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Ismaïla Sarr is not fit to compete for Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, his club, Watford, said on Sunday after being accused of stopping the player from going to this month’s tournament in Cameroon.

Senegal said Watford had provided “spurious” reasons for denying Sarr permission to travel but the Premier League club invited the Senegalese to send their own doctor to assess the injury.

“Ismaïla Sarr suffered a knee ligament injury on 20 November in the match against Manchester United and has not been fit to play for Watford since,” the club said.

“In early December, the club wrote to the Senegal Football Federation outlining the clinical diagnosis of Ismaïla’s injury and immediately followed that up by supplying the MRI scans detailing the extent of the injury. After further consultation with medical experts, we informed the federation of Ismaïla’s rehabilitation process and likely timeframe of recovery.

“Within the past 10 days, the club has reiterated to the Senegal Football Federation the player’s current medical status and recovery schedule,” the statement continued. “The Hornets have also invited the Senegal Football Federation to instruct their own independent surgeon to confirm the diagnosis and rehabilitation period.”

Earlier, Senegal said they would seek Fifa’s intervention and demanded the winger’s release to join the rest of the squad who are preparing in Dakar.

“The English club Watford notified on the basis of spurious arguments its decision to block the player, who has expressed his desire to join the Senegalese selection for the Cup of Nations,” said a statement signed by the Senegal Football Federation general secretary, Victor Seh Cisse.

“The FSF responded immediately to confirm the player’s call-up and the club’s obligation to release the player by no later than 3 January. The FSF wishes to express its deep condemnation of the disrespectful, pernicious and discriminatory behaviour of Watford who seek by all means to prevent a player from playing with his national team.

“Africa, its football and its footballers deserve the same respect as that accorded to other continents, confederations and players. The FSF will take all the necessary action to ensure that the basic right of its footballers to play for their country is respected,” it added.

Watford have already refused to allow the Nigeria striker Emmanuel Dennis to join up with his country, saying the Nigerian Football Federation did not call him up in time, missing the deadline to inform the club of his selection.

Nigeria did not contest the claim and have since replaced Dennis in their squad.
Watford, who lost in stoppage time to Tottenham on Saturday to slip closer to the relegation zone, will lose three other players to the tournament – William Troost-Ekong of Nigeria and the Moroccan pair of Imran Louza and Adam Masina.