Senegal is counting on striker Ismaila Sarr to fly out to the Africa Cup of Nations despite his English club Watford's reluctance to let him go, a national federation official said on Tuesday.
The Lions, one of the favourites for the tournament which runs in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, is due to take off from Senegal on Tuesday evening after being received by President Macky Sall.
The players have been training in the Dakar suburb of Diamniadio where they were joined on Monday by Premier League stars Sadio Mané and Edouard Mendy. But Ismaïla Sarr, who is the subject of a dispute between his club and federation, was still missing on Tuesday.
The Senegalese news website Emedia reported that the federation had finally won its case, and that Watford had agreed to release the player, who was expected to be released on Tuesday evening.
An official from the Federation (FSF) showed more restraint. "We are still waiting for Ismaila Sarr, who should normally have been released on 3 January," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The FSF accused Watford, who is 17th in the Premier League, of "blocking" the 23-year-old striker and seeking to prevent him from playing for the national team by "any means necessary" in an angry statement on Sunday.
Watford defended themselves by issuing a statement saying that the player had not recovered from a knee ligament injury sustained against Manchester United on 20 November and that the club had duly informed their FA.
The case of Ismaïla Sarr is one of the manifestations of the recurrent conflict of interests raised between federations and clubs by African competitions.