Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp broke into a rant about player welfare lasting several minutes at his press conference on Friday, when asked about the decision to move next year’s Africa Cup of Nations back to January.
The Cameroon Football Federation announced the change on Thursday, meaning the likes of Sadio Mane (Senegal), Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Naby Keita (Guinea) will all be pulled away from their club duties for around four weeks.
AFCON was held in the summer for the first time last in 2019, but the winter is preferred to avoid players playing in intense heat and keep the games away from other international tournaments or club competitions.
Responding to a question about the change, Klopp told reporters: “Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect the Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. It’s difficult circumstances a lot of times.
“But it is an obvious problem to play a tournament midway in a season. That is a general problem, One thing is FIFA plans tournament in the summer of 2021, a week later AFCON would have started…I’ve mentioned that in the past.
“It is another tournament, there are too many of them. The Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked.”
Klopp was not done there, however. The Reds boss continued: “FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.
“For us, it’s a catastrophe. If we say he 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. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this.
“I speak about it now and no-one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time.
As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”
It is not the first time Klopp has spoken passionately about player welfare, with the German an outspoken critic of the Premier League’s festive schedule.
Liverpool, who played on Boxing Day this season before facing Wolves on December 29 and Sheffield United on January 2, were not the worst side affected.
Wolves played Liverpool less than 24 hours after beating Manchester City, who then played the Blades on December 29.