Why? Because FIFA mandates that clubs release national team players when they are wanted for an official tournament. The ACN falls into that category, but it comes at a funny time of the year (January-February) in order to accommodate the African summer. The problem is, big clubs don't appreciate losing key players at such a crucial point of the European season. And it's a problem that affects most of Europe's top leagues. In France, for example, 18 of 20 Ligue 1 clubs have lost players, while the English Premier League has lost a total of 40 players. Chelsea alone lost four regular starters.
Manager Avram Grant says that's enough to rethink the strategy of signing African players. "When you sign players and you don't see them for several games, you need to think if you should sign four players or just two," he said. "I respect the African Nations Cup, but I think they need to find another date or do something else." Indeed, the European clubs would be far happier if the tournament would shift to the European summer, when most other international competitions are played.