Joel Matip‘s decision to opt out of January’s Africa Cup of Nations could see the Liverpool centre-back face FIFA suspension.
The 25-year-old chose not to link up with Hugo Broos’ squad for the tournament in Gabon, despite the manager’s best attempts to convince him to change his mind.
Matip has not turned out for Cameroon since mid-2015, and has not been a regular feature since a year previous, though he is not the only one unavailable to Broos in January.
West Brom‘s Allan Nyom is among six others not willing to depart for the three-week tournament.
Ajax’s Andre Onana, Nancy’s Guy N’dy Assembe, Bordeaux’s Maxime Poundje, Marseille’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Lille’s Ibrahim Amadou are also out of contention.
This leaves Broos and the Cameroon FA, Fecafoot, with a significantly weaker selection, and in a statement released on Tuesday, they suggested they could “take action” against those to opt out.
“These players have put personal interest above those of the national team,” Broos said.
“And the federation reserves the right to take action against the players in accordance with FIFA regulations.”
According to BBC Sport, this could see Fecafoot seek a suspension for Matip and the rest of the group for the duration of the tournament.
This is something of a farfetched resolution, with there no doubt being considerable red tape in any decision to suspend those who do not wish to take part in the AFCON.
That Matip has long kept himself out of the Cameroon squad should set a precedent, with the defender also missing the tournament in 2015.
Matip can also cite fitness concerns, as he is currently sidelined with an ankle injury that has already recurred three times this season, following minor surgery in the summer.
Liverpool would likely take exception to Matip departing for Gabon if he is not fully fit, given his key status within Jurgen Klopp‘s squad.
Furthermore, while it may be a drastic conclusion, Matip could also, in theory, retire from duty.
Klopp is already due to be without Sadio Mane for the tournament, with the 24-year-old’s last game before joining up with the Senegal squad to come against Sunderland on January 2.
Mane will miss at least seven games, including both legs of the League Cup semi-final against former club Southampton, and Premier League clashes with Manchester United and Chelsea.
Being without Mane is a big enough blow to Klopp, but suspension for Matip for the same period would be hugely frustrating.