March international break could leave football in a mess – Nuno Espirito Santo

Mark Walker, PA
·2-min read

Nuno Espirito Santo has warned next month’s international break for World Cup qualifiers could leave football in a “mess”.

European nations are scheduled to play their first three qualifying rounds between March 24-31 and the Wolves boss expressed grave concerns given lockdown restrictions are still in place.

“I’m just trying to tell you, realising, the mistakes are continuing,” Nuno said. “The national teams will have their campus not in their own countries.

“Imagine the confusion organising these players from coming from all over Europe to join different countries to play different countries, and not being able to go to your own country to prepare for the matches you’re supposed to play.

“Just put it together and you see the mess that is created.”

The Portuguese, whose side bid to extend their unbeaten Premier League run to five matches at Newcastle on Saturday, believes the game’s governing bodies will “try to rush things” when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“This is what we’re going to face now,” he said. “The rush of trying to make things happen.

“We face a new normal in football, for sure. So many things are concerning me right now.”

Nuno insisted he would never discourage his players from representing their country, but urged the authorities for more guidance.

“With all the circumstances that are happening around the world, the corridors closed with all the restrictions in our freedom and mobility and they’re going to play three classification games in all different countries,” he said.

“So this is the problem that we’ll face – the rush to make things happen because of the delays from before.

“We have until that moment four (league) games to be played and what we expect is direction from the Premier League, the Government, telling us.

“We as managers, what can we do? Which players can we count (on) when they return?

“How is it going to be, the competition, because some teams will have 15 (players) in their squad going to international teams, some teams will have two or three.

“If they’re allowed back in the country, when? All these circumstances need taking care of.”

Nuno, still without Willy Boly (hamstring) and Daniel Podence (hip) for the trip to St James’ Park, was dealt a new injury blow this week with confirmation Fernando Marcal needs another operation.

The Brazilian defender, who had groin surgery last month, was forced out of last week’s home win against Leeds after sustaining a separate abductor injury.

“He’s a very good player and all the moments he’s been available he’s been a big help for the team and every time you don’t have a player, you have a problem,” Nuno added.

“It’s important that he recovers well and that everything goes well with the surgery so he can hopefully be available for even this season.”