Takumi Minamino’s Japan trip is ‘nonsense’ during pandemic – Ralph Hasenhuttl

Jim van Wijk, PA
·3-min read

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl feels it is “nonsense” for players like Japan forward Takumi Minamino to be flying across the globe for international fixtures during a pandemic.

Minamino, on loan from Liverpool, is set to join up with several other Europe-based players for next week’s friendly against South Korea in Yokohama.

Saints will also have several other members of the first-team squad heading away following Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth.

Striker Che Adams has been handed a first call-up by Scotland for their World Cup qualifiers, with midfielder Stuart Armstrong again part of Steve Clarke’s squad.

Under current coronavirus guidelines, arrivals from red-list travel-ban countries are subject to 10 days’ hotel confinement.

However, due to the special circumstances for elite athletes, FIFA has given clubs travel dispensation to prevent players who may be affected by the regulations from joining up with their countries.

Hasenhuttl accepts there is little Southampton can do but wait and hope the players return fit for duty from wherever they have been when Premier League action resumes again upon the visit of Burnley on Easter Sunday.

“I expect that (Minamino’s trip) to happen, although there are some big journeys and long travels there, which I do not like to see, but it is how it is, and a few more players are going also,” the Southampton boss said.

“To be honest, when you see how difficult travelling is at the moment, what loops they have to jump through when coming back to be available for us again, this is for me a little bit nonsense.

“We are not allowed to leave the country for any reason, and then they are flying all over the world in such a pandemic, I cannot see a reason why you should do this.

“But it is like it is, and we have to accept it. I can only accept it if then the players are after available for us and our game, this is hopefully the fact.”

Adams had rejected Scotland’s advances in 2017 but, after speaking to Clarke, is now relishing the prospect of testing himself at senior international level.

The 24-year-old has three goals in his last three club appearances and Hasenhuttl said: “For him it is a big opportunity.

“He is in good shape at the moment. Hopefully he will show that he is a benefit for the team.”

Southampton’s poor form continued last weekend when they were beaten at home by relegation-battlers Brighton, making it 10 defeats from their last 12 Premier League matches.

Hasenhuttl is expecting a response in Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Bournemouth, who are chasing promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.

“This is a game where we have a chance to come in the semi-final of the most traditional competition in English football,” he said.

“I think for us, for the players, for the staff, the fans, for everyone in the club (it is) maybe the most important game of this year.”

Hasenhuttl feels former Birmingham forward Adams made the right choice to get some top-level international football with Scotland rather than stand in line for the off chance of a senior England appearance.

“It’s a good opportunity for him, the chance to play for this country is a higher one than maybe waiting for an England call I think,” the Austrian coach said.

“It’s a little bit more difficult, but for every player it’s a big opportunity to play international games and hopefully he shows that he makes them stronger.”

Saints captain James Ward-Prowse will be hoping to add to his four England caps in the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

Hasenhuttl will be keeping a close eye on all of his squad over the next couple of weeks.

“Normally when I can watch my players, I like to do it,” he said. “When they play I like to follow them, yes.”