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Alphonso Davies will stop training with Bayern Munich due to a minor heart inflammation. Meanwhile, the Bundesliga is determined to play on despite rising COVID-19 rates, which are also affecting the transfer market.
Bayern Munich will be without Canadian wingback Alphonso Davies for several more weeks after routine tests revealed that the 21-year-old suffered a mild inflammation of the heart muscle during training.
"In the course of tests which we do on every player who has had COVID-19, we found signs of minor heart inflammation," said head coach Julian Nagelsmann ahead of Bayern's game away at Cologne on Saturday. "The scan showed nothing too dramatic, but it obviously needs time to heal properly."
Davies was one of nine Bayern players who missed the German champions' 2-1 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach last Friday after testing positive for COVID-19, although Nagelsmann wouldn't comment on whether Davies' heart problem was a result of his infection or not.
"Where exactly heart inflammations come from, we don't know," he said. "There are different causes, often due to some sort of virus being in the body, whether corona or any other flu infection. Athletes on this planet suffered this before corona, although the likelihood these days that [Davies'] problem comes from his coronavirus infection is of course clear, but we can't say 100%," he said.
"Either way, it's irrelevant – the fact is that it's s***. Really s***."
The news is also a blow for the Canadian national team, which is now likely to be without Davies for three upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras, the United States and El Salvador.
With COVID-19 infection rates hitting record highs across Germany and the World Health Organization (WHO) predicting that half of Europe's population could be infected with the omicron variant by March, the Bundesliga is also continuing to feel the effects of the pandemic.
Despite the German Football League (DFL) announcing that over 90% of players in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 have been double vaccinated and that over 70% have received a booster jab, professional football has not been spared.
As well as Bayern Munich, Hertha Berlin had seven COVID absentees in their 3-1 defeat to Cologne last week, while three Freiburg players missed their 2-2 draw with Arminia Bielefeld.
After doing without Nadiem Amiri last week, Bayer Leverkusen will be without Paulinho against Gladbach on Saturday, while Eintracht Frankfurt will be missing Danny da Costa and Erik Durm as they travel to Augsburg.
Asked about rumors of additional cases in the squad, Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner responded: "This is one of the reasons I'm not on social media. Far, far too much is being written. If any player was definitely out, I'd have told you. Otherwise, nothing."
As infection rates rise, the pressure on the Bundesliga to postpone games – as has already happened in the Premier League – is set to grow.
Currently, a match can only be postponed if a team is unable to field 15 players – although suspended players or players with "sport-typical" injuries are still considered "available" in order to prevent "tactical" injuries, bookings or red cards.
"It's not up to us to decide what's fair but you can question whether it's fair that injured players are on the list," said Bayern's Thomas Müller after the defeat to Gladbach.
After Bayern had had their request to postpone the game rejected, chief executive Oliver Kahn said: "When everything has calmed down, I would urge the DFL to have another look at the regulations and rework them."
But the DFL insists there will be no changes to the regulations before the end of the season.
"We will be refraining from making any adjustments during the season in the interest of preserving the integrity of the competition," the league said in a statement which will have pleased Hertha Berlin director of sport Fredi Bobic.
"Corona is definitely influencing the competition," he told Sport Bild. "I hope that, come the end of the season, we're not talking about who managed to come through January or February better."
Meanwhile, Frankfurt sporting director Markus Krösche has highlighted the effect the pandemic is having on the transfer market, saying: "Potential absences due to COVID infections are a factor which is influencing the transfer window. For example, no-one is selling players just to reduce the squad. Having an extra player in the squad isn't a bad thing in the current situation."
Edited by: Jonathan Harding