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Watford threatened Dennis to miss Afcon 2021 – Nigeria's Eguavoen

10:51 GMT+3 01/01/2022
Emmanuel Dennis Watford 2021-22
The 24-year-old striker was among the four players who were replaced in the Super Eagles squad for the tournament in Cameroon this month

Nigeria interim coach Austin Eguavoen claims Watford threatened Emmanuel Dennis to miss the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

Dennis was replaced in the Super Eagles’ 28-man squad on Friday by Olympiacos’ Henry Onyekuru after his Premier League club declined to release him for the trip to Cameroon.

He earned his spot in the squad list after his strong start to his debut Premier League season that has seen him contribute eight goals and five assists in 16 appearances.

“Dennis told me that his club had done everything humanly possible for him not be at Afcon,” Eguavoen told NFF TV. “I can’t force it, I reported the matter to the authority and they also tried, that was why we had to wait until the last second before we pushed the button.

“Dennis said he wanted to come but the club is threatening him. What do we do if a player does not want to come? We have to play with what we have. Based on that, I like the enthusiasm because I only informed Onyekuru once and he was happy about it.

“Initially, he has been an integral part of this team and I felt bad that some of them wouldn’t be around but decisions have to be made. Onuachu, Onyekuru, Ebuehi, and few other ones and as soon as that opening was there, Shehu Abdullahi also said that the report came out that he’s been injured and he’s going to be out for 10 days to two weeks and we reached out to Tyronne and he was happy too.”

Meanwhile, Watford manager Claudio Ranieri said the Nigeria Football Federation and Watford management were in talks but they could not reach an agreement to secure the release of Dennis.

“I knew they were speaking, the board and the Nigerian board, and I accept every decision they find and for me, it’s finished,” Ranieri told the club’s website.

“We respect everybody. They have a lot of players and they have changed the manager and we were ready to give them the players, but they didn’t do this. The two boards spoke and for me it’s okay. I am only the manager, the coach, and I accept everything.”