La Liga stars divided over coronavirus return demand health guarantees – sources

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Sid Lowe dives into the proposed protocols for team training and the potential timetable for La Liga’s return.
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La Liga’s players are divided over a return to training and playing games during the coronavirus pandemic, with a majority wanting further guarantees on their health and safety, sources have told ESPN.

A video conference call was held with the captains of Spain‘s first and second division clubs and the players’ union AFE on Tuesday.

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Sources have told ESPN that Barcelona‘s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid‘s Sergio Ramos did not participate.

A date is yet to be announced for football to resume in Spain, with La Liga having been suspended indefinitely last month.

On Sunday, Spain’s National Sports Council said an agreement in principle had been reached with La Liga and football federation the RFEF, subject to governmental approval.

The country has been one of the hardest hit in Europe by COVID-19, with more than 200,000 confirmed cases and over 21,000 deaths.

There is serious concern among players that the desire to complete the 2019-20 season — with La Liga fearing losses of up to €1 billion otherwise — is being prioritised over their health and wellbeing.

Sources told ESPN that players feel the Spanish health authorities must have the final say, rather than La Liga and the RFEF.

A growing number of players have publicly expressed their doubts in recent days.

“It only takes one of the players to catch coronavirus and their team is in trouble, and indirectly the league too,” Celta Vigo‘s Rafinha said on Instagram. “I think it’s really difficult.”

“We want to play, but for the league to return there must be extensive security measures,” Sevilla defender Sergio Escudero told COPE radio. “We need the best security possible, so as not to infect our families.”

Footballers are also opposed to being held together in team hotels for long periods of time away from their families, a requirement in protocols drawn up by La Liga to minimise the risk of infection.

“I think keeping us together until the season is over is an exaggeration. I don’t think it can be done.” Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets said last week.

Sources have told ESPN that on this specific issue, there is a feeling that a satisfactory compromise between league, clubs and players should be possible.

Further meetings between clubs and La Liga president Javier Tebas are to be held on Wednesday.



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