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BEHIND THE MASK

How much does wearing a mask REALLY affect a player’s performance?

We saw Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko sport a mask against Juventus in their Champions League semi-final

Face masks are a far more regular sight in the modern game nowadays.

What seems like the entire Chelsea squad have donned the equipment at some point over the last few years, while Harry Kane famously whipped his off in celebration against Arsenal last season.

And on Wednesday night we saw Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko sport one against Juventus in the Champions League after breaking his nose.

Tiemoue Bakayoko drifts past Gonzalo Higuain on Wednesday night

Getty Images
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Tiemoue Bakayoko drifts past Gonzalo Higuain on Wednesday night

The French midfielder is being courted by Chelsea but BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand criticised his display in the 2-0 defeat.

FERDINAND COMMENTS

The former Manchester United defender accused Bakayoko of a lack of awareness of what was around him.

“You have got to sense danger in that position and you have got to be the eyes, and sometimes he is, for the centre halves behind you,” he said.

Rio Ferdinand slammed Bakyoko for his display

Rex Features
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Rio Ferdinand slammed Bakyoko for his display

“But I just don’t think he sees danger. I don’t think his best attribute is defending.

“I think we found a bit more out about him today. He’s had a lot of hype, a lot of news articles about him coming to the Premier League’s top teams.”

THE SCIENCE

So just how much was the highly-rated 22-year-old affected by the mask?

We spoke to Dr Veronique Sauret-Jackson from Cavendish Imaging, a company who design protective facial gear specifically for professional sports people.

The company have a number of offices across the country and have treated former Fulham defender John Heitinga, among others, in the past.

Bakayoko struggles to keep up with Paulo Dybala

EPA
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Bakayoko struggles to keep up with Paulo Dybala

On whether Bakayoko’s vision would have been affected, Dr Sauret-Jackson said: “It really depends where the injury is.

“All masks are made specifically for the player and their injury. If it’s closer to the eye it’s a little more difficult than say if it’s a cheek injury.

“But their vision itself is not impacted.”

Heitinga agrees, claiming the mask he was forced to don against Everton after in March 2014 breaking his nose didn’t have a bearing on his performance.

John Heitinga sports a mask back in March 2014

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John Heitinga sports a mask back in March 2014

“The mask was quite comfortable,” he told the Daily Mail.

“It’s obviously not the same as playing without one but it really did not affect my performance. It fit really well.”

CHELSEA’S MASK MADNESS

Chelsea’s love affair with the Zoro-like equipment has been well-documented in recent years.

Everyone from Diego Costa to Demba Ba seems to have worn the equipment at Stamford Bridge, and it appears the Blues have established a connection with an Italian company for their players.

Diego Costa looked the perfect bond villain last season

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Diego Costa looked the perfect bond villain last season

Ortholabsport, based in Milan, and its craftsmen Stefano Duchini and Lucilla Pezzoni have become famous for its work with the Premier League champions elect.

Cesc Fabregas flew out to Milan in 2015 for the same procedure on a Tuesday and was ready to wear the mask for the game at QPR on the Sunday.

And Dr Sauret-Jackson confirmed the length of the design, saying: “It usually takes five days for a mask to be made as it isn’t an easy process, so ideally clubs will request by Monday or Tuesday in preparation for the weekend’s games.”

SO DOES BAKAYOKO HAVE A VIABLE EXCUSE?

Maybe.

Obviously every case is unique as the mask depends on both the severity of the injury and the general make up of the player’s face.

But if Kane can score so sublimely as he did against Arsenal with the same knock, then we have less sympathy for him.

Harry Kane whips his mask off celebrating against Arsenal

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Harry Kane whips his mask off celebrating against Arsenal

Just a dodgy day at the office, then Tiemoue?