Thomas Tuchel has questioned whether footballers have a moral duty to lead the way on vaccinations after N’Golo Kanté tested positive for Covid-19 before Chelsea’s Champions League group game at Juventus on Wednesday night.
The issue of jabs has been sensitive in football and Tuchel, who did not disclose whether Kanté is vaccinated, said players were free to choose whether they want one. Chelsea’s manager was reluctant to offer too much of a view after losing his key midfielder and he is unsure whether footballers should be doing more to convince the public to have the jab.
“It would be easy to say yes now and get maybe applause from a lot of people,” he said. “But at the same time do I have the right to say it? I’m not so sure. I can make the decision for myself, and everybody else needs to reflect about it and take a risk or not. I think it’s a serious question and vaccination seems to be a proper protection.
“I am vaccinated. But I don’t really see myself in a position to speak out proper recommendations. I think that would go too far. I’m a football coach, I’m not a 100% expert in this and I would leave it up to them. Everybody is adult enough and everybody lives in a free country, which is a good thing.
“Of course we take actions and then are responsible for them. We don’t like to lose players. But we are not now angry with N’Golo. We are concerned about him, as we are with any injured players who get a kick in a game.”
Gareth Southgate revealed last month that he received more abuse for recording a video urging young people to have a vaccination than he did for his management of England during Euro 2020. However, Tuchel insisted the possibility of being abused would never stop him speaking out.
“I am absolutely not afraid of bad reactions,” he said. “If I am convinced about something I will speak out publicly, but I’m a football coach. I am a father in my family, so I have enough to do. I am not fully involved. I am not fully aware of what vaccination is deeply all about. I took the decision to have it. But am I in a position to give recommendations publicly? No, I am not.”
Kanté, who will isolate for 10 days, will also miss Chelsea’s home game against Southampton on Saturday and is a doubt for France’s Nations League semi-final against Belgium on 7 October.
The 30-year-old’s absence against Juve is a blow for Chelsea, who started the defence of their Champions League title by beating Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 a fortnight ago. The European champions are also without the injured Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Reece James, who could be missing for up to a month with an ankle problem sustained during last Saturday’s insipid 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.
Juve, who beat Malmö 3-0 in their Group H opener, have problems of their own. Max Allegri’s side are 10th in Serie A after selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United and will be without Álvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala.
“It is not a secret that any team in the world without Cristiano is in some parts of the game a weaker team,” Tuchel said. “But you can win games and be a strong team without Cristiano Ronaldo. They have a lot of experience, a lot of talent, a big squad, a very experienced coach. They are a proud club.”