Slaven Bilic agonises over Ismaila Sarr selection dilemma as World Cup looms

Slaven Bilic is embroiled in an internal debate over Watford’s last game before the World Cup break, due to the club’s only representative in Qatar: Ismaila Sarr.

The Senegal striker, as expected, was named in Aliou Cisse’s squad for the tournament on Friday morning and will travel to his country’s base camp early next week.

After Watford’s previous game – the 2-0 win over Reading on Tuesday night – Bilic said he would “like to spare him” at Bristol City on Saturday but is a “very important player”. The Croatian has been in bed suffering from an illness since the last match, which gave him the opportunity to consider whether to play against Sarr, who is at risk of an injury ruling him out of the World Cup, or to play him. to rest.

“I haven’t seen him (Sarr) until today and, I’m not going to lie, I thought about it. I don’t want him to miss the World Cup, I’m a bit (concerned),” Bilic said. Athleticism.

The dilemma over Sarr’s situation is exacerbated by the knee injury his compatriot Sadio Mane picked up while playing for Bayern Munich.

“The players are really thinking about it. I’m also talking with players who are going to the World Cup and they’re still playing, the Croatians or whatever, and they’re a bit… not scared, but a bit worried,” Bilic said.

During Bilic’s time at Watford, Sarr – who won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year – has played in all 10 club appearances except 14 minutes (excluding stoppage time). He scored four goals and set up three more.


Watford boss Slaven Bilic has to decide whether he will play against Sarr this weekend (Picture: Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

Speaking about whether he will choose Sarr this weekend, Bilic – who finished third in the 1998 World Cup as a player with Croatia – said: “Tomorrow we will see. It will be my decision tomorrow.

There’s another issue that adds to Bilic’s selection headache. The 24-year-old’s contract at Watford expires in 2024 meaning he will enter the final year of his contract next summer. Athleticism has been told by a source close to Sarr that at this stage there are no plans for an extension, and it is too early to say whether any opportunities will arise in January – especially as the World Cup is a showcase for his talents.

Therefore, January could be the time for Watford to cash in on Sarr if his value is boosted by outstanding performances in Qatar. Senegal are in a group with the hosts, the Netherlands and Ecuador.

Watford’s priority, especially at a time when they’ve been known to discuss investment opportunities, is to return to the Premier League, so they’ll have to weigh up what’s worth more – Sarr helping the club win promotion or having money in the bank.

If Sarr plays against Bristol City and remains injury-free, everything will be fine. If for some reason this is not the case, the ramifications will not only affect Senegal, but also Watford.


One Watford player absent from the World Cup is Imran Louza, but Bilic confirmed Athleticism that he should be back before the end of the season. The Moroccan underwent surgery for an ankle injury last month after limping off in the defeat to Millwall and a timetable has now been set for his return.

“Three and a half years to four months is the average (time out) with surgery,” Bilic said. “The operation went very well and now it’s up to his body.”

This means Louza is likely to return around February or March and could therefore play a part in what Watford hope will be promotion.

(Top photo: James Gill — Danehouse/Getty Images)

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