Much talk of late has centred around Mohamed Salah‘s international involvement next season, with Egypt wanting him for international duty during the 2020 Olympics.
While major tournaments are usually a high point in the careers of professional players, the Olympics is an U23 event when it comes to football.
It would still be understandable to an extent if Salah wanted to represent his country, but the matter is complicated by the fact it falls in the same season as Egypt will also want to call upon Salah for the Africa Cup of Nations, midway through 2020/21.
Egypt can pick three over-age players for their Olympics squad and have already made clear their intention to select Salah, which would see the forward miss pre-season and the start of next campaign as the Reds look to defend their Premier League title.
However, they acknowledged that Salah himself would likely have to give the go-ahead for it—and, as it turns out, even then Liverpool would seemingly not have to let him go.
Egypt coach Shawky Gharib has backtracked somewhat on saying Salah would definitely be involved, saying:
“We cannot force Salah to participate with us because FIFA regulations do not compel him to participate.
“Salah’s participation with the Pharaohs team in Tokyo is a decision to be taken only by Salah, his club Liverpool and his coach Jurgen Klopp.”
And FIFA guidelines back that up, with a spokesperson noting:
“The men’s Olympic Football Tournament, as well as all FIFA competitions with age restrictions, are not included in the men’s international match calendar 2018-2024, and thus clubs are not under the obligation to release players for the competition.”
That alone is already a massive boost for the Reds, with the knowledge that their player’s participation would be solely in their hands and they could, if they wanted, force the issue that he remain at Jurgen Klopp‘s disposal.
Of course, it’s also unlikely that an outright refusal would be brought about by Klopp, given he is noted for being as compassionate about the person as he is about the player.
But a sensible decision would likely see all parties compromise on Salah’s involvement: With the AFCON to come later in the campaign, Egypt could be offered the chance to pick which sole tournament they’d rather have Salah in place for, be it the major championships of the Continent or as an experienced head in the more developmental Olympics competition.
Either way, it shouldn’t see Liverpool deprived of one of their key players more than they already will be during the season, likely leaving Klopp free to integrate Salah in his pre-season plans and get the impending title defence off to the strongest possible start.