Saturday Jan 18, 2020. 09:00
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has labelled the change to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations schedule a ‘catastrophe’ for the Premier League club.
Next year’s AFCON was originally slated to be played midway through next year but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced earlier this week that the 2021 edition will be played in January and February due to concerns over the hot weather in host nation Cameroon in June and July.
This means Liverpool, who are gearing up to face arch rivals Manchester United at Anfield tomorrow, are likely to be shorn of several key players in a year’s time when the AFCON is played, including Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.
They are certainly not the only club which will be affected by moving the AFCON, but the loss of Salah and Mane will be especially hard for a team which relies on the pair for the majority of their goals.
“Do I want to open this book now?” Klopp said at a news conference on Friday, as quoted by ESPN. “I couldn’t respect [the competition] more than I do … but it is an obvious problem to play a tournament midway in a season.
“For us it’s a catastrophe. If we say [a player] can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide? If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa, so they can have a look.
“These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. They will say, ‘the moaner from Liverpool again.’ It’s a complete waste of time, [but] as long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”
Klopp went on to add, “These tournaments are played by players, they don’t have a break. I feel massively for Harry Kane [Tottenham Hotspur striker who was recently injured] — he might miss the Euros [2020 European Championships] because of too many games.
“It is not easy. No one thinks of players’ welfare. All authorities need to come together to sort these things. No one talks.
“It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Anther thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby Keita, Mo or Sadio because of it, but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision.”
The last AFCON in 2019 was played in June and July and the plan from CAF was the have the tournament played at this time of the year to align more closely with the European football calendar.