Liverpool have withdrawn Joel Matip from the squad for their match against Manchester United at Old Trafford after FIFA failed to provide the necessary guarantees he was available for selection.
The 25-year-old Cameroon centre-back retired from international football in September 2015 but national team coach Hugo Broos subsequently tried to call him up for the African Nations Cup.
Matip made his position clear to Broos and his club, and in the lead-up to the tournament Liverpool were relaxed about the situation despite Cameroon officials still making noises about him being selected.
However, even though Cameroon finalised their squad for the competition last week, Liverpool – despite continued and exhaustive attempts – were unable to gain clarity from FIFA about Matip’s clearance and eligibility.
The Reds consider the player eligible for selection – indeed they believe he has a stronger case than many of the other players who have refused the call for Cameroon – given he has followed all the correct procedures associated with making himself unavailable for selection.
A statement from the Merseyside club on Sunday afternoon read: “Liverpool Football Club can confirm Joel Matip has been withdrawn from selection for today’s Premier League fixture at Manchester United as the club continues to seek clarity from FIFA as to the player’s eligibility.
“Matip, who was not included in Cameroon’s final squad for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, has previously communicated his withdrawal from consideration for international selection, with his last appearance for Cameroon occurring in September 2015.
“The Cameroon Football Federation have failed to confirm that Matip can therefore play club football during the period of the Africa Cup of Nations. Liverpool have subsequently repeatedly sought, as a matter of urgency, clarity from FIFA in this regard. This includes assurances the player was called up for the tournament in accordance with the world governing body’s regulations.
“It is Liverpool’s view that the player should be available for club football during the period of the competition and will continue to work for a speedy and unambiguous resolution.”
The club continue to push to get clarity from FIFA and the issue has been taken to the highest level with owners Fenway Sports Group now involved in the case.
However, as the world governing body has the power to ban players it feels have not correctly acceded to the request of their national association, the Reds did not feel they could take a chance on playing the defender at Old Trafford.
Manager Jurgen Klopp is understood to be “exasperated” at the situation but is satisfied club officials have explored every possible avenue to gain the necessary clearance for Matip, who was set to return from a month out with an ankle problem.
West Brom have faced a similar situation with Alan Nyom, who has not played in the Baggies’ last two matches because they have not had similar clarification from FIFA.