Search icon


17th Jan 2017

Frustrated Jurgen Klopp to consult lawyers before deciding whether to pick Joel Matip for Plymouth tie

The bizarre situation is dragging on...

Tony Barrett

Jurgen Klopp will take the unprecedented step of seeking legal advice before deciding whether or not to select Joel Matip to face Plymouth Argyle tomorrow night as Liverpool continue to wait for FIFA to rule on the defender’s eligibility.

An ongoing wrangle about Matip’s decision not to make himself available to play for Cameroon at the Africa Nations Cup has left Liverpool needing clarification from FIFA but with that yet to be provided, Klopp will consult with the club’s in-house legal team, led by Jonathan Bamber, before determining whether the centre back should feature in the FA Cup third round replay.

The main concern that Klopp will have to factor into his decision is the possibility that Liverpool could be expelled from the competition retrospectively even if they defeat Plymouth should FIFA decide that Matip should not be playing for his club having passed up the opportunity to play for his country.

FIFA will not intervene in any way until Friday at the earliest when they will begin the process of resolving the situation, leaving Liverpool in the invidious position of either having to gamble on Matip’s eligibility in the knowledge that doing so comes at a significant risk or else erring on the side of caution by leaving the centre back out of the team.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)


“Yes, of course. I have to ask. But the decision is for me to make,” the Liverpool manager said. “I could put him in the line-up, I don’t think referee is going to say ‘stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch’. I will do it when it’s okay from our point of view. But until then, it [a breakthrough] is still possible of course. We have had a lot of talks over the days and weeks. Of course I need advice, I’m not a lawyer.”

Liverpool’s position is that Matip has retired from international football and as such should not be subject to FIFA rules which stipulate that an absent player cannot be selected by his club until five days after Cameroon’s participation in the tournament has ended.

But the apparent failure of Matip to inform the Cameroon Football Federation of his retirement in writing, as required by FIFA, has clouded the issue even though the 25-year-old has not played for his country since September 2015.

In light of the uncertainty created by the ongoing issue, Klopp reluctantly decided to withdraw Matip from his squad for Liverpool’s Premier League game away to Old Trafford on Sunday and he is now hoping that the President of the Cameroon Football Federation, Joseph Owona, confirms that the player’s retirement has been accepted so that the situation can be resolved.

“It’s not about blaming anybody, but you can imagine it’s not too easy to get in contact with the decisive people,” Klopp added. “The decisive people at the end are the president of the Cameroon FA and Mr [Gianni] Infantino, the president of FIFA. My dream, what we need is a letter. It’s clear that Joel is retired, but what we need is a letter from the official side of Cameroon that says the player is released and can play for Liverpool.

“We would have let him go [to the Africa Cup of Nations]. Sadio Mane is playing for Senegal. It’s not that the Africa Cup doesn’t fit our plans, or whatever. We would have let him go. But my understanding is that it’s a free world, and if you don’t want to play for the national team and have different reasons for it, then it should be possible.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)


“We can all make decisions. Whole countries can leave the EU and nobody can say ‘no you can’t’. Obviously you can. In my opinion, it’s the biggest thing for a player, a wonderful positive thing to play for your national team, if you want it.”

Klopp also dismissed suggestions that by not putting in writing his decision to retire while a player at Schalke, Matip could have left himself at risk of breaching FIFA’s strict code. “That’s not too important, I don’t think,” he said. “We were not involved in this process, of course, because it was before he was our player.

“With rules like it is now, one side can say ‘yeah we did a letter’. Nobody told the player when he retired that he sits together with his national coach and says he doesn’t want to play, and then the coach says ‘yeah, okay, but I need a letter’.

“Maybe the former club would have said ‘hey, don’t forget, you need to write a letter on that’. When he came here for us, it was clear he didn’t want to play for Cameroon. Maybe you could have criticised us for not asking to see the letter.

“But it’s all about when do you say he was retired? He wasn’t picked for more than a year [by Cameroon]. Why should he have to think about ‘if somebody picks me, I have to say it [about being retired]’?

“Who spoke before now about how to retire from an international team? Has anybody said ‘if you want to retire from international football, you have to write a letter’? That’s not how it works. It should always be an opportunity, it should be good but then if you don’t want to play then other players can. They have a squad.”

Catch up with this week’s episode of 888sport Football Friday Live: