Chile's national soccer coach said Monday that he left long-time captain Claudio Bravo off the roster for the Copa America tournament because the goalkeeper, who missed the entire 2018-2019 season to injury, was not match-fit.
"I spoke with Claudio and we need to seek the best moment for his return. It's not just that he comes (to Brazil for the Copa tourney) as a guest after being team captain for 10 years," Reinaldo Rueda told a press conference in Santiago.
Bravo, 36, has made 115 appearances with the national team and led the squad that won the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.
As starting keeper for Barcelona in 2014-2015, he won the Zamora award for best goals-against average, conceding only 19 times in 37 games.
Bravo moved to Manchester City in August 2016, but lost the starting job mid-way through the Premier League season.
A serious Achilles tendon injury kept Bravo out of action for City throughout the 2018-2019 campaign. Even so, he started for Chile in several friendlies this year and expected to be part of the squad for the Copa America.
Rueda said that Bravo's lack of minutes persuaded him the keeper wasn't ready to lead the team into the competition. Instead, Gabriel Arias, who plays for Argentina's Racing, will start in the net, with Brayan Cortes and Yerko Urra as backups.
Several reporters questioned the coach about his decision to reincorporate forward Eduardo Vargas, who was part of the side for Rueda's first match as Chile's coach, but has been left out since then for an unspecified infraction of team rules.
Rueda said that he brought Vargas back based on the attacker's performance in the Mexican first division, scoring 11 goals to help Tigres win the Liga Mx title.
"I told him: 'when I need you, you will come.' Now, for his consistency, for what he has achieved and for being champion in Mexico, he is here. There is no problem with Eduardo," the coach said.
Alexis Sanchez, Chile's all-time leading scorer with 41 goals in 124 international matches, was injured last month playing for Manchester United, but Rueda said he was confident the striker would be ready for the Copa America.
"Alexis is a player who really likes to train and he is always keeping fit in his free time," the coach said, adding that time with the national team could be a psychological fillip for Sanchez, who has been a major disappointment for United since coming over from Arsenal in 2018.
The Copa America begins June 14 and Chile's first match is set for June 17, a clash with Japan at Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo.