Liverpool defender Joel Matip has revealed he is unlikely to report for duty with Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, instead focussing on his club career.
The 25-year-old joined the Reds on a free transfer from Schalke 04 this summer, and after a pre-season hampered by injury, he has now established himself in Jurgen Klopp‘s starting lineup.
Matip was Klopp’s priority target in moving to strengthen his defence at Liverpool, and now the player is rewarding that commitment.
Having already rejected a call-up to the Cameroon squad for the September international break, Matip has explained that he is not planning to turn out for the Indomitable Lions at the AFCON in January.
Instead, the lofty defender “will be concentrating on Liverpool.”
“It is a long time until January so you never know, but that is the idea,” he explained, when asked whether he would take Hugo Broos’ calls at the end of the year.
“Last year I had injury problems. The extra games and travelling were going to make it harder for me.
“I had to listen to my body and it told me that the international week was the right time to have a break.
“I spoke with the Cameroon manager and he was not happy, but I have to do what is right to be 100 percent and make sure I am not injured again, especially at an important time in my career starting at Liverpool.”
The last time Matip played for Cameroon was over a year ago, in a 1-0 AFCON qualifer win over Gambia, and before that he had missed their last 14 fixtures.
This marked a change in approach for the former Bundesliga star, who had previously played a key role for his country.
He started in two of Cameroon’s three group games at the World Cup in 2014, for example, scoring in their disappointing 4-1 defeat to hosts Brazil.
Now, club matters and the preserving of fitness are Matip’s priorities, and this will come as a major boost to Klopp.
However, Klopp is set to be without key forward Sadio Mane during January’s tournament, with the £30 million star likely to travel with Senegal.
But with more options in attack than he does at the back, Klopp is better placed to navigate this loss.