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In the ongoing power struggle over whether or not U-23 star players will be allowed to play in the Beijing Olympics, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has stated his position, sending out a letter to all member associations stating that the release of under-23s is obligatory, reports the Telegraph.
"The release of players below the age of 23 has always been mandatory for all clubs," Blatter said in that letter. "The same principle shall apply for Beijing 2008."
As you’re probably well aware, each nation is allowed three overage players, although those players may be denied the right to play by their club teams. However, for players within the Olympic age range, release is mandatory. While many clubs have complied with this rule — Manchester City with newly-purchased 21-year-old JÃ´ and Manchester United with 20-year-old Anderson, both Brazilians, come to mind — a couple have not.
Barcelona claims that La Liga has backed their decision to not release Lionel Messi, 21, to the Argentina squad, claiming that clubs are under no obligation to release their players. Two other Brazilians, both based in Germany, are heavily involved in the situation as well. Werder Bremen is trying to deny world-class forward Diego, 23, from leaving, while Shalke 04 are looking to stop Rafinha, 22, from going as well, though both players have joined their Olympic squad.
Blatter condemned these actions in his letter by saying, "It would appear to be against the spirit of the Olympic regulations to hinder players under the age of 23, who are actually the core of the squads participating in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, to take part in the final phase of the event."
Just because Sepp Blatter is involved doesn’t mean the battle for club teams to retain their star players is over. Bremen are not ready to mandate Diego’s participation just yet, saying they will take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Personally, I think it’s time for some of the world’s biggest clubs teams to accept their fate and move on with their season preparation, but then again I’ve never been faced with the idea of putting a major investment at risk in a foreign tournament.
Think Barca, Bremen and Shalke should quit their belly-aching? Should Brazil have fielded such a stacked team likely knowing it would create conflict with certain clubs? Will Blatter’s letter have any effect on the situation or do you think it will be a long drawn-out process? Share your thoughts below.