Jurgen Klopp was asked his thoughts on the change of schedule to the Africa Cup of Nations for next year—and had plenty to say against organisers, associations and those who constantly demand more football.
While that was naturally of some irritation to the boss, his concern rests once again with the welfare of the players and he went fully in on the lack of transparency and cohesion between the game’s governing bodies when playing tournaments and fixtures.
Here’s every brilliant word the boss said in his press conference in answer to the question about the AFCON change—starting with a tongue-in-cheek comment about how much he had to say.
“Do we really want to open this book now?!
“I couldn’t respect the African Cup of Nations more. I like the competition, I watched it a lot.
“Sensational players you see for the first time there, but not the last time because they show up in Europe and everywhere, all really interesting.
“But it’s an obvious problem that you play a tournament in the middle of the season. I get it, it makes more sense for Africa to play it in our winter when the weather is better for them, I get that. The only problem is…a couple of things are not OK.
“One thing is the FIFA plans for a tournament in summer 2021, a week later the AFCON would have started, another tournament for a lot of world-class players, I’ve mentioned that in the past. Not sure if that was part of the decision, playing at the same time or the weather or whatever. It’s too many tournaments.
“The other [problem is], it doesn’t help African players. We will not sell Sadio, Mo or Naby because they have a tournament in January or February, of course not, but if you have to make a decision about bringing in a player, it’s a massive one.
“You already know for about four weeks you won’t have them. It doesn’t help the players, for sure not.
“The decisions are made without asking players, managers, anyone about the decision.
“FIFA, who should sort all that as the head of all these associations, doesn’t look like being involved.
“They are still happy having their ’21 [Club] World Cup, offering a lot of money, means the clubs are like “maybe we can play it.”
“I know the discussions will start, when we ask for less games, everybody will say ‘take less money’. I will say right here I’m ready to do so.
“It’s not just one problem. It’s like nobody can live without [these games], like it’s a natural right to have this, but they forget in these moments that these tournaments are played by players! They don’t have a break!
“I feel massively for Harry Kane. I heard maybe he’s not in the Euros – maybe some English people in the FA will start thinking ‘too many games, maybe’. Always something has to happen to start thinking about it.
“So now we send all these guys in the winter again, in the middle of the season, to a tournament in different circumstances. It’s not easy to take. About the welfare of the players, nobody thinks.
“FIFA, UEFA, FAs of all countries have to come together to finally solve that. FIFA decides things without talking to UEFA, I heard UEFA are making the Champions League bigger…! And nobody talks to each other.
“Like in England: the FA says ‘ok, only from fourth or fifth round having replays’. And the Carabao Cup says ‘as long as they have them, we don’t cancel the second semi-final’. Ask one team involved what they think of the second semi-final!
“In the end it leads to…the Africa Cup of Nations going back to January and February which is, for us, a catastrophe.
“In that moment losing three players and on top of that we have absolutely no power. If a player is injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa and they have a look. Maybe one or two weeks, he’s back. And with all the other things it’s the same. We don’t have any say, we just plan the flight. Nowadays it should not be like this.
“I speak here about it and nobody will lesson. It’s like the biggest waste of time ever, the moaner from Liverpool is on it again.
“As long as nothing changes I will say it all the time: it’s about the players.
“It’s not about me, there are so many things to sort but all these guys never find time to sit all together on one table and make a general schedule: ‘here we have it, all these different games we have to play and here is the break for the players!‘
“Right, let’s respect that. but if you have that break, don’t make a replay in that break or whatever. That would help massively.”
As ever, Jurgen makes multiple points in an extremely impressive and passionate way, with the protection of players at the heart of his discourse.
Whether or not the relevant authorities will finally wake up to the fact that even elite-level football has its limits is another matter entirely.