Klopp confirms Liverpool could refuse international call-ups – “We have to be first priority”

Jurgen Klopp has suggested Liverpool won’t release their players for the international break if there are risks with COVID-19, saying the clubs “have to be first priority.”

The Reds have four more fixtures before the final break in the campaign, which will see World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers played along with a host of friendlies.

Many countries will play three games, which is already a concern, while the UK’s ‘red list’ for travel to and from the country could see some required to quarantine for 10 days on their return.

‘Red list’ nations include Brazil, Portugal and Namibia, which therefore affects Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Naby Keita, with the latter due to travel to Namibia for Guinea’s final AFCON qualifier on March 30.

FIFA have allowed an exemption, however, that gives clubs the right to refuse international call-ups in certain circumstances including a mandatory quarantine of five days or more.

Speaking on the situation in his pre-Chelsea press conference, Klopp confirmed that is likely to be the case with Liverpool, saying “the players are paid by the clubs, so that means we have to be first priority.”

“I think all the clubs agree that we cannot just let the boys go and then sort the situation when they come back or [have] our players in a 10-day quarantine in a hotel or whatever,” he explained.

“That’s just not possible. I understand the need of the different FAs but this is a time when you cannot make everybody happy.

“But we have to admit that the players are paid by the clubs, so that means we have to be first priority, that’s how it is.

“With all understanding for the different needs and competitions coming up in the summer, I get it. But you cannot make everyone happy at the same time in this period of our lives.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 17, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool were stung following previous international breaks this season, with Keita among those affected by COVID-19 while on duty, which impacted Klopp’s selection.

“All the things which happened from a virus point of view in the last few months were always when somebody had to leave the bubble,” he continued.

“In the bubble we were not without cases – we are now without cases for a long, long time – but it never spread or whatever, it was just a case, self-isolation and then come again.

“But there were two periods, it was the last international break when more cases than before came up, then it was the Christmas period, obviously, which we all were involved in.”

He added: “It’s like the Champions League, we always have to wait until the last second because people need time to make decisions.

“We just deal with the things other people decide and we got kind of used to it.

“But I think everyone agrees, we cannot let the players go and play for their country and quarantine for 10 days in a hotel. That’s not how we can do it.”