Top clubs across Europe are reluctant to sign players from the Premier League who have refused the Covid vaccines, as the game braces itself for another potential spike in infection, The Sunday Telegraph understands.
Two of Chelsea’s first team players, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N’Golo Kante, have both been left out of the club’s pre-season tour to the United States this week, as a consequence, the club said, of “their Covid vaccination status ”. The US government’s current rules declare that a Covid vaccination is mandatory for all visitors who are not US nationals.
Anecdotally, the evidence in Europe this summer has been that clubs are not prepared to pursue an interest in any player who has not been vaccinated. In domestic leagues in Italy and France vaccination was made compulsory for players after the rise in infections over the winter although some leeway has been given. Especially in the case of those who were already playing there at the time and had declined the vaccine.
One source said that this summer, as soon as it becomes common knowledge among interested clubs that a potential new signing is not vaccinated, “the phone calls stop immediately”.
The likes of Loftus-Cheek and Kante may now find it difficult to attract interest in any of the top European leagues without Covid vaccination. Loftus-Cheek, 26, has two years left on his existing deal and while he had enjoyed something of a renaissance under coach Thomas Tuchel last season the club would listen to offers for the player.
Kante, 31, has one year left on his Chelsea deal and will be looking for one last major move when he reaches a free agency next summer.
The top Premier League clubs are finding it hard to sell established first team players on higher wages to rivals lower down the division this summer because of budget limitations. That means moves into Europe for those players become the only viable option.
As for unvaccinated players, while clubs might be prepared to make an exception in a few cases, the consensus is that they are too much trouble to accommodate – especially if infections continue to climb. According to the level of protocol in the event of a European outbreak unvaccinated players would be unable to travel with team-mates, or potentially be unable to go away on mid-season breaks.