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Liverpool get backing for late AFCON release as Salah, Mane & Keita called up

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Liverpool have received heavyweight backing as they hope to retain Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for the trip to Chelsea ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations.

With the AFCON set to go forward as planned, starting on January 9, the Reds are still in the dark when it comes to the departure date for their three internationals.

Salah has been named in Egypt’s provisional squad, with it guaranteed he makes the final cut, while Mane and Keita have been called up by Senegal and Guinea respectively.

Due to the tournament’s start date, there is contention over whether the trio will be able to play for Liverpool in the clashes with Leicester on December 28 and Chelsea on January 2.

FIFA regulations stipulate that players should be made available to their national teams 13 days before the tournament starts, which would be December 27.

That would rule Salah, Mane and Keita out of those two games, along with the FA Cup third-round tie at home to Shrewsbury, the League Cup semi-finals against Arsenal and Premier League clashes with Brentford and Crystal Palace, which take place during the tournament.

However, The Athletic report that the World Leagues Forum (WLF) has contacted FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to insist players will not be released until January 3.

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 24, 2018: Senegal's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Group H match against Japan at Yekaterinburg Arena. Sergei Bobylev/TASS

WLF, who take care of domestic leagues worldwide, have described FIFA’s expectations as “unreasonable” for clubs whose players have been called up.

It is claimed that two previous letters have been ignored, with WLF general secretary Jerome Perlemuter insisting that any sanctions for clubs who do not release players by December 27 would be “deemed abusive, null and void.”

There is no shortage of controversy surrounding the tournament, which will take place in Cameroon, not least due to safety concerns over those called up.

Cameroon remains in the throes of a civil war, while a low vaccine uptake in the African country has led to fears over those travelling contracting COVID-19.

This would have further impact on the players involved, with there a chance that they could even miss games held beyond the final which is set for February 6.

Naby Deco Keita of Guinea during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria on the 26 June 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The Athletic adds: “Perlemuter also notes the ‘unilateral decisions’ taken by FIFA and the CAF with regards to AFCON being held in the winter, its format being extended by a week and national FAs being encouraged to call up large squads.”

It is a messy situation with those parties with an interest in holding the tournament as planned seemingly digging their heels in.

But hopefully this action at least leads to Salah, Mane and Keita being permitted to play in two vital Premier League games for Liverpool over the New Year.

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