The Philippine Azkals absorbed a heavy blow with Javier Patiño and Daisuke Sato ruled out of the AFF Suzuki Cup, just three days before they open their campaign against Singapore on Saturday at Philippine Sports Stadium.
With their respective clubs not compelled to release them for national team duty as the tournament doesn’t fall on Fifa dates, Patiño and Sato will miss the Suzuki Cup that will be held for the first time in the country.
The impending absence of Patiño deprives the Azkals of another quality striker.
But the bigger loss is Sato, who played solid at central defense in the 1-0 win over Kyrgyzstan. The Azkals are short on options at that position with only Amani Aguinaldo as a natural centerback.
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley could try out leftback Jeffrey Christiaens or defensive midfielder Dennis Villanueva to pair up with Aguinaldo on Saturday.
Although the season in China is already finished, Patiño reportedly renewed his deal with Henan Jianye, signing a two-year $5 million pact. Sources said the striker risks termination of his contract with the club in the event that he gets injured while seeing action for the Azkals.
“The prize money in the Suzuki Cup is not even enough to cover his one month salary,” said one of the sources.
Sato returned to Iasi, Romania, where his club is based early this week with the hope that the Philippine Football Federation could successfully negotiate for his release.
But Romanian first division side Politehnica Iasi told the Fil-Japanese defender Wednesday that he needed to stay with the club as it has seven games until Dec. 17.
“Maybe if they (PFF) were able to negotiate for my release, things could have changed,” Sato told the Inquirer. “But right now, it’s too late.”