Liverpool could be hit with a ban on playing Joel Matip after Cameroon threatened to call in FIFA over the defender’s refusal to play in the African Cup of Nations.
The Reds insist they ‘only want what is best for their player’ after Cameroon ignored Matip’s wishes not to call him up for the tournament in Gabon.
And while the Reds are resigned to losing Sadio Mane for a month after the player left Merseyside for the tournament, they expected central defender Matip to stay behind after the player revealed he wanted to miss the tournament as far back as September.
Matip has not played for Cameroon in more than a year after a disagreement with his national team while still a Schalke player and was at pains to stress he did not want to take part in the tournament.
In addition, Liverpool thought Matip had actually retired from international football, though that message doesn’t appear to have reached Cameroon boss Hugo Broos, who has included him in his squad for the tournament.
The German‑born defender remains adamant that he has no intention of joining Cameroon in Gabon but Broos has indicated he may ask FIFA to invoke sanctions. And if the ruling body suspects Liverpool of influencing the player’s decision or preventing him from joining up – something the club are adamant is far from the case – they could prevent him playing domestic games for the duration of the tournament.
Matip has been sidelined recently with an ankle injury, but he is closing in on a return, which is likely to coincide with any possible FIFA sanctions.
However, should Cameroon take their case to FIFA, the Reds will plead that Cameroon accepted Matip’s retirement some time ago.
Speaking about Matip last month, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said: “The players make these decisions by themselves, there is nothing the club can do.”
Matip is not the only Premier League player to ignore Cameroon’s call with Allan Nyom also telling Broos he wanted to stay at The Hawthorns to keep his place in Tony Pulis’ side.