followed.
PSG without doubt bear the brunt of the fallout from this logistical footballing nightmare. Laurent Blanc’s team would be decimated if they reached the final and FIFA have refused to backtrack on their demands. They would have no centre backs as David Luiz, Marquinhos and Thiago Silva would be ineligible. Maxwell could also be gone if he makes the Brazil squad. The triumvirate of Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi would also be out of club action, leaving the Parisiens with no out-and-out wingers.
The final nail in the coffin would be the loss of their striker Edinson Cavani, as he would be leading the line for Uruguay.
It is still relatively early days and UEFA could mediate a deal that allows players selected for the Copa America to also tog out for the Champions League Final. However, this has yet to be resolved and there is a real chance that the quality of European football’s marquee event could be lowered considerably due to a South American tournament that the majority of European fans do not even care about.