Joël Matip wasn’t selected by Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations. He had, in fact, quietly retired from international football last year while at Schalke in order to avoid being called up by the country of his ancestry, whose federation he has had contentious dealings with and who he believes run a disorganised national team.
By all rights, that should make him eligible to represent Liverpool during the tournament. With Cameroon making a lot of noise about pressing the issue ahead of the AFCON, though, the club sought confirmation from FIFA and their requests for clarification and confirmation were met with silence from football’s governing body.
That silence in return for what the club had believed was a simple and straightforward question with an easy and obvious answer has been seen within the organisation as a cause for concern that FIFA might, if Cameroon were to now launch a challenge, rule that Matip is in fact ineligible to represent Liverpool during AFCON.
If they played him while he was ineligible, the club could then face sanction. As a result, they have chosen to hold Matip out against Manchester United today while they await word from FIFA, dealing another blow to a side already without Sadio Mané, who is at AFCON representing Senegal.
They will also be without Nathaniel Clyne, who picked up an injury and was ruled out this afternoon. His place in the lineup will be taken by 18-year-old converted midfielder Trent Alexander-Arnold. Philippe Coutinho, meanwhile, is fit to make the bench but not the starting lineup.