Football’s international break is on the horizon, but for some players these 2022 World Cup qualifying matches might as well not be happening at all.
The UK’s requirement that those travelling to certain countries quarantine for 10 days on their return has made some Premier League clubs reluctant to release players.
But the situation could also have repercussions for Gareth Southgate, who may be unable to call on overseas-based England players.
Quarantine rules have already disrupted European competitions, with a number of ties in the Champions League and Europa League switched to neutral venues as a result.
Here’s how the 2022 World Cup qualifiers at the end of March could be affected.
Which countries are on the red list?
At the time of writing, countries on the UK’s red list include: Portugal, all South American nations, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Arrivals from those countries must isolate for 10 days in a government-approved hotel, a requirement that would make footballers likely to miss games for their club.
Which teams and players are affected?
Players affected include Bruno Fernandes, of Manchester United, Diogo Jota, of Liverpool, Joao Cancelo, of Manchester City, Ricardo Pereira, of Leicester, and Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves, of Wolves – and that’s just Portugal.
South American players such as Everton’s James Rodriguez, United’s Edinson Cavani, City’s Gabriel Jesus, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Alisson could also be caught up.
Africa is also affected, but the countries on the red list are mainly those in the south – not the north and west, where more Premier League players are from.
What can clubs do?
World governing body Fifa says that clubs can prevent their players from joining up with their national team if they would be required to quarantine for five days or more.
Given their traditional caution over releasing their stars, they are expected to exercise this right.
What have managers said?
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said: “The players are paid by the clubs so that means we have to be the first priority. You cannot make everyone happy in this period of our lives.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “It doesn’t make sense to travel, when we are paying them, if they come back and are away for 10 days.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “You cannot think that I send any player anywhere when he has to quarantine when he’s coming back. Forget it.”
Could games be moved?
One solution would be to move games from countries on the red list to other venues.
Fifa is reported to have asked South American federations to consider this option as a way of avoiding postponements in a calendar already squeezed by the pandemic.
Europe would be a likely destination, given many of the players are here already.
There is no indication yet that South American national teams will agree to move their fixtures.
How are England affected?
England could also be without players for their World Cup qualfiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
The availability of forward Jadon Sancho and midfielder Jude Bellingham is in doubt due to current rules in Germany.
The Borussia Dortmund pair would be required to isolate for 10 days on their return to Germany, meaning they, too, look set to miss the games.