Zimbabwe: No Ronaldo Showdown for Tino Kadewere

7 August 2020

It would have been the fairytale UEFA Champions League bow for Tino Kadewere tonight -- a dream showdown against his hero Cristiano Ronaldo, and one of his favourite clubs Juventus, in Turin tonight.

But, the Zimbabwe international forward will have to watch the battle from a distance at his home in Lyon.

Olympique Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas, was sure Kadewere would be involved in the remainder of his club's Champions League campaign.

"Yes, Tino is qualified for the matches to come, including those for the end of the 2019-20 season," Aulas said as he officially unveiled Kadewere at a media conference last month.

"We are very happy that Tino is here.

"He stayed with Le Havre for six months and now arrives to strengthen the team that will start preparing for the Champion's League."

That would have seen the Zimbabwean make his Champions League debut, with a fairytale duel against his football hero, Portuguese superstar Ronaldo, in Turin, tonight.

Juventus host Lyon in the second leg of the Champions League, Round of 16, match with the Italian giants desperate to overturn a 0-1 first leg defeat in France.

"I support Manchester United since the time Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still my favourite player (was at the club)," Kadewere revealed last year.

"When he was transferred to Real, I started to cheer for Real Madrid.

"And, today, it's the same with Juventus.

"United is still my heart club. At the level of my position. I admire Harry Kane, he is one of the best strikers in the world and I often watch videos of him to try to replicate what he's doing on the field."

But, Kadewere, who trained with his teammates on Wednesday, did not travel to Italy yesterday as he is not eligible for the remainder of the Champions League adventure.

Initially, there was hope an amendment to the Champions League regulations, to enable the tournament to be completed after the Covid-19 break, would enable Kadewere to be registered for the remainder of the campaign. "Teams will be allowed to register three new players on their List A for the remainder of the 2019/20 season, provided such players were already registered and eligible for the club since the last registration deadline (3 February, 2020, for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League)," read the amendment.

However, although Lyon signed Kadewere in January this year, and immediately loaned him back to Le Havre, the French club appear not to register the Zimbabwean for the tournament.

This means that, even though he was their player by the time the registration window closed on February 3, they had not forwarded his name for registration for the Champions League to enable him to be added to the squad last month.

"The teams will be authorised to register three new players, on their list A for the rest of the 2019/20 season, provided that these players are already registered, and eligible for the club, since the last registration deadline, which was on February 3," UEFA said in a statement.

This means Kadewere will have to watch from a distance as his teammates battle to keep their Champions League campaign alive tonight.

The showdown against Juventus gets underway at 9pm Zimbabwean time.

Kadewere was part of the squad for the Coupe de la Ligue final against Paris St Germain in Paris last Friday but did not feature in the match in which his side lost on penalties.

"It was a big disappointment. We came very close to the trophy. We quickly digested the loss, and the players immediately turned to the Champions League and the possibility of qualifying for the quarter-finals," Lyon coach, Rudi Garcia told a media briefing in Turin yesterday.

"Juventus are on track, having played at the end of Serie A, but have exposed themselves to injuries.

"They were able to prepare as well as possible and were able to win the league two Match Days before the end of the season, they were able to rotate the squad.

"The disadvantage for us is in a lack of match rhythm. But we showed that we were physically ready in the game against Paris. Juventus have a lot of great players. We come here with a lot of humility, but also a lot of ambition.

"Tomorrow's (today's) game will be completely different to last Friday. We're very happy to be playing in this match and very motivated to reach the quarter-finals."

Garcia took seven offensive players -- Jeff Rene-Adelaide, Moussa Dembele -- Memphis Depay, Maxwell Cornet, Reyan Cherkri, Karl Toko Ekambi and Bertrand Traore -- in his 24-man travelling squad for the assignment in Turin tonight.

This shows the stiff competition, which Kadewere has to deal with, if he is going to establish himself as a regular in this Lyon side.

Former Manchester United forward, Depay, is desperate to make a huge impression after his season was derailed by injury.

"I had a long period out through injury. I tried to pick up some match pace during the pre-season matches," he told a media conference.

"It will be a special match tomorrow (tonight).

"We will give everything to obtain qualification. We were good against PSG. We played a good game . . . I'll try to give the best of myself. I didn't play the first match but the team played really well with a full stadium.

"I prefer to be in the centre of the game. I feel like my attitude is good. I help my teammates. I'm 26 years old, it's natural to take more responsibility.

I learn from my teammates and they learn from me. "It's an exchange. I feel good in the team. It's all about teamwork and I try to do the best for the team . . . We try to win the ball and attack quickly."

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