So with the Olympic torch set to be lit in five days I thought it might be a good time to have a look at how the football side of this global gathering will affect the Premier League when that kicks-off the following week. Well in fact the football side of things kicks-off two days before the Olympic torch is passed over for the final time and concludes on the 24th August.
The tournament shapes up with four groups of four teams with the top two from each group advancing to the knock-out stages. Basically its exactly the same as Euro 2008, except without the full international teams. That concept was abandon after the first World Cup in 1930 and now as you may know the gold medal is contested between players under 23 with each side allowed to draft in three over 23 years of age.
Four years ago it was Argentina who walked away with the gold medals and they are favourites to repeat their success again in Beijing. However the build-up to the competition has not been without its controversy. Barcelona and Schalke 04 have been very vocal about allowing their players to leave for the Olympics, both have important Champions League qualifiers coming up in that period and they have contested the ruling by Fifa. However on Wednesday Fifa upheld the ruling that clubs had to let players U23 leave to compete in the Games. For a look at the odds on the Olympic football head this way.
Its not just on the continent where a storm has been brewing, Liverpool have been vocal about allowing Ryan Babel and Javier Mascherano represent their respective countries. Let me list the clubs that will be losing a player or a couple of them for the start of the Premier League campaign:
- Arsenal: Alexandre Song (Cameroon)
- Aston Villa: Brad Guzan (USA)
- Blackburn: Ryan Nelsen (New Zealand)
- Chelsea: Saloman Kalou (Ivory Coast)
- Everton: Victor Anichebe (Nigeria)
- Fulham: Adrian Leijer (Australia)
- Liverpool: Javier Mascherano (Argentina), Ryan Babel (Holland)
- Manchester City: Jo (Brazil)
- Manchester United: Anderson (Brazil)
- Portsmouth: Franck Songo’o (Cameroon)
- West Brom: Gianni Zuiverloon (Holland)
So looking at the list it is clear that Liverpool will be hit hardest by the departures of Mascherano and Babel, both first team players who will miss the Champions League qualifier against Standard Liege, along with the start of the season. However like all the clubs mentioned in this list you’d think that they had sufficient cover to cope with the departures. For example Leijer of Fulham has spent a year at Craven Cottage but is yet to make his first team debut. Them same would go for Songo’o at Portsmouth, both are bit part players who neither side will be that upset about losing. In fact you’d think that the African Cup of Nations causes more grief to clubs than the Olympics. With the Cup of Nations players are gone for 6 weeks during mid-season when things are beginning to get a bit tasty.
With the Olympics players just returning from their summer breaks you might think that whilst it isn’t great for managers to lose any player it might be a chance for them to gain confidence and fitness at the Games ahead of their return to domestic action. You’d think that most managers would consider it an annoyance rather than a worry, apart from the obvious danger of serious injury.
In fact I think that the Premier League has gotten off easily in terms of losing players where as Serie A is losing quite a clutch of players. In the end as Premier League clubs all of them should be able to cope with the departures and as many of the players themselves have said that they want to play for their country there doesn’t seem much point in fighting it. In fact I would advice everyone to sit back and enjoy the Olympic football, it can be very entertaining and a break if you very quickly get bored of the new football season. For the Premier League odds click here.