‘The email didn’t arrive at the right moment’: Claudio Ranieri claims Nigeria MISSED the deadline to call up Emmanuel Dennis for the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning Watford could stop their star striker from leaving to take part in the tournament next month
- Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis was called up by Nigeria for AFCON last weekend
- The 24-year-old was due to meet up with his national side after New Year’s Day
- But Claudio Ranieri believes Watford have grounds to keep him at Vicarage Road
- The Hornets boss says Nigeria failed to send a ‘pre-call’ before a specific deadline
Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis does not know whether he will get the green light to be part of Nigeria’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Dennis was included in Augustine Eguavoen’s 28-man party for the tournament in Cameroon, which begins on January 9.
Nigeria expected their UK-based players to begin arriving in the capital Abuja on Monday — after Watford host Tottenham on Saturday — ahead of their opening game against Egypt, one of the favourites, on January 11.
Watford could prevent Emmanuel Dennis from taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations next month
But Hornets boss Claudio Ranieri has raised doubts over Dennis’s involvement by revealing Nigeria may have missed the deadline to inform Watford of their intention to select him. That could give the club the power to decide whether to release Dennis, 24, for international duty.
‘I’m not so sure I’ll miss Dennis now and if he goes to the national team, we have to wait,’ the Hornets boss said.
‘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.’
Ranieri added: ‘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.’
Hornets boss Claudio Ranieri claims Nigeria missed the deadline to call their striker up
Talks between Watford and the Nigeria Football Federation will determine the issue.
The Africa Cup of Nations runs until February 6 and Nigeria are expected to go deep into the tournament.
Watford are due to play two Premier League games plus an FA Cup third-round tie between Dennis’s potential departure and the AFCON final, including crucial relegation battles against Newcastle and Norwich.
Having their eight-goal star man — scorer or creator of 59 per cent of their goals this season — available for those matches would be a huge boost in their bid to beat the drop.
However, Dennis has also been earmarked to play a key role for his country in Cameroon, leaving him caught in a tug of war.
Nigeria are still confident Dennis, who has scored seven goals this season, will be involved