Claudio Ranieri has suggested Emmanuel Dennis may stay at Watford throughout the Africa Cup of Nations despite a Nigeria call up.
Earlier this week, the Super Eagles forward was selected in the squad to play at AFCON 2022, which will be hosted by Cameroon.
Nigeria’s pre-tournament camp is set to begin on December 29, but Premier League players are not expected to join until January 3. With that in mind, it seemed certain that Dennis could be absent for a large chunk of January and possibly some of February – as the tournament ends on the sixth.
However, while speaking to the press after his club’s recent 4-1 loss to West Ham, Ranieri made comments which have cast doubt over the status of the player.
As Dennis scored Watford’s only goal of the game, the Italian was asked how much his expected absence would be felt in the coming weeks.
“I’m not so sure I will miss Dennis now,” Ranieri replied. “I don’t know if he goes to the national team. We have to wait. We have to wait.”
With the previous understanding being that, as Nigeria had called up the player, the forward would definitely be going, the 70-year-old was pushed to elaborate on his statement.
Ranieri was somewhat vague in his response but reiterated the need to wait for more information. He also seemed to say that there was perhaps an issue with the lateness of the call-up – to which he referred to as a ‘pre-call’ – saying: “Look, I know, it’s not arrived at the right moment, we have to wait very well.
“The national team has time to send the pre-calls [call ups], they don’t respect the days.”
He then concluded: “The email arrived late to pre-call [Dennis]. Do you know what I mean? The national team has a time, during this time, they have to send the pre-call. If they don’t send the pre-call, we can choose.”
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If Dennis is to go he could leave Watford struggling for squad options. The likes of William Troost- Ekong, Adam Masina, and Imran Louza are all also set to go to AFCON (Ismaila Sarr was also named in the Senegal squad, but a long term knee injury leaves his situation unclear), while the club could only provide eight substitutes against West Ham, presumably due to the recent Covid outbreak within the squad.
This could prompt a few moves from the club in the January transfer window. If this is the case, Ranieri was certainly coy on the topic, saying after the game: “Look, I don’t want to think about the next market. I want to think about this match, what we did well and what we did badly. And my focus is already on the Tottenham match.”