English Premier League side, Watford have dashed the hopes of Emmanuel Dennis to represent Nigeria in the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) accusing the club of “baring fangs”.
The striker has scored or created 13 of Watford’s 22 league goals this season and was included in Augustine Eguavoen’s 28-man squad for the tournament in Cameroon, which starts on January 9.
Upon his invitation to the team, Dennis had expressed his delight after he was named in Nigeria’s 28- man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) billed to hold in Cameroon this month.
The Watford striker took to his Twitter account to share his joy at being part of the Super Eagles travelling party to Cameroon which was later dashed by parties involved.
“Proud to get a call up to represent my country,” he posted on his Twitter account on Monday.
Dennis has three caps for Nigeria, but the last of his three appearances came over a year ago in a goalless draw against Sierra Leone.
Claudio Ranieri, the Watford head coach, suggested that Nigeria may have missed the deadline to inform them of their intention to select him and that provided a loophole as to whether they released him for international duty.
After talks between Watford and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Dennis was left out of their squad for the tournament.
In a chat with The Athletic on Tuesday, Ranieri said the invitation email for the player arrived later than the timeframe stipulated by Watford.
He added that since the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) missed the deadline, the decision to release the player is left solely to the discretion of Watford.
“I’m not so sure I’ll miss Dennis now, and if he goes to the national team, we have to wait,” the former Leicester boss said then.
“The email didn’t arrive at the right moment. The national team has a time to send a pre-call. They didn’t respect the days, and I want to see.
“The email arrived late. They have a time when they need to send a pre-call; if they don’t send it, we can choose.”
When contacted last week, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, said the federation was working on the release of the player which eventually failed to materialize.
However, Watford’s latest decision on Dennis seems to violate FIFA regulation which states that “clubs are obliged to release their registered players to the representative teams of the country for which the player is eligible to play on the basis of his nationality if they are called up by the association concerned. Any agreement between a player and a club to the contrary is prohibited.”
Later on Friday, Eguavoen said the exclusion was due to what he branded as threats by Watford aimed at Dennis.
“He said he tried his best and I know he tried his best, We tried to reach out to the club, but they insisted they would not allow him to go and Dennis also told me that the club are doing everything possible for him not to be at the AFCON.
“That is why we had to wait until the last second to push the button. Dennis said he wanted to come, but his club were threatening him, so what do we do? If a player doesn’t want to come, we have to play with what we have,” Eguavoen told NFF TV.
Interestingly, while Dennis had to pull out, his compatriot in the same club, William Troost-Ekong is still in the Super Eagles squad for the competition.
Meanwhile, Nigerian fans have taken to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction after Watford star Emmanuel Dennis pulled out of the upcoming African Cup of Nations.
The news of his withdrawal has not gone down well with Nigerian fans, with many taking to Twitter to express their displeasure.