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Why surprise claims Joel Matip could still head to AFCON are unlikely

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With less than a month to go until the Africa Cup of Nations, it has been claimed that Joel Matip could come out of retirement for Cameroon, though that is unlikely.

Though the latest variant of COVID-19 is threatening the Premier League calendar at present, let alone travel, the AFCON is currently set to kick off in Cameroon on January 9.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita are in line to represent their nations, with Liverpool still unsure whether they will be available for the clash with Chelsea on January 2 at Stamford Bridge.

Either way, the trio are due to miss the FA Cup third-round tie against Shrewsbury and the following meetings with Brentford and Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

It will be a major blow to Jurgen Klopp‘s side, particularly given the elite form of Salah this season, with 21 goals and nine assists in 22 appearances.

But if a new claim from African Insider is to be believed, Liverpool could be dealt another setback if Matip joins back up with Cameroon, following the appointment of Samuel Eto’o as president of the Cameroonian Football Federation (FECAFOOT).

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) and Joel Matip after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Matip retired from international football in 2015, while he was still at Schalke, having earned 27 caps for his country, scoring their only goal at the 2014 World Cup.

African Insider have claimed, though, in a tweet on Monday, that Eto’o’s election left Matip “considering” a return to Cameroon duty, with it then assumed that he could be involved for the AFCON next month.

This was circulated in the Liverpool Echo, as well as fan sites including Empire of the Kop, with the Echo leading with the headline that the Reds “could lose a fourth player” to the tournament.

However, it is likely that all is not as it seems, with there major doubts over the credibility of African Insider’s claim.

The account, which boasts over 11,000 followers on Twitter, does not appear to be connected to any publication, and instead is run by Hugo Zoff, who cites himself as “Africa’s leading sports journalist.”

Zoff has tweeted in response to the regurgitation of the claims, which appear little more than speculation, including describing the Echo as “desperate for clicks” – no doubt referring to the lack of research into the original post.

“Never once do I say he’s going to AFCON,” Zoff wrote elsewhere. “Reporters making stuff up and attributing it to me yet again!”

It seems that this was simply the opinion of one fan, rather than anything based on fact, and indeed, there is little to suggest that Matip would make a U-turn on his decision.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While FECAFOOT may have changed leadership – to a player whom Matip once called a team-mate, no less – his retirement over six years ago came due to poor treatment while on duty in previous years.

Upon opting out of duty, Matip was even briefly unable to play for Liverpool in 2017 due to a dispute over a call-up to the Cameroon squad for that year’s AFCON.

In August of this year, Cameroon manager Toni Conceicao even labelled the situation regarding the 30-year-old as “not new,” saying: “Matip does not want to return to the national team, that is the issue.”

Having not represented his country since 2015, Matip is able to more carefully manage his fitness during international breaks, which is allowing him to remain a key player for Liverpool.

Though it would be wrong to suggest he could never consider a return for Cameroon, there is very little to suggest he is doing so at this stage.

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