Inter Milan's Diego Godin: Health crisis in Italy became 'untenable'

Inter Milan defender Diego Godin returned to Uruguay after enduring two weeks of quarantine in Italy and detailed to ESPN his experiences dealing with coronavirus in one of the world's hardest-hit areas.

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"We were at risk until the final moments," Uruguay captain Godin told ESPN. "We were being pulled in different directions to see if we could continue playing until the situation became untenable. The health system collapsed. There are no beds in ICU to tend to so many people in critical condition. People with other ailments simply weren't tended to. There is no place for them, or enough medical professionals."

Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte halted all sports in the country March 9 because of the outbreak, the day after Inter faced Juventus. Five days after that match, Juve defender Daniele Rugani became the first Serie A player to test positive for COVID-19.

"We continued to practice and play for several weeks behind closed doors until Juve's positive test, so they quarantined the Juve players and us," Godin said. "That's where the season stopped. Surely, there were other players in that match who may have already been infected, and that's why they quarantined us."

Godin, 34, also touched on the atmosphere in the early stages of the outbreak in Italy, whose coronavirus death toll surpassed 12,000 on Tuesday -- the highest in the world.

"It wasn't a big deal at the beginning. Everybody thought it was China's problem and that it wouldn't transmit to other countries," Godin said. "Measures were enacted very, very slowly. We were told to take precautions, but at the government level there were no drastic actions taken that would have prevented what was possibly to come."

Two Chinese tourists visiting Rome were Italy's first positive tests, reported on Jan. 31. Another case was confirmed a week later, from an Italian man who had traveled to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first identified. The first virus-related deaths in Italy happened on Feb. 22, yet Serie A activity continued on.

Godin offered strong praise for Italy's front-line health professionals, a group that has endured 33 deaths among almost 5,000 infected workers.

"The job that the doctors and those in the health services are doing is impressive," Godin said. "Anything that is done to honor them is going to come up short. They are the real heroes today. The images alone of what they have been doing are really moving."

Meanwhile, Godin said his teammate Lautaro Martinez possesses some of the qualities of players such as Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero.

"He's learning to play using his whole body, with his back to the ball," Godin said of the the 22-year-old Argentine forward. "He's a football player. His confidence has a high ceiling and he's maturing with every match. You can spot things in him that tell you he'll be around for 10 or 15 years."