Liverpool have known for some time that they would be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, and Naby Keïta for at least two Premier League matches and potentially a handful of domestic cup ties due to the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Now, though, a report detailing call-up dates for players involved in the tournament has some worried it could be more than that, with FIFA rules mandating that players can be called up as soon as the Monday of the week before the event kicks off.
By FIFA’s calculations and the first game of AFCoN, that means players can be called up on Boxing Day, December 27th, a full week before Liverpool will have expected to release the players. And that would mean they miss games against Leicester and Chelsea.
However, going from the first games that Egypt, Senegal, and Guinea play at AFCoN rather than the first game of the tournament would mean that Liverpool would release the players to their countries on the 3rd of January as originally expected.
While this will all be news to many fans and cause for concern, it seems unlikely the clubs and countries involved will have been unaware of the rules surrounding player call-ups for AFCoN before The Athletic chose to write about them this week.
It’s also worth noting that it will be up to the countries themselves to determine the exact call-up date for players based on the rules and their discussions with the impacted clubs, and discussions have almost certainly been ongoing between the parties.
It may be possible, then, Liverpool will lose Salah, Mané, and Keïta for longer than expected at the start of the season. It’s likely, though, that in the end things will go as expected and the trio will depart after the Reds face Chelsea on January 2nd.