Jurgen Klopp omits Joel Matip from Liverpool squad after taking legal advice
Better safe than sorry.
Jurgen Klopp has omitted Joel Matip from his squad for tonight's FA Cup third round replay against Plymouth Argyle after Liverpool decided against running the risk of FIFA ruling that they had fielded an ineligible player.
After weighing up his options and taking legal advice on the situation, Klopp accepted that in the absence of any clarity from FIFA his only option was to leave Matip out as a wrangle caused by the defender's absence from Africa Nations Cup duty with Cameroon continues to rumble on.
Liverpool have been told that on Friday FIFA will begin the process of ruling whether or not Matip can play for his club while Cameroon are still involved in the tournament, leaving them in the position of having to decide whether to allow the centre back play in the meantime.
But with the possibility of sanctions hanging over them, including potentially being thrown out of the FA Cup, if it is ruled that Matip should have made himself available for international selection, Liverpool feel they have no option but to err on the side of caution even though they remain confident that the 25-year-old has not breached FIFA regulations on international call ups.
Their decision was arrived at in the knowledge that the Cameroon Football Federation is yet to inform FIFA that it has accepted Matip's retirement from international football even though he has not played for his country since September 2015.
But the apparent failure of Matip to inform the Cameroon Football Federation of his retirement in writing, as required by FIFA, appears to have clouded the issue, although Klopp maintains that the matter should still be clear cut.
“It's not about blaming anybody, but you can imagine it's not too easy to get in contact with the decisive people,” Klopp said yesterday. “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.
“We can all makes decision. 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.”