Mo Salah has been included in the preliminary Egypt squad for the Olympics, and with “official talks” to come with Liverpool, he could be absent for the start of next season.
The 2020 Olympics are set to be held this summer following a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and football will again be one of the events in Japan.
Egypt are among 14 nations to have already qualified, having won the Africa U23 Cup of Nations in 2019, and though eligibility is capped at players under the age of 24, three overage selections can be made.
As captain and undoubtedly their best player, there has been much speculation in Egypt over the inclusion of Salah – who last represented his country at the Olympics in 2012, scoring in each of their group games before exiting at the quarter-final stage.
Now Egypt under-23s coach Shawky Gharib, who will be in charge at the tournament, has confirmed Liverpool’s No. 11 is in his preliminary squad, and “official talks” are set to take place over his involvement.
“Salah is currently one of the most important players in the world and it’s normal to call him for Egypt’s Olympic squad,” Gharib confirmed on Sunday.
“We will start the official talks with Liverpool after the international break next March.”
The need for talks with Salah’s club comes due to the Olympics overlapping with the start of the next campaign, as the group stage begins on July 22 and the final is to be played on August 7.
Next season’s Premier League is currently scheduled to begin on August 7, and while Egypt are not guaranteed to progress beyond the group stage, the lack of a pre-season would effectively rule Salah out of the opener regardless.
It remains to be seen whether Liverpool, or Salah for that matter, will object to the striker’s place in Japan, but if he does join the Egypt squad it could add to a campaign that is already set for disruption.
The Africa Cup of Nations is to be held in Cameroon in January of next year, with the latter stages of the tournament running into February.
Egypt are yet to qualify, but need only to take a point from Kenya in their next qualifier on March 22 to secure their place, with Sadio Mane‘s Senegal already in and Naby Keita‘s Guinea close to ensuring progress too.
Liverpool face losing three of their key players to the AFCON mid-season, and if Salah plays both then and at the Olympics, their top goalscorer could be absent for a significant portion of the campaign.