Espanyol's Jonatas goes absent without leave

February 27, 2007

MADRID, March 6 (Reuters) - Espanyol midfielder Jonatas Domingos has returned to Brazil without permission and will miss the first leg of the club's UEFA Cup last-16 tie at Maccabi Haifa on Thursday.

'He didn't train yesterday and he isn't with us today even though we are due to leave for the match,' Espanyol coach Ernesto Valverde told reporters as the team left Barcelona airport on Tuesday.

'Now we have found out that he is in Brazil. There is a lot at stake for us in the UEFA Cup and he isn't here. I'm surprised, I don't like what he has done and nor does anyone else here.'

The 24-year-old midfielder, who joined Espanyol from Flamengo in the close season, is reported to have had problems in adapting to life in Spain.

His father was was held hostage for over a week by kidnappers in Brazil last December.

'We understand that what happened to his father was very traumatic and we wanted to help him all we could,' said club vice president Jose Luis Perello.

'We will listen to his explanations but leaving your place of work is a very serious business.'