Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool still did not know when the club would release Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for international service at the Africa Cup of Nations, even though the start of the tournament was less than a month away.
The 24-team competition, which has been postponed 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to kick off January 9 when Cameroon play Burkina Faso in Yaounde.
Reports on Wednesday, which were rejected by sources in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to ESPN, suggested the tournament could be called off due to the pandemic, and the European Club Association (ECA) was also reported to have written to FIFA to warn it. Clubs may not release players for the Biennale.
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When asked at a press conference if he thought the tournament should be cancelled, Klopp stopped expressing his opinion on the situation, saying: “I have nothing to say. The real authorities have to decide these kinds of things, I have no idea what the situation is about. Exactly the world. That’s how it is.”
But with Salah, Mane and Keita to represent Egypt, Senegal and Guinea respectively in Cameroon next month, there is confusion over when Liverpool will release players to join their countries.
Sources have told ESPN that states can demand the release of players from December 27 onwards, but that clubs can negotiate with individual associations to delay players’ departures – a prospect that could be significant for Liverpool due to the Premier League’s clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2.
But with less than two weeks to go until the December 27 release date, Klopp said he was still waiting for clarification on when Salah, Mane and Keita would lose.
“We don’t know,” Klopp said. “We don’t know exactly. There will be a moment when the national coaches will announce their plans and we will try to have talks, but decisions will be made elsewhere and we have to wait for that.”
When asked if he thought more clarity was needed, Klopp said, “I think you can understand why I’m not answering that question – whether I’m happy with that or not. I won’t answer the question.”
Meanwhile, Klopp confirmed, Joel Matip will not participate in the Africa Cup of Nations, despite reports linking the defender to a return to international duty with Cameroon.
Matip has not played for his country since 2015, but the election of former player Samuel Eto’o as the new president of the Cameroon Football Federation has led to speculation that the 30-year-old is reconsidering his international retirement to play in the tournament.
“No, he doesn’t consider that,” Klopp added. I talked to him and asked him and he said no.