REVEALED: How Covid has hit a QUARTER of Premier League players

REVEALED: How Covid has hit a QUARTER of Premier League players with Norwich and Manchester City the worst hit… while Brentford and Leeds are among clubs with 90 per cent vaccination rate and less positive tests

  • Covid swept through the Premier League as football pressed ahead in lockdown
  • A Mail on Sunday audit has found that 25 per cent of 527 players tested positive
  • The figures come amid a resistance from top-flight payers to get vaccinated 

Covid’s huge impact on the Premier League has been revealed after a Mail on Sunday audit found at least 130 first-team players have tested positive for the disease during the pandemic.

That figure equates to 25 per cent of the 527 players registered in the top flight this weekend and has been established with the Government, the Premier League and fans groups all encouraging a greater uptake of vaccines.

Only seven clubs in the division reportedly have more than half their squads double-jabbed.

More than 130 Premier League players test positive for Covid, with Norwich faring the worst

Our study found that 14 of Norwich’s 27-man squad have had Covid, or 52 per cent, while the next most affected club is Manchester City, with 11 of 25 players (44 per cent) in that category.

More than 25 per cent of Arsenal, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Chelsea’s squads have definitely had Covid – with between seven and 10 players among their current squads affected.

Four of the clubs with confirmed vaccination rates in excess of 90 per cent of staff – Brentford, Southampton, Wolves and Leeds – are among the clubs with lower rates of Covid.

Four Premier League managers have been confirmed to have had the illness: Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Brentford’s Thomas Frank, Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers and West Ham’s David Moyes.

Coronavirus is indiscriminating and some of the most famous players currently in the Premier League have had it from Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani at Manchester United to Mo Salah and Sadio Mane at Liverpool, to Riyad Mahrez, Kyle Walker and Ferran Torres at Manchester City to N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea.

To date, the league has conducted 129,093 Covid tests on staff at football clubs, including players. It’s common now for as many as 100 people including players, coaches and other support staff to be tested at each club, twice every week.

Brentford’s Thomas Frank and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta both contracted coronavirus 

There have been 331 positive tests under the auspices of the PL, but that figure is not broken down into players and others. The MoS estimates that 160-plus have been players, taking into account the 130 from our audit and other known cases from players formerly in the league.

At Aston Villa, for example, 10 players tested positive in a single day in one major outbreak last season, and they are not all still at the club. There were about 10 cases at West Bromwich Albion last season in the PL and they are not in our new figures; nor are PL cases at Fulham and Sheffield United last season.

Our audit does not include any player who believes they probably had Covid early on but were never tested, such as City’s Kevin De Bruyne.

Nor does it include dozens of players who tested positive in recent times but are now not in the league such as Willian and Alex Runarsson, who both tested positive as Arsenal players in August but are not currently at the club. 

It is impossible to say whether a confirmed infection rate of 25 per cent is especially high compared with the general population because even official infection rates in the general public are hazy.

Liverpool’s duo of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were both sent into isolation from positive tests

There have been 7.8 million positive tests in the UK among a population of 67 million, which equates to a rate of 11.6 per cent of people. But the true figure is much higher. 

Relatively few infections were picked up during the first wave due to lack of testing, lots of asymptomatic cases have gone undiagnosed, and credible studies of Covid-caused antibodies vary.

The Premier League rightly argue that all players are already either jabbed or having twice-weekly tests to show they are not infected. But there remains a drive to get players to have the vaccine, not least because some have been badly affected by the illness.

Newcastle’s Karl Darlow was hospitalised after catching Covid at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley. Darlow’s club-mates Isaac Hayden and Jamal Lewis were also affected, with manager Steve Bruce saying Hayden had been ‘knocked to hell’.

Brentford managed to keep most of their players clear of the virus and many are vaccinated

Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings had the virus near the start of the pandemic and had a form of long Covid. ‘I was so ill,’ he said. ‘It was awful. I had all the symptoms, and I lost my smell and taste from that day for eight months.’

Brighton’s Adam Lallana contracted the disease in January and said afterwards: ‘I was bed-bound for a week — it just completely wiped me out.’

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba had the illness in August 2020. ‘I would say to the fitness coach that I feel strange,’ he said after recovering. ‘It’s not me. I get tired very fast and I’m out of breath really fast.’

Chelsea’s Kai Havertz was downed by the bug in November and said it had hit him ‘very hard’ and spent a week in bed ‘and everything was hurting.’

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