Major blow as Liverpool set to be without Salah, Mane & Keita for start of 2021

Liverpool will be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for the start of 2021, with the Africa Cup of Nations set to be moved back to the winter.

The AFCON was held in the summer for the first time in its history last year, which came as a relief to clubs in England.

Previously, they were forced to release players for the international duty midway through the domestic campaign, with Mane missing seven games in 2016/17 while he was with Senegal in Gabon.

Last year’s tournament was held in June and July, with Salah, Mane and Keita all back for pre-season with Liverpool—albeit the latter having suffered an injury.

Now, however, the Reds need to plan without the African trio, with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announcing that the AFCON will be moved back to winter.

According to BBC Sport’s African football expert John Bennett, the switch in the schedule is due to: “June and July would be rainy season in Cameroon and there’s a clash with the new 2021 Club World Cup.”

The Club World Cup is set to be held in China between June 17 and July 4 next year, which as Bennett notes would conflict with initial plans for the AFCON.

Mohamed Salah of Egypt during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 21 June 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix ( Samuel Shivambu/Sports Inc/PA Images)

In December, CAF president Ahmad Ahmad expressed his concerns over a summer tournament in Cameroon, with tropical conditions set to bring heavy rain throughout.

“When we took the decision to move the Africa Cup of Nations to June, which we did for the last tournament in Egypt, we have always said that we need to have some flexibility over the dates,” Ahmad explained.

“This is because of the different climatic conditions in the continent. I don’t know why the media has forgotten that this was discussed in detail, at the 2017 CAF symposium that we had in Morocco.

“In my view, it is not possible, because of the climatic conditions in Cameroon, to stage the Africa Cup of Nations in June and July.

“This is clear, so we must make a decision on the date.”

In this case, Liverpool could see Salah, Mane and Keita report for international duty at this time next year, which could impact their involvement in the Premier League and Champions League.

The news was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.