Gabon’s national team coach, Patrice Neveu has broken his silence on the issues surrounding national team captain and star striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s return to Arsenal while Gabon competes for the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Aubameyang, who is currently having a hard time with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta leading to him being ostracised from the squad for four games prior to the AfCON tournament, has been forced to depart his country’s AfCON camp and return to north London.
The 32-year-old, together with former Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina, contracted COVID-19 at his national team’s dinner hosted in Dubai to celebrate their participation in the 33rd AfCON tournament before they travelled to Cameroon to battle the rest of Africa for the title.
Since then, he has been out of action, missing two games and suffering a small heart issue which led to Arsenal’s doctors asking him to return.
This decision has not gone down well with the Gabonese national team and manager Patrice Neveu has come out to speak on it.
Neveu said he was put under pressure to release Aubameyang to return to Arsenal, as well as Lemina who was also called back to his club.
“What I know is that they’ve been Covid free for the last 72 hours,” Neveu said in a press conference. “We couldn’t arrange an MRI for them, and as a result they couldn’t train.
“It was really annoying for them to stay in their rooms. We made the decision yesterday with the President and under pressure from the clubs too, because they’re worried so that [Aubameyang] should go back to Arsenal and Mario [Lemina] back to Nice.”
Aubameyang dismisses talks of indiscipline with Gabon
The embattled striker has faced serious backlash since his issues at Arsenal began. The AfCON tournament was supposed to be a retreat for him and a means to get back into active football.
Rumours have continued to hover around him, and some more rumours spring up after he contracted COVID-19 about his indiscipline. Both he and Lemina were rumoured to have been sent home for other reasons but the former Arsenal captain dismissed those rumours on Twitter.
He tweeted: “We have problems that are already complicated to solve, then on top of that there are rumours.
“In short, we have health to take care of first and foremost, I won’t go back on these false rumours and I sincerely hope that our team will go as far as possible.”
Lemina, on his Instagram stories, wrote: “I don’t want to feed the lies which seek to harm. I have nothing to do with it.
“I am in pain for my national team who are surrounded by liars in search of a buzz. Good luck to you to for the rest of the competition and for national team squads in the future. Far from my eyes but close to my heart.”
Neveu did concede, however, that both Arsenal and OGC Nice, who Lemina currently plays for, we’re doing what was in their best interests.
“As you know, he’s a key player for Arsenal, although he’s going through a tough period at the moment. We still have to report to clubs,” Neveu added.
“And when a player’s health is affected and as you know they are paid by the club, we have to be reasonable at some point.”