SPAIN’S preparations for the European Championship have been thrown into chaos and confusion after Sergio Busquet, their captain tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday morning, forcing the squad to go into isolation and to pull out of their final warm-up game against Lithuania on Tuesday night.
Spain faces an anxious wait to see whether other positive results emerge over the next week, with PCR tests carried out daily. An outbreak could put their participation at the Euros in risk, forcing the entire squad into quarantine.
Spain’s players have not been vaccinated, despite a request to the Health Ministry. Busquets played an hour against Portugal on Friday evening, increasing concern of the virus spreading to another team.
Although all the other members of Spain’s 24-man squad tested negative on Sunday, COVID protocols have been applied in accordance with UEFA and Spanish health ministry guidelines which mean all players and staff have to isolate in their rooms in Spain’s Las Rozas headquarters. Individual sessions will replace normal training for the next four to five days.
Busquets, the captain, was removed from Las Rozas in medicalised transport and returned home to Barcelona, where he will have to spend 10 days in isolation. That takes him beyond Spain’s first game, against Sweden on Monday, June 14, but he could return for the second on June 19 against Poland.
According to Uefa rules, Luis Enrique has until 9pm on June 12, 48 hours before their first match, to replace Busquets or any other player on medical grounds, should he consider it necessary. He was the only coach not to name a 26-man squad but is not allowed to add two more players now.
The test showed that Busquets’s COVID level was low and he was asymptomatic. He wants to return once he has tested negative and his quarantine is over. The federation is identifying those he had close contact with – understood to be people who were within two metres of him for more than 15 minutes at a time. He joined the national team last Monday and has been part of their bubble since, opening the possibility that he caught the virus within that bubble or that he introduced it.
Inside the Spanish federation there is irritation at the government’s refusal to allow them to vaccinate players, as has happened with some other competing nations and with all athletes going to the Olympic Games.
Busquets is the 12th Spain player to have tested positive for COVID after Thiago Alcantara, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia, Fabian Ruiz, Adama Traore, Jose Luis Gaya, and Ferran Torres, who has tested positive twice. Those players may have antibodies and some level of immunity.
Spain’s players have left Las Rozas only for the game against Portugal at the Wanda Metropolitano, the previous night’s training session in the stadium, and on Sunday when they ate together in the small town of Manzanares. There are 51 people in the national team bubble.
Their friendly against Lithuania at Leganes’ Butarque Stadium will be played by a hurriedly put-together 18-man squad of players from the Under-21s, named at 1.30am on Monday. Some of those players, whose participation in the Euros ended last week, had departed on holiday. Their coach Luis de la Fuente will take charge and Luis Enrique will not be involved.
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