Nagelsmann does not regret giving players freedom, despite Bayern's COVID-19 crisis

By Sports Desk January 06, 2022

Julian Nagelsmann does not regret giving Bayern Munich's players freedom to enjoy their vacation during the Bundesliga's mid-season break.

German top-flight leaders Bayern are set to face Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday, but currently have nine players who have returned positive COVID-19 test results.

Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez, Dayot Upamecano, Tanguy Nianzou, Omar Richards, Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane and Alphonso Davies have all tested positive for the virus.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Bouna Sarr are with Cameroon and Senegal respectively for the Africa Cup of Nations. Niklas Sule is nursing a back problem, while Leon Goretzka and Josip Stanisic are injured.

Gladbach's sporting director Max Eberl confirmed on Wednesday that Bayern had asked for the game to be postponed. Bundesliga rules allow a team to request a postponement if they have fewer than 16 players, including a goalkeeper, available.

But Nagelsmann, who contracted the virus in 2021, does not believe he should have limited the movements of his players during the recent hiatus in an attempt to curtail the possibility of an outbreak.

"I have a clear opinion about this topic. I'm not a teacher, I'm a coach," Nagelsmann told a news conference.

"Our players are all adults. My players are responsible for their own lives. We have the same rules and recommendations that we've had the last two years.

"You want to remain healthy. There's no option to suggest to a player that he can't go on holiday, if the law doesn't prevent that. There's psychological recovery. If you look at Upamecano, he flew to Senegal to see his family. If I don't let him do that then I can't let another player go 10 miles down the road to see his family.

"Every employee was allowed to go on holiday. You can't tell a player not to go, to stay home. With Omar Richards, once we found out that England was a high-risk area we got him back from England. 

"I don't know why we have more infected players than others. It's unfortunate, but the players have the same rules that have worked very well. There are other clubs that don't do PCR tests, they do fast tests that aren't as sensitive. So there's a couple of elements, we have to make the best of the situation.

"I was very happy with the players, the U23s and U19s players that joined us. I am not the type of coach to complain. We can discuss if these rules make sense. I went out for a meal and was infected. I rarely go out. I went out once and got coronavirus. It happens, I don't know exactly why."

Asked if the game would be going ahead at all, Nagelsmann said: "I can't answer that with 100 per cent accuracy. My job, and the job of the players, is to prepare as if it is going to take place.

"That's what we're operating on, that's what we're expecting. We've prepared all week for this game to take place. 

"It's a challenging situation, but as a coach it's an interesting challenge, you have to adapt, change your tactics to turn your problem into a strength."

One player who will return is Joshua Kimmich, who has not played since November after contracting coronavirus.

Kimmich's recovery was hampered by a lung issue but Nagelsmann confirmed the midfielder is fit to feature.

"Joshua is making a very good impression. He's very happy, his physical condition is outstanding," he said.

"If everyone was here he'd probably play, now it's clear he's going to play anyway because he has to. He deserves to play, we're all happy that he's back and he will play tomorrow."

Kimmich had initially declined the vaccine while he waited for more research on possible side effects, though confirmed in December that he had changed his mind and would take up the option.

Asked if Kimmich had received the vaccine, Nagelsmann said: "I can't say, I don't want to, that's a private matter. It's Joshua's responsibility to talk about that."

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