Following Mohamed Salah’s hamstring strain at the Africa Cup of Nations, most observers expected the star forward would be out at least a month. Subsequent reports he might only miss two games, then, came as some surprise.
It didn’t take long, though, for a more reasonable 3-4 week timeline to emerge, and with it news that the player would return to Liverpool to undergo his rehabilitation. It was an announcement met with some anger in Egypt.
Some Egyptians viewed it as Salah putting his club ahead of his country. According to Liverpool assistant Pepijn Lijnders, though, given the injury and timeline, returning should give Salah his best chance of playing again at AFCoN.
“I never met a human being who is more committed to the life of being a professional football player,” Lijnders said of the returning Salah. “I know the country is devastated losing him. We were devastated to hear that he got injured.
“He plays the first game, scores, assists, captains, massive importance. The only reason our medical team and their medical team decided he comes back is to give him the best chance to be available in the final if Egypt reaches it.”
National teams typically carry a small medical staff and are rarely equipped to manage longer term injuries, instead focusing on keeping players fit for short tournaments and with access to care dependant on the tournament locale.
If there is a chance of Salah recovering fully and to an optimistic three-week timeline, working with the Liverpool medical team that help to manage his health ten months a year at their home base will be his and Egypt’s best hope.
“The first message came out that it will be probably only one week,” Lijnders added. “But then they made a detailed scan and it was a proper tear in his hamstring. So it means his expected return is between three to four weeks.
“Knowing Mo it will go smooth and it will go right because how he’s treated his body, but what I’m really happy about is the medical team of Egypt and the medical team of Liverpool really worked together and both made this decision.
“It’s an example of how international football with club football should cooperate to put the player in the centre. For him the best decision is a stable environment, knowing the people, and having time to focus on his rehab process.”