Liverpool could be without Joel Matip for the next month as the row over the defender’s availability rumbles on.
The centre-back, who has not played for Cameroon since September 2015, was withdrawn from selection by the club for Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United as FIFA failed to provide the necessary guidance on the player’s eligibility.
Despite Matip’s assertion to his national association that he does not want to be considered for selection they still made attempts to call him up for the African Nations Cup.
With no likelihood of an agreement being reached with Cameroon, Liverpool asked FIFA specifically to clarify the status of a player who has no desire or intention to represent his country.
However, the world governing body appear to have ducked the issue and insist the regulations are clear.
Unless Cameroon cede to Matip’s request he will have to sit out the entire period for which he should have been released – according to FIFA guidelines – plus an additional period of five days.
Any attempt by Liverpool to play the defender without Cameroon’s consent would lead to a FIFA disciplinary committee investigation.
“We can confirm that Liverpool FC contacted FIFA about the matter,” a FIFA spokesman told Press Association Sport.
“Our services answered by directing the club to the applicable provisions (Annexe 1 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players) in particular its article 5.
“FIFA also indicated that any potential violation of the applicable provisions would need to be investigated by the FIFA disciplinary committee.
“We cannot provide any further comment on this issue.”
Article 5 to which FIFA refer states the following: “A player who has been called up by his association for one of its representative teams is, unless otherwise agreed by the relevant association, not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe, plus an additional period of five days.”
The final of the African Nations Cup is not until February 5 so should Cameroon make it all the way in the competition Matip would, in theory, not be available until February 10 – the day before Tottenham‘s trip to Anfield.
That would mean he would miss potentially six more matches – if Liverpool beat Sky Bet League Two side Plymouth in their FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday – including the pivotal visit of Chelsea on January 31.
A frustrated Jurgen Klopp made his feelings clear yesterday.
“Our understanding is Joel is retired from international football and we, the club, did everything we had to do to make this clear but until now we could not get the response we need to be 100 per cent sure that he can play,” said the Liverpool manager.
“It’s pretty difficult and pretty frustrating, to be honest. He’s been in training for five days and would have been in the squad (against United) so I don’t think it’s fair.
“But we cannot do more and are still waiting on the decision. We could not take the risk.
“But we need to get an answer as quickly as possible because on Wednesday we have the next game and then another game and another game. We cannot wait forever.”
After exhaustive attempts, Liverpool feel they have done everything they can to resolve the situation with the issue even taken up by owners Fenway Sports Group in an attempt to find a solution.
It is understood FIFA’s refusal to answer their specific question or offer any ruling on Matip’s eligibility has left club officials exasperated with a situation which has reached an obvious impasse.