Three Leicester City players have been isolated from the rest of the squad after displaying flu-like symptoms, the club has said.
Leicester believe that the players were suffering from common seasonal illness, but have taken the precautions recommended by government in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to the media on Thursday morning, Leicester’s manager Brendan Rodgers said: “We’ve had a few players that have shown symptoms and signs [of coronavirus]. We’ve followed procedures and [as a precaution] they have been kept away from the squad.”
A statement from the club later clarified Rodgers’ remarks. “In recent days, all three players presented with extremely mild illness and were advised by club medical staff, consistent with current government guidance, to stay home and contact the NHS 111 service.
“All three players were subsequently advised by NHS 111 that their symptoms were consistent with common seasonal illness and that a seven-day period of self-isolation was appropriate as a precaution. There was no recommendation that further testing would be necessary. The club is in regular contact with the relevant players, whose symptoms remain mild and self-manageable.”
In another development, Chelsea cancelled training on Thursday and applied a deep clean process to the training ground and Stamford Bridge after a player complained of symptoms, the Guardian understands.
Rodgers had been speaking in the runup to Leicester’s Premier League fixture at Watford, which is still scheduled to take place in front of a crowd on Saturday.
Asked about the prospect of being made to play the game behind closed doors, or perhaps not at all, Rodgers said: “Of course, from a football perspective, it would be a shame, but the public’s health is the most important aspect in all of this.”
The past few days have seen football across Europe placed under intense pressure. Some matches have been moved behind closed doors but on Thursday La Liga joined Serie A in suspending fixtures altogether for two weeks. The Premier League fixture between Manchester City and Arsenal was postponed earlier this week, but otherwise English football has declared “business as usual”. That looks increasingly set to change.
While all clubs are reluctant to abandon League football, and cup competitions, before they are completed they are increasingly outweighed by concerns over exposing themselves to the virus.
In a statement released this week, the international players’ union Fifpro, called for suspensions to be considered. “Professional footballers, like other workers, are concerned about themselves and their families and friends being exposed to the Coronavirus during their daily lives,” it said.
“We ask that employers and competition organisers respect the wishes of players to take short-term precautionary measures including suspending training or competitions.”
Meanwhile, in Italy, the former Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini was confirmed as having tested positive for Covid-19. He becomes the second Serie A player to have contracted the illness, after the Juventus defender Daniele Rugani. In Germany, Hannover’s Timo Hübers also tested positive.
Uefa announced on Thursday that it would host a video conference meeting next Tuesday to discuss the response to the pandemic. It would incorporate “all domestic and European competitions, including Euro 2020”.