Will COVID-19 positives like Ronaldo alter international breaks? (video)

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Perhaps it’s a lesson that should’ve hit far before one of the world’s very best players tested positive for coronavirus on international duty, but news of Cristiano Ronaldo’s COVID-19 positive test Wednesday inspired a very clear thought.

What are we doing playing international friendlies — and perhaps even competitive games — in a pandemic driven by a highly-contagious virus?

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The ability to keep competitive club soccer in our lives after a long coronavirus pause has been driven by a vigorous set of standards set forth by clubs and players and vigilance on the part of players and staff in following them.

Now firstly, this is not some sort of shot against international soccer. In  fact, in many cases it’s just which venture first returned to the pitch and has had a lot more time to refine its safety protocols.

But consider Ronaldo now. As our own Andy Edwards pointed out in the video above, there’s no guarantee he didn’t catch the virus while with Juventus. But once he — and all other players — left their clubs for international duty, he ran the risk of one player from one club bringing COVID-19 to any numbers of leagues.

When Ronaldo linked up with Portugal, he brought Juventus/Serie A to a roster with:

  • England (Man City x3; Wolves x5; Liverpool; Man Utd)
  • Spain (Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Betis, Granada x2)
  • Portugal (Vitoria, Porto x2, Braga, Benfica)
  • France (Lille, PSG)
  • Greece (Olympiacos)
  • Germany (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Now consider that Portugal played a friendly with Spain before its UNL match with France. We’re now adding players from nine more clubs on the Spanish NT and six from France before Tuesday’s match against Sweden, which brings club from Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia into the fold.

Yeah, we’ve all read that the odds are against catching it from an opponent on the field of play, but that doesn’t alter anything within a team or an irresponsible jersey swap, etc.

I’ll admit pangs of envy watching Tata Martino score a notable win for Mexico against the Netherlands, daydreaming of seeing our beloved USMNT trot out a roster with Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, et cetera, et cetera.

But I also want to laud U.S. Soccer for not forcing some friendlies, even if two are expected next month in November. There’s a chance that the Yanks couldn’t land any friendlies because, you know, we’re not doing a great job keeping numbers down over here. But taking a handful of  MLS from Canada and the U.S. to meet players from some of England, Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and the Netherlands just seems unnecessary.

The EURO playoffs are one thing. World Cup qualifiers are a big deal, relatively speaking, and the UEFA Nations League factors into qualifying for the World Cup in UEFA.

But with lessened or no revenues coming via crowds, are friendlies doing anything for us besides providing a couple hours of action on our screens? I understand that jobs are on the line in some cases and I’m sensitive to that, but is there any real reason for friendlies right now? In the case of the serious competitions, will there not be room for them before 2022 in Qatar?

It seems to me the answers to those questions are no and yes, respectively. This isn’t about whether highly-conditioned, elite athletes are best suited to combat the virus unless, of course, they are incapable of asymptomatic spread.