Champions League top scorer has spoken as Premier League clubs prepare to release players ahead of Cameroon tournament as Watford hits roadblock
Former West Ham United striker Sébastien Haller has denounced the hypocrisy around international tournaments as he prepares to represent Côte d’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.
Premier League clubs have been given a deadline to release their players for the tournament, which begins on January 9, with figures like Mohamed Salah and Edouard Mendy allowed to represent their clubs a week earlier.
A number of England-based players will join Haller in the Ivorian squad, including Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace and Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal, while Manchester United’s Eric Bailly was briefly recalled by his club after being released earlier .
As most clubs prepare to part ways with squad members, Watford remains at odds with the Nigerian FA over Emmanuel Dennis’ involvement in the tournament.
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Haller, a former French under-21 international, declared for Côte d’Ivoire in 2020.
He has scored 22 goals for Ajax this season, including 10 in the Champions League group stage, making him the competition’s top scorer.
However, when asked about his involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations, he had absolutely no doubts, although he admitted that he preferred not to have to choose between club and country.
“This statement shows the lack of respect for Africa,” Haller told De Telegraaf when asked if he would prefer to stay in the Netherlands in January.
“Would it ever have been presented to a European player for a European Championship?
“Of course I will go to the African Cup to represent the Ivory Coast. It is the greatest honor. And of course I would have liked to have taken the plane between the two to be able to play against FC Utrecht. and PSV, but that’s just not possible. “
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Haller’s comments follow allegations by former Senegalese defender Habib Beye that African and European football are being treated differently.
They also come as Watford manager Claudio Ranieri questioned top scorer Dennis’ involvement in CAN, despite the striker’s call to the Nigerian squad.
“The email didn’t arrive at the right time. The national team has time to send a pre-call. They did not respect the days, and I want to see, “Ranieri said, as reported by The Athletic, although a representative from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) told the publication” There is no to nothing [in the rules] on provisional lists, we only process the final lists.
Ranieri has revealed he is unsure whether the 24-year-old, a summer signing from Club Brugge, will be released by the Hornets.
“They have a time when they have to send a pre-call; if they don’t send it, we can choose, ”Ranieri said after Dennis scored his eighth league goal of the season against West Ham United.
This year’s tournament will kick off with a match between Cameroon and Burkina Faso’s Kamou Malo team on January 9, with Nigeria playing their first match on January 11 and Côte d’Ivoire’s first match the following day.
Any player whose team qualifies for the final will be out of service until at least February 6.