Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said Tuesday he could not understand why ‘retired’ Cameroon defender Joel Matip was currently unavailable to the Reds because of the African Nations Cup.
Klopp had to pull Matip out of Sunday’s Premier League draw with Manchester United because of a confusion over the player’s international status.
Both Matip and Liverpool believe the 25-year-old — who has not played for Cameroon since September 2015 — has retired from international football.
Yet he was still named in Cameroon’s squad for the ongoing African Nations Cup in Gabon.
The Cameroonian Football Federation had a right to select him under FIFA rules and, with the player not having reported for international duty, the global governing body has the power to suspend Matip from club football for the duration of the tournament.
Liverpool had hoped the CFF would respect Matip’s decision to retire and Klopp feels the Merseysiders are now having to suffer an unfair punishment. FIFA, however, have yet to soften their stance.
“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 at a news conference ahead of Liverpool’s FA Cup third round replay tie away to Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to blame anybody but I think our supporters deserve to know about the process we are in.
“In this moment, we are sure we did nothing wrong. We are sure Joel Matip did nothing wrong. He didn’t play for Cameroon since 2015. Since he has been here he has not been a Cameroon national player.
“In this moment he is not in the squad of Cameroon, so he cannot play for them, but in this moment we have not a 100 percent guarantee he could play for us. That is the situation.”
Matip, signed from Schalke in pre-season, recently recovered from an ankle injury.
Klopp would like him to play at Home Park against fourth-tier Plymouth but does not expect FIFA to lift his ban in time.
“I would consider lining him up tomorrow but I don’t know if I can. From the sports side it would make sense – perfect game for him, but I am not sure if I can,” explained the German manager
“FIFA told us that this Friday they will decide if they open a case on it or not.
“I accept rules in life but I think they should always be based on human senses. For me, not a lawyer or a legal person, it is pretty difficult.
“If he had not been injured — but he was – then he couldn’t have played from January 2. If FIFA opens a case — and I don’t know but I don’t think they will because we are sure everything is all right — then it would be 7-10 days until we get a decision.
“We conceded an offside goal at Man Utd. That doesn’t feel good but I am kind of used to it. In this case it is really hard.”
Plymouth held Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield last week and Klopp is expected more fierce resistance on Wednesday.
“They are allowed to defend with all they have,” said Klopp. “It is up to us.”