Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool still don’t know when the club will release Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, despite the start of the tournament being less than a month away.
The 24-team competition, delayed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is due to kickoff on Jan. 9 when host nation Cameroon play Burkina Faso in Yaounde.
Reports on Wednesday, which sources at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) dismissed to ESPN, suggested that the tournament could be cancelled because of the pandemic and it has also been reported that the European Club Association (ECA) has written to FIFA to warn that clubs may not release players for the biennial competition..
When asked at news conference about whether he believed the tournament should be cancelled, Klopp stopped short of 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 around the world exactly. That is how it is.”
But with Salah, Mane and Keita due to represent Egypt, Senegal and Guinea respectively in Cameroon next month, there is confusion as to when Liverpool are expected to release the players to join up with their countries.
Sources have told ESPN that countries can demand the release of players from Dec. 27 onwards, but clubs can negotiate with individual associations to delay the departure of players — a prospect which could be significant for Liverpool due to their Premier League clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Jan 2.
But with less than two weeks until the Dec. 27 release date, Klopp said he is still waiting for clarity as to when he will lose Salah, Mane and Keita.
“We don’t know,” Klopp said. “We don’t know exactly. There will be a moment when the national coaches announce their plans and we will try to be in conversations, but the decisions will be made somewhere else and we have to wait for that.”
When asked whether he believed there was a need for more clarity, Klopp said, “I think you can understand why this is not a question for me to answer — if I am happy about that or not. I will not answer the question.”
Klopp, meanwhile, confirmed that Joel Matip will not participate on the Africa Cup of Nations, despite reports linking the defender with a return to international duty with Cameroon.
Matip has not played for the country since 2015, but the election of former player Samuel Eto’o as the new president of the Cameroon FA had led to speculation that the 30-year-old was reconsidering his international retirement to play in the tournament.
“No, he doesn’t consider it,” Klopp added. “I spoke to him and I asked him and he said no.”