Bayer Leverkusen's Kevin Kampl has been branded a "deserter" by his Slovenian teammates after pulling out his team's World Cup qualifiers. But Kampl insists that he is simply "exhausted."
Slovenia managed to beat Slovakia without their star man on Saturday but host group favorites England on Tuesday. Ahead of that match, the Slovenian squad released a statement condemning Kampl's absence from both games.
“For the national team you play with pride and passion," the statement, released on Monday, read. "Kevin is an important part of a team that needs him. So we have to say he deserted us. The national team has to be above all of us. We are united in this message to Kampl.”
The 26-year-old has played every minute of Leverkusen's nine games this season and said his exertions had taken their toll.
“I would like to make some things clear,” said Kampl. “Firstly, I always play with pride and happiness for Slovenia and I intend to do so in the future.
“Secondly, I have made it clear I will be available next time, I just need some rest now. Thirdly, I swear that at the moment I am not in the right condition to help Slovenia.
“Yes, I have trained in Leverkusen but only on my own and I am having some blood tests because I don’t feel good: I am exhausted. I wouldn’t have been able to help Slovenia like this and I stand by my decision.”
Slovenia are coached by Srecko Katanec, widely regarded as a disciplinarian. Katanec also fell out with his former Lazio forward Goran Pandev while in charge of Macedonia from 2006-2009. After their win on Saturday, Slovenia sit in third spot in Group F, which is topped by England.