Diego Llorente has become the second player in Spain's Euro 2020 squad to test positive for coronavirus, just days ahead of the team’s opening fixture against Sweden in Seville on Monday.
The former Malaga defender, now playing for Leeds United, returned the positive test on Tuesday and will now leave the group in Las Rozas (Madrid) to self-isolate. Captain Sergio Busquets tested positive for the virus on Sunday and has since returned to Barcelona for his self-isolation.
Although the other 22 players in the squad tested negative on Tuesday, Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales conceded that “it is very possible that there will be more positive cases soon”.
As for Sweden, they have also seen two positive cases of their own: midfielders Dejan Kulusevski of Juventus and Mattias Svanberg of Bologna are those affected.
However, Monday’s fixture is not yet in jeopardy as UEFA rules stipulate that a team only needs 13 available players to compete (including at least one goalkeeper). To reduce the risk of the virus, each squad is being kept separate and social interactions between teammates are limited. Players are also undergoing daily PCR tests.
To counter the threat to the squad's participation in the tournament, the football association this week requested that the players receive their vaccinations ahead of schedule.
This was discussed in Tuesday’s Public Health Committee meeting, where it was agreed to leave the decision in the hands of the government.
The Minister for Culture and Sports, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, defended vaccinating the team ahead of other groups, saying: “We are not vaccinating them because they’re footballers. It’s because this is the national team and they are representing the country at a top-level competition.”
However, not all are in agreement with this logic. The president of the Spanish Vaccinology Association and health committee member, Amos García, argued: “The players are not in the appropriate age bracket to receive the vaccine at this stage and they’re also not particularly exposed to its risks”. On top of this, the Patient Organisations Platform was critical of sportspeople being vaccinated while many high-risk individuals remain “invisible” to the government.