African Nations Cup impact keenly felt by European clubs
By Mark Gleeson
LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - The impact of the African Nations Cup on clubs in Europe is again likely to be keenly felt over the next weeks with teams losing significant players to the tournament in Gabon, which gets under way on Saturday.
Clubs in England and France have lost 89 players to the three-week event, with Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish clubs also hit as their African players head to Gabon.
Just under two-thirds of the 368 players at the Nations Cup come from Europe – a total of 232 from 28 different countries - and the rest are from African clubs with a handful from teams in Canada, China, the Middle East, the United States and Vietnam.
English champions Leicester City, struggling to stay away from Premier League relegation this season, have lost three regulars to the tournament as they prepare to face leaders Chelsea and then go on tricky trips to Southampton and Burnley.
Riyad Mahrez, named African Footballer of the Year last week, his Algerian compatriot Islam Slimani and the Ghanaian defender Daniel Amartey could all be still away by the time Leicester host Manchester United on Feb. 5.
Sunday’s clash between Manchester United and Liverpool sees both sides having to do without an important element of their line-up. Defender Eric Bailly is playing instead for cup holders Ivory Coast at the finals with Liverpool's Sadio Mane leading Senegal’s challenge for a first African title.
Jose Mourinho has already expressed his frustration after the Ivorians did not allow Bailly to stay for their last league at West Ham on Jan. 2, insisting instead he join their pre-tournament preparations.
FIFA regulations allow a call-up a fortnight before a continental championship and so effectively players with a country that reaches the final four of the Nations Cup are away for five weeks. They are then likely to need some rest before returning to club action. Continued...