The 2016 Rio Olympics has a whole range of sports on show but after making its first appearance in 2012, football has become an exciting feature of the world competition. Some of Europe’s finest players have taken part in this year’s competition including Brazilian star Neymar, who hopes to guide his side to a gold medal. There’s a bunch of youngsters who have been given the opportunity to represent their countries too but there’s also a few senior players who will be missed by England’s top managers.
The tournament kicked off on August 3rd and finishes on August 20th so the Premier League stars miss the opening fixtures of the season. Arsenal are the most represented English side in the tournament, allowing two players to take part in the competition. Only Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham add to Arsenal’s players representing the Premier League though West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini was due to play for Argentina before injury forced him to make an early trip back to England.
It’s an exciting time for the players but for Premier League managers it means they could be missing some key players and lose valuable time with their youngsters during the pre-season period to prepare for the upcoming league campaign. Here’s just a few players who’s return will be a welcomed addition by their Premier League managers…
Takuma Asano – Arsenal
The Gunners’ new signing is representing Japan at the Olympics and although he was never expected to feature heavily for the Premier League side this season, his return will be welcomed by Arsene Wenger.
The former Sanfrecce Hiroshima player hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show his new boss what he’s capable of and Wenger will be eager to see how fit the new signing is. Asano is a fast, exciting forward who’ll bring pace and goal-scoring ability to the Arsenal squad. The 21 year old has featured heavily for Japan in their Olympic campaign and has scored goals on the way to enjoying some valuable international experience.
He’s not expected to make much headway in Wenger’s side but will relish the opportunity to get started at his new club and will hope to make an impression on the coaches after missing out on the pre-season campaign. He’s certainly one for the future and as one of Japan’s most exciting young talents, he could be a shrewd addition to the Arsenal squad.
John Obi Mikel – Chelsea
Manchester City star, Kelechi Iheanacho turned down the chance to play for his country in order to spend the summer working with new manager Pep Guardiola and push for a place in the Blues’ first team squad this season.
He was a big loss to Nigeria but the African side were still able to employ the services of Chelsea star John Obi Mikel. The experienced midfielder missed Chelsea’s opening fixture against London rivals West Ham United and will be unavailable for their second Premier League clash against Watford this weekend.
The 29 year-old has spent ten years with Chelsea, winning a number of titles and Conte will be glad to see him return to action after experiencing the Olympics. The midfielder is unlikely to be a regular starter for the Italian boss but his defensive attributes could prove an attractive trait for the new boss who usually employs a strong defensive philosophy. Mikel will be eager to prove his worth to the new manager too and he’ll be hoping to get back to Premier League as soon as possible.
Serge Gnabry – Arsenal
Arsenal’s youngster was part of Germany’s squad which battered Fiji 10-0 in the Olympic competition and his side are hoping to get a medal before he returns to England.
The winger is wanted by a number of German clubs and it’s easy to see why as he continues to impress within the national set-up. The youngster spent time at West Bromwich Albion last season on loan but made just three appearances including a defeat against Chelsea in the Premier League and two League Cup ties.
He returned to the Gunners towards the end of last season and helped the U21s secure promotion to the top tier of youth football and he’ll be hoping to prove a point this season. He’s already represented the first team, making his debut in the 6-1 League Cup victory over Coventry City in 2012 at the age of 17 but he needs to show he has a future at Arsenal and after ending last season on a high, he’ll be hoping to carry on his good form.
If his Olympic campaign is anything to go by, Arsenal will be looking forward to his return to the academy and Wenger could turn to the youngster at some point this year when rotating his squad in cup competitions.
Tiago Ilori – Liverpool
The Portuguese defender has been on the books with Liverpool for three since signing from Sporting Lisbon for £7m in 2013. However, after being sent out on loan to a number of clubs including Aston Villa, he was finally given the opportunity to showcase his worth in Liverpool’s pre-season fixtures against Tranmere Rovers, Fleetwood Town and Wigan Athletic.
The young centre-back was paired with Andre Wisdom for the majority of the pre-season preparations and is unlikely to feature for the Reds in any Premier League fixtures this campaign. However, he could be an essential addition to Jurgen Klopp’s cup sides and the defender will be used as cover to Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip.
Most expected to see him leave Anfield again this season but after being given an opportunity to show his worth, he’ll be eager to return and work hard under Klopp. This season could be Ilori’s last chance to impress so the 23 year-old will be wanting to get to work straight away on his return.
Joel Pereira – Manchester United
The young Manchester United star has made quite an impression on fans in recent seasons after producing a string of promising performances for the Reds. However, his call-up to the Portuguese side for the Rio Olympics was one he couldn’t ignore and he’ll be hoping he can use the international experience to develop his game ahead of the 2016-17 season.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford has sparked excitement and the young goal-keeper will be hoping to impress his fellow Portuguese boss. He’s a talented youngster and has already shown what he can do in the U21 side. Although there’s no hope of him getting near the first team at the moment, there could be an opening for him as De Gea’s understudy and the Spaniard’s departure could be near as Real Madrid’s interest doesn’t falter.
Fans will be excited to see him back in Manchester and hopefully the youngster’s Olympic experience will give him the tools he needs to push forward and try to push his way into the first team set-up. He may be given the opportunity to play his part in United’s cup competitions.
Son Heung-min – Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham’s forward has been tipped with a move away from White Hart Lane despite joining just a year ago for £22m from Bayer Leverkusen. However, Heung-min has proved valuable at times for Spurs, who look to be lacking in forward options.
Harry Kane’s understudy scored two goals during the last four games as Tottenham’s title race faltered at the end of last season and he provided a different option for Spurs’ boss Mauricio Pochettino in attack. The South Korean’s importance to his country is huge so it was no surprise the Tottenham star headed to Rio but he could face a challenge to prove his worth on his return.
As well as missing their opening fixture, Heung-min will also miss the London derby as Tottenham take on Arsenal in one of their biggest games of the season this weekend. The forward will be hoping to make a quick return to the Spurs’ first team on his return though and Pochettino will be glad to have some more attacking options available though he may still look to replace the South Korean.