Neil Humphreys: Nations League a bad joke that no one wants
Competition should have been scrapped in crunched schedule
Answer the following question without hesitating. Who won the 2019 Uefa Nations League?
If you answered immediately and correctly, then you're either Portuguese or probably need to get out more.
Yes, Portugal won the inaugural competition, but those of us not associated with the Iberian Peninsula struggled to contain our indifference.
The Nations League was an inglorious, complicated string of largely unimportant international contests before Covid-19. Now the tournament feels like a bad joke.
What might have been mildly amusing before seems out of place, awkward and overwhelmingly unwanted in today's climate of uncertainty.
As the major European domestic leagues narrowly dodged a bullet and most completed their campaigns, one can almost picture Uefa officials gleefully trumpeting plans to kick off their second Nations League.
Perhaps the naive assumption was that the respective successes of the English Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga could be carried over into the Nations League and replicated, without factoring in the obvious contradictions.
First, those leagues had strict protocols in place. During Project Restart, the EPL recorded just 20 positive tests, which was a testament to the playing and coaching staff following the strictest guidelines.
And then, they all went on holiday.
The wisdom of such a decision could still be challenged either way. On the one hand, isolated players deserved a break after such an intense concentration of fixtures staged in challenging circumstances.
On the other hand, Harry Maguire ended up getting arrested at a Greek resort. Raheem Sterling attended a party in Jamaica with retired sprinter Usain Bolt, who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. And British newspapers have reported that seven EPL clubs have at least one positive player.
The most high profile case is Paul Pogba. The Manchester United and France midfielder has hindered the preparations of both his club and country during the toughest of deadlines.
The Community Shield was staged just six days after the old season's Champions League final. But the Wembley curtain-raiser was held 14 days before the new EPL season kicks off.
The erratic fixtures are almost entirely due to the whitest of elephants, currently occupying most of Europe. The Nations League already feels like the old gag about democracy. Everybody gets what nobody wants.
As European players test positive after hastily organised holidays, any progress made during Project Restart risks shuddering to a halt.
Yesterday, Real Sociedad winger Mikel Oyarzabal withdrew from Spain's Nations League squad after testing positive for the coronavirus. Others may follow, as the testing intensifies in international camps.
According to The Sun, Chelsea have eight players in quarantine, including Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Fikayo Tomori. The quartet met up on the Greek island of Mykonos (Note to elite footballers: Maybe avoid popular holiday resorts during a global pandemic).
Arsenal have four players in quarantine. Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele has also reportedly tested positive, which meant he also could not be considered for Les Bleus' squad.
At Manchester United, Aaron Wan-Bissaka allegedly avoided the club's travel advice and headed to Dubai. He may be forced to isolate for a 14-day period, in accordance with British Government guidelines.
England manager Gareth Southgate finds himself in the invidious position of preparing for unpopular games against Iceland and Denmark, with five squad members in quarantine.
As soon as Europe's regular seasons ended, their security bubbles burst. Players were either holidaying or socialising, exposing themselves to health risks that had previously been minimised.
The numbers of positive tests were obviously going to increase. Perhaps that was an inevitable trade-off for completing their previous obligations in fraught circumstances.
But the prospect of taking players through airports, on planes and into different countries now, just to squeeze in an unnecessary competition seems myopic and reckless. Why jeopardise safety and potentially cause further delays to the new season?
Had this weekend been set aside for traditional friendlies, they would've almost certainly been dropped from the calendar. And yet, the unloved Nations League plods on, like a stubborn act of self-sabotage.
Club managers loathe international friendlies at the best of times. These are the worst of times. The Nations League should've been cancelled.
"I've received a positive result from my last test.