Saturday 17 February 2018

Jurgen Klopp takes aim at FIFA as Matip farce drags on

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Matip
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Matip

Jamie Holland

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp could not hide his exasperation as the row of Joel Matip's availability overshadowed his latest press conference.

Two days after being forced to pull the defender out of a game against Manchester United, Klopp was no nearer to getting the answers he wanted as he met media ostensibly to preview tonight's English FA Cup third-round replay at Plymouth.

Klopp requested the matter - a dispute between Matip and Cameroon - be "put on the end" of the press conference in order to first "talk about football" but the subject went on to dominate proceedings.

"There are not a lot of times in my life when I have been in a situation like this, not even a similar situation," said Klopp. "It is pretty difficult."

Matip was named in Cameroon's squad for the African Nations Cup despite it being widely understood that he had retired from international football.

Under FIFA rules, the Cameroon Football Association still had a right to call up the player but, given he has not played for the national team since September 2015, the matter has taken Liverpool by surprise.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp. Photo: Lukas Barth/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp. Photo: Lukas Barth/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The club had assumed Cameroon had accepted Matip's decision to retire, which was taken before he joined them from Schalke last summer.

However, with Matip having now technically not reported for duty, he could be suspended from club football for the duration of the tournament.

Liverpool have called for greater clarity from world governing body FIFA and Cameroon but so far have received no response.

Klopp said: "It is not about blaming anybody but it is not too easy to get in contact with the decisive people - the president of the Cameroon FA and Mr (Gianni) Infantino from FIFA.

"What we need is a letter, even when it is clear he is retired, from the official side saying the player is released and can play for Liverpool."

Klopp could include Matip, recently recovered from a knee injury, in his team to face Plymouth, but it would risk sanction from FIFA.

"In this moment we have not a 100 per cent guarantee he could play for us. I think I could line him up and I don't think the referee would say, 'Stop,' but I will do it when it is okay from our point of view," said the Liverpool manager.

Asked what could make that happen, Klopp said: "New informations, if there are any."

Klopp said he has been told that FIFA will decide by Friday whether an investigation into Matip's non-compliance with a call-up is necessary.

"They have told us it would then be between seven-10 days if we get a decision.

"From January 2, it could be up to eight games, had he been fit. If the result is what we think it will be, he would have missed eight games for doing nothing wrong.


"I accept rules in life but they should base it on human sense. In this case, we cannot do more. It is really hard."

Klopp resents any suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of the club or player, insisting: "We are sure we did nothing wrong. We are sure Joel Matip did nothing wrong. He did not play for Cameroon since 2015."

When asked how Matip had responded, Klopp revealed that the 25-year-old was deeply unhappy with the farce surrounding his availability.

"He isn't happy. I told him before the United game that I can't pick him.

"We are not the only club. Schalke have a similar problem and so do West Brom, maybe Ajax too.

"It is really difficult to get in contact with the people. It is important and we have to wait for a fit player who wasn't playing for Cameroon for 15-16 months. It is difficult to accept."

Plymouth Argyle v Liverpool,

Live, BT Sport 2, 7.45

Irish Independent

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