Hughes denies pressure over McCarthy

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes has hit back at suggestions that the Premiership club played a part in Benni McCarthy’s surprise omission from South Africa’s squad for next month’s African Cup of Nations.

McCarthy (30) had looked set to be a certainty in Carlos Alberto Parreira’s plans for the tournament, which starts in Ghana on January 20, after coming out of 18 months of international retirement earlier this season to make himself available for his country once again.

The former Porto striker, arguably the most recognisable South African footballer currently plying his trade in Europe, mysteriously failed to make the squad, however, prompting rumours of a deal between Rovers and the South African Football Association.

But Blackburn boss Hughes insists that he played no part in influencing Parreira’s squad—despite admitting that McCarthy’s shock absence from the tournament is an unexpected bonus for the Premiership club.

Hughes said: “It was a surprise to me when I heard that Benni hadn’t been named in the South Africa squad for the African Cup of Nations.

“As a club, we expected Benni to be involved and I’m sure that he was as surprised as the rest of us that he hadn’t been selected.

“It will obviously help us to have Benni around in January when we had anticipated him being away, but we didn’t put any pressure on Benni or the South African association to keep him out of the tournament.

“However, if he isn’t going on international duty, we have to be pleased. Aaron Mokoena has been selected for South Africa, so we have to accept that, but he is the only player that we will be missing, so it’s worked out well for us.”—AFP

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