Leeds United have been cleared to call upon Raphinha to play against Liverpool on Sunday after the Brazil national association backed down in their bid to enforce a five-day playing ban.
Six Premier League clubs decided not to release their Brazilian stars for the current international break. Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leeds and Everton did so. They had concerns over their players travelling to a country on the UK government’s coronavirus red list, which would have forced quarantine.
But in doing so, that angered the Brazilian FA. They asked FIFA to enforce the rule that can failure to release players can result in a five-day suspension.
That would have meant Leeds not being able to field Raphinha against Jurgen Klopp’s side. The decision was all the more tough for Leeds to swallow after it was Raphinha himself who decided against making the journey.
Opponents Liverpool were also affected, with Alisson, Fabinho and the injured Roberto Firmino missing at Elland Road.
However, there was widespread anger at the decision.
Premier League bosses reacted angrily to the situation as it continued to develop on Friday, as they remained unsure whether they would be able to field some of their biggest names in the weekend’s fixtures.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called it a “farce” and “a lose, lose, lose situation for everyone – national teams, players, clubs”.
Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel also had some strong words to say.
Guardiola described the situation as “crazy”, while Tuchel added: “It makes no sense from which side you look at it. Does it make sense for Brazil? No. Does it make sense for us? No.”
“Imagine a coach receives a player after he has flown 20 hours then has to play Thursday, Sunday and Thursday again. Impossible for him to do anything other than pick who plays,” Bielsa said.
“We have to play no matter what. That’s impossible for it to end up well. It ends up making the play between the team every time worse.
“To ignore the preparation and rest needed is absurd. To ignore the effect on players and long hours of flying, that will injury any player, so clearly there is no way to resolve this by protecting football.
“They protect the commercial arm, but the game goes unprotected. Football is going to waste in such a way and there will be time when it becomes less attractive.”
However, following extensive talks with FIFA, the FA and the Premier League, the associations of Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Paraguay agreed to waive the automatic five-day restriction they had the option of imposing.
The resolution finally arrived late on Friday night. That’s little more than 12 hours before the weekend’s fixtures kick off.
Bielsa has Daniel James decision to make
Raphinha missing out could have meant an instant debut for new signing Daniel James.
Instead, Bielsa is likely to start with both the Brazilian and Jack Harrison on the wings. Welshman James is likely be start on the bench.
However, the Leeds boss was thrilled to be finally get his hands on the speedy former Swansea man.
“The decision to bring in James was the correct one by the club,” Bielsa said.
“He will be available this weekend. He’s a player who can play on either side that combines his ability to unbalance the opponent and passages into empty spaces considering his speed.”
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