Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been given permission to leave the Gabon squad at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and return to his club to continue his recuperation from Covid-19, his national team coach announced on Monday.
Midfielder Mario Lemina of French side Nice has also been sent back to his club, with neither having played a minute in Gabon’s two matches so far at the Cup of Nations, against the Comoros and Ghana.
“Given the medical problems that Pierre-Emerick and Mario have had, in agreement with the doctor, the president of the federation and the players, we have taken the wise decision to send them back to their clubs so they can be looked after there,” said Gabon coach Patrice Neveu at a press conference in Yaounde.
His team’s first AFCON group game was barely four days away when the news of Aubameyang’s positive test and that of Lemina broke.
The duo then tested negative ahead of Gabon’s second match, a 1-1 draw against Ghana on Friday, but both were again left out of the team after some residue from their infection was detected.
In spite of Neveu’s denials, the Gabonese Football Federation made a statement saying the players will return to their clubs “to undergo further examinations” after suffering cardiac inflammation as a result of their infections.
“There is no major cause for alarm regarding cardiac problems but we are not in a position here to properly analyse what damage could be done by the residue that caused the inflammation,” Neveu said.
“We can’t take any risks, and psychologically it was becoming unbearable for them staying in their rooms. As a result, we met on Sunday and decided to send them on their way.”
In Gabon’s final group encounter against Morocco on Tuesday, a draw will secure their progression to the knockout stages.
However, forward Denis Bouanga has also been diagnosed with the coronavirus and will miss the game.
Having not played for Arsenal since December 6, Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy by manager Mikel Arteta after he returned from a club-approved trip to visit his sick mother.