Claudio Ranieri says Watford respect Africa Cup of Nations despite Emmanuel Dennis absence

Nigeria accused the Hornets of ‘baring fangs’

Nick Purewal
Friday 31 December 2021 13:21
Emmanuel Dennis, pictured, will not link up with Nigeria for AFCON (Nigel French/PA)
Emmanuel Dennis, pictured, will not link up with Nigeria for AFCON (Nigel French/PA)

Claudio Ranieri has insisted Watford have not disrespected the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after Emmanuel Dennis was confirmed as missing the tournament.

Nigeria accused Watford of “baring fangs” in confirming striker Dennis had not made the Super Eagles’ 28-man squad for AFCON.

But Hornets manager Ranieri remains adamant Watford and Nigeria bosses thrashed out the situation between them, with the end result that Dennis will remain at Vicarage Road.

Nigeria missed the deadline to request Dennis’ release from Watford, but have since expressed frustrations in an official statement on Instagram – which Ranieri has moved to downplay.

Asked if Watford have disrespected AFCON by refusing Dennis’ release, Ranieri replied: “No, no. No, we respect everybody.

“They have a lot of players, and they changed the manager then they change everything, and then we were ready.

“We knew we were ready to give the players, but they didn’t do this. And then the two boards spoke and then for me it’s okay.

“I am only the manager, only the coach, and I accept everything.”

The Super Eagles confirmed their AFCON squad on social media on Friday, adding in a statement: “In-form rapid raider Emmanuel Dennis, whose English club Watford is baring fangs, has been excused to provide room for Czech Republic-based forward Peter Olayinka.”

But Ranieri remains confident Dennis is happy with the situation of remaining with Watford and missing out on national team duty.

“I knew they were speaking, the board and Nigeria board, and I accept every decision they find, and that, for me, is finished,” said Ranieri.

“I’ve spoken with him, of course he wanted to go, to play, but he also wanted to help Watford. I accept the decision of the board and the Nigeria team.”

Watford will host Tottenham on New Year’s Day keen to break a cycle of five-straight Premier League defeats.

Tom Cleverley will be available again after a hamstring problem, although Kiko Femenia has now been ruled out with a similar injury.

Danny Rose is out with a knee concern, with several Watford players still isolating due to positive Covid-19 tests.

Ranieri insisted Watford’s injury and Covid situation is now good enough to allow training and matches to move on without too much disruption.

“There are some players still out and we continue with everything we have to do,” said Ranieri.

“This is a difficult moment for everybody. We have to play, we have to stay together. I have almost all my players, and I’m very happy.”

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