Liverpool are to lose Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for the Africa Cup of Nations at the start of 2022, but a lobby for an earlier start could throw a further spanner in the works.
The competition in Cameroon is currently scheduled to start on January 9 and run until February 6, in that time the Reds play two Premier League games.
It’s already a headache that Jurgen Klopp and co. will need to navigate and there is still uncertainty around the departure dates and if the trio will be available at Chelsea on January 2.
Requests will have been submitted to Egypt, Senegal and Guinea but Klopp said earlier in the month that “it’s not decided yet” if they’ll be available for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
But that could all be flipped on its head as Egyptian club Al Ahly are “lobbying the African football governing body to instead kick off AFCON on January 3” due to their involvement in the Club World Cup.
There were murmurings of Al Ahly asking the question following the confirmation that the Club World Cup will start three days before the end of AFCON, with a host of their key players to be involved.
- Egyptian club Al Ahly lobbying for earlier AFCON start, Jan 3 instead of Jan 9
- Move would force earlier departure for Salah, Mane and Keita
- Would then certainly miss Leicester and Chelsea games
- Time is running out to make the change, but will leave clubs sweating
And the Mirror‘s David Lynch has now reported as much.
The shift in dates would force an earlier departure for those involved in AFCON, with the guidelines stating players are to be released by the Monday morning of the week before the competition starts.
That would be December 27, a day after Liverpool’s match with Leeds and before the trips to Leicester and Chelsea, of which the trio would then be certain to miss.
Al Ahly, the club lobbying for a change, have urged the Egyptian FA to help resolve the issue and revealed as much in a statement on Saturday:
“This clash of dates will not allow the Egyptian national team to count on Al Ahly international players in the continental competition or will not allow Al Ahly to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup with the club’s full squad of players.
In addition, Al Ahly will not be able to take the club’s foreign players participating in the Africa Cup of Nations with Tunisia, Mali and Morocco to the FIFA Club World Cup.”
With the start of AFCON coming closer by the day, bringing the competition forward would have repercussions beyond just Al Ahly’s Club World Cup campaign.
It could be a case of it being too late into the year to make such changes but Liverpool and other Premier League and European clubs will not be resting easy just yet.