Normally, when a country calls on a player to participate internationally, their club has little say in the matter. For the Olympics, an event not held under FIFA’s auspices or by one of the continental federations, it’s different. For the Olympics, clubs can say no.
And this summer, when Egypt asked Liverpool to release Mohamed Salah, the club said no, citing the amount of football he has played over the past few years and his commitments to Egypt for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations set for January of 2022.
Egypt will also be without a second player they had sought to call up, Galatasaray forward Mostafa Mohamed, and in the case of both players national team head coach Shawky Gharib says there was a strong desire to participate at the summer games.
“All negotiations with Liverpool and Galatasaray have not been successful, as the two clubs want the two players with them in the coming period,” Gharib is reported to have said on Egyptian television following the announcement of their Olympic squad.
“The Turkish club signed Mostafa Mohamed to participate in European competitions, so it’s their right to keep him. The same goes for Liverpool. Mohamed Salah had a strong desire to be with the Olympic team in Tokyo but what happened was out of [his] control.”
If Salah did have a strong desire to play at the Olympics, Liverpool’s refusal could make things rather difficult when he has to return for pre-season. Yet given the player’s upcoming AFCoN commitment to his country, it’s the only reasonable decision.
It’s also entirely possible that all parties would be content with casting Liverpool as the villain keeping Salah away from Egypt while the player gets a bit of time off that, after the past few years of non-stop football, really would be in his best interest.