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LaLiga and the Premier League lose stars to Africa Cup of Nations

A total of 11 LaLiga players will be with their respective national teams for AFCON. Villarreal will be without Mandi, Aurier, Chukwueze and Boulaye Dia.

LaLiga and the Premier League lose stars to Africa Cup of Nations
Aitor AlcaldeGetty Images

The Africa Cup of Nations gets underway on 9 January and a number of LaLiga clubs will have to make do without key players for up to a month (the final will be played on 6 February). The European Clubs Association (ECA) have been reluctant to release their players to take part in the tournament due to the lack of Covid-19 protocols. Spanish clubs were faced with little option but to let their players go. Out of the top division, a total of 11 players will be involved from the group stage. Of those, Villarreal are the hardest hit as they will be without four players - Mandi, Aurier, Chukwueze and Boulaye Dia. Sevilla will have three players at the tournament - Bono, Munir and En Nesyri; and Barcelona (Abde), Cádiz (Akapo), Alavés (Loum) and Mallorca (Baba), with one each. In Barça's case, Abde is on stand-by and not part of the official list just yet. Morocco and Barcelona have been holding talks about releasing the player.

Relief for Celta, Granada and Betis

On the other hand, some clubs have been relieved to find out they have been left off the hook. Celta presumed that they would be without first-choice defender Joseph Aidoo, but in the end the 26-year-old has not been called up by Ghana. Others who won't be at this edition of AFCON include: Eteki (Granada), Pathé Ciss (Rayo Vallecano), Paul and Sabaly (Betis) and Amath (Mallorca).

In Spain's second tier, LaLiga Smartbank, four players will be heading off to Cameroon to represent their countries. Leaders Almería will lose top scorer Sadiq, who has supplied eight goals for the team so far this season - he joins up with Nigeria. Elsewhere, Omeruo (Leganés), Janko (Valladolid) and Ibán Salvador (Fuenlabrada) will also be taking part. While it's never ideal to be without players halfway through a campaign, this edition of AFCON when the fewest players from Spanish clubs will be involved. In 2015, 20 players from the top two divisions were called up for the African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. In 2017, the number dropped to 17 only to rise to 19 in 2019.

Equatorial Guinea to call 16 Spain-based players

Ecuatorial Guinea have yet to announce their official squad list but it is estimated that up to 16 members of their 28-man squad will be Spanish-born players with duel nationality (among them, Cadiz's Carlos Akapo). It looks like Elche midfielder Omar Mascarell and Almería left-back Sergio Akieme won't be at the tournament.

Europe's leagues without key stars

Sevilla confirmed yesterday that FIFA has agreed to delay the incorporation of their Cup of Nations participants. It means that Julen Lopetegui will be able to count on Bono, En Nesyri and Munir for the league meeting with Cádiz  on 3 January.

Out of all of Europe's league, Ligue 1 will see the biggest exodus - a total of 51 players will be joing up with their respective national teams. Egypyt's Premier League is just behind with 41 players involved in AFCON.

French side Metz are hardest hit in France as they will be missing six players - Sarr, Kouyaté, Boulaya, Maïga, Oukidja and Alakouch. PSG meanwhile, will have to get by without Achraf, Diallo and Gueyé.

England's Premier League will also lose several of their African stars - up to 30 will be at the tournament. Among the bigger names are Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mané (Liverpool), Mahrez (Manchester City) and Mendy (Chelsea).

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp spoke about being without three of his first team stars for the team's upcoming league games against Brentford and possibily Crystal Palace: “I am happy with the squad and we still have options. We knew three would be qualified and be there and we knew that at least two of them will go pretty far in the tournament. Can you be prepared for something like that, properly, perfectly? Like a one-for-one replacement for Sadio, a replacement for Mo, one replacement for Naby? That’s tricky in each situation,” he said.

In the rest of the major leagues, Serie A will lose 22 players - among them, Osimhen and Koulibaly (Napoli) and Kessié (AC Milan); in the Bundesliga, 10 players have been called up by their respective nations.