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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Watford’s Sarr leaves Senegal camp for Spain after missing Zimbabwe opener

10:24 GMT+3 12/01/2022
Ismaila Sarr of Senegal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Final.
The 23-year-old has left the Lions of Teranga camp and travelled to Barcelona to see a knee specialist after missing the opening match

Senegal have confirmed winger Ismaila Sarr has been released from the team’s Africa Cup of Nations camp in Bafoussam and travelled to Spain for medical check-ups on his knee injury.

The 23-year-old did not feature in the Lions of Teranga’s 1-0 win against Zimbabwe in their Group B opener on Monday as he was still troubled with the injury he sustained while on duty for Watford against Manchester United in a Premier League clash on November 20.

Ahead of their second group match against Guinea on Friday, Senegal have confirmed Sarr has been allowed to travel to Barcelona to see a knee specialist and follow a rehabilitation program with a view of returning to the field.

“The Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) informs that the player Ismaila Sarr is currently in Barcelona [Spain] for medical check-ups planned for a long time to judge the evolution of his injury, these reviews show positive development,” read part of the statement from Senegal Football Federation general secretary Victor Seh Cisse posted on their website.

“After discussions with her surgeon, the medical staff of Watford, that of the FSF as well as the player, it was agreed that Ismaila Sarr would follow rehabilitation program with a view to returning to the field.

“This program was stopped by mutual agreement two weeks after which he will return to the Den. He is expected in the Den in Cameroon immediately after.

“Close daily monitoring will be done in order to assess the player's progress. Until then, the FSF will keep the opinion of the player’s situation regularly informed.”

At first, Watford had refused to release Sarr for national team duties, insisting the player was injured and cannot take part in the African competition but the decision did not go down well with Senegal, who threatened to report the club to world governing body Fifa.

On accusing Watford, Senegal said in a statement: “The English club Watford notified on the basis of spurious arguments its decision to block the player Ismaila Sarr, who has expressed his desire to join the Senegalese selection for the Cup of Nations.

“The FSF responded immediately to confirm the player's call-up and the club's obligation to release the player by no later than January 3.

“Furthermore, the West Africans threatened to take the matter up to Fifa should 'Watford persist in its deliberate refusal to release the player.

“The FSF wishes to express its deep condemnation of the disrespectful, pernicious, and discriminatory behaviour of Watford who seek by all means to prevent a player from playing with his national team.

“Africa, its football, and its footballers deserve the same respect as that accorded to other continents, confederations, and players. The FSF will take all the necessary action to ensure that the basic right of its footballers to play for their country is respected.”

Watford then changed their tune and released the player but he missed the opener as Liverpool winger Sadio Mane converted a stoppage-time penalty to help sink the stubborn Warriors at Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium.

It means Sarr will likely miss the team’s second fixture against the Syli Nationale on Friday and it is not clear whether he will have returned to Cameroon in time for Senegal's final group phase clash against Malawi on January 18.