Fifa U-turn allows Veron to play at Anfield

Kieran Daley
Friday 02 November 2001 01:00

Within 24 hours of telling Manchester United that they would be without their Argentinian midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron for Sunday's Premiership game with Liverpool, Fifa changed its mind and said the player can play at Anfield after all.

In its ruling yesterday, football's world governing body said that the midfielder can play for United before flying to South America for his country's World Cup qualifier against Peru.

It had been thought that under the five-day rule, Veron, along with other leading European-based South Americans, would be unavailable for the weekend fixtures because of the final round of qualifying matches on 7 November.

However, because of the late confirmation by the South American associations of the date for the games, Fifa has decided that it would be "unfair to deprive clubs of the services of some of their top players".

To United's annoyance, Veron had been expected to fly out to South America today despite an earlier agreement between the club and Argentina that the midfielder would leave on Sunday afternoon after the game at Anfield.

Uefa, European football's ruling body, yesterday attacked Fifa in a growing club-versus-country dispute after the world body backed France's right to call up a full-strength squad for the friendly in Australia on 11 November In a statement, Uefa said its Club Competitions Committee – composed of representatives from leading clubs and national associations – expressed its "surprise and concern" at recent Fifa rulings on the release of players.

"This committee is seriously concerned over the confusion and uncertainty created by the recent actions of Fifa in relation to the release of players and the new rules governing international transfers," it said.

Uefa said Fifa had "effectively withdrawn" a recent circular to clubs and national associations sent after the introduction of a new international transfer system in September.

Leading European clubs, led by England's Arsenal, had complained that their players would be left exhausted by the long trip in the middle of a hard season. Fifa had earlier recommended that France and Australia select only one player from each club.

Uefa said: "In particular we would register our grave concern over the handling of the release of players issue whereby provisions contained in the official circular letter on the obligations of clubs and the dates to be applied are now being changed by the latest Fifa decisions.

"We believe major difficulties are being caused by this confusion and would want to see clarification in the rules governing both the release of players and international transfers."

The France coach, Roger Lemerre, called up four Arsenal players for the Australia game on Tuesday, and two from Manchester United and Chelsea, saying he would not bow to attempts to hold his internationals "hostage".

The Uefa president, Lennart Johansson, and the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, fell out spectacularly during six months of fractious negotiations over the new transfer system which had to be thrashed out with the European Union.

The EU's executive, the European Commission, had insisted that the former system, where clubs demanded a fee for in-contract players, broke employment rules.

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