Jurgen Klopp has revealed that Fifa will decide on Friday (20 January) whether or not to open a case regarding Joel Matip, with a subsequent decision expected in the following seven to 10 days. Having returned to training last week following an ankle injury, the Liverpool centre-back looked set to feature for the first time in over a month during the recent Premier League clash with Manchester United only to be withdrawn from the squad due to an apparent lack of clarity regarding his eligibility.
German-born Cameroonian Matip considers himself retired from international football and has not featured for the Indomitable Lions since September 2015. With that in mind, the 25-year-old, along with Allan Nyom of West Bromwich Albion, Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, Nancy's Guy N'dy Assembe, Bordeaux defender Maxime Poundje, Marseille midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Lille's Ibrahim Amadou, was one of seven players to pull out of Africa Nations Cup duty after being named in a 35-man provisional squad by head coach Hugo Broos.
Current Fifa rules state that a player who has been called up for international duty is not entitled to play for their clubs during the period for which he has been released or should have been released unless an agreement has been reached with the relevant association.
Matip would therefore require clearance from the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) in order to resume playing for Liverpool before Cameroon exits the tournament in Gabon, although so far that has not been forthcoming. An irate Broos previously stated that "the federation reserves the right to take action against the players in accordance with Fifa regulations".
Speculation was abound on Tuesday morning that Liverpool, confident in their stance that the player should be able to play club football throughout the duration of the Africa Cup of Nations, were ready to risk fielding Matip in the FA Cup third round replay against Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday night (18 January). The exact range of sanctions they could face remain fairly ambiguous, with Fifa having thus far only indicated that any potential violation of the applicable provisions would need to be investigated by their disciplinary committee. Sports law experts have commented that world football's governing body could theoretically take disciplinary measures that would see any points won in league matches an ineligible player took part in deducted and any cup games counted as losses.
Deliberately avoiding the bizarre saga until the end at his pre-match conference, an exasperated Klopp was quoted as saying by The Mirror: "I haven't had this situation many times or anything similar. I don't want to blame anybody but our supporters deserve to know about the process.
"In this moment, we are sure we have done nothing wrong and neither has Joel. He hasn't played for Cameroon since 2015 and hasn't been a national player. He could not play for them because he isn't in the squad but now he cannot 100% play for us. I would consider to line him up tomorrow but I don't know if I can.
Which additional games could Matip miss if Cameroon reach the Afcon final?
Plymouth Argyle (A), Swansea City (H), Southampton (H), Wolves (H - TBC) Chelsea (H), Hull City (H)
"He isn't happy. I told him before the United game that I can't pick him. We are not the only club. Schalke have a similar problem and so do West Brom, maybe Ajax too. It is really difficult to get in contact with the people. It is important and we have to wait for a fit player who wasn't playing for Cameroon for 15-16 months. It is difficult to accept."
On whether or not Matip would have played against Plymouth, he added: "It would make perfect sense from a sport side. Fifa told us that next Friday they will decide to open a case about him or not. They have told us it would then be between 7-10 days if we get a decision. From January 2, it could be up to eight games, had he been fit. If the result is what we think it will be, he would have missed eight games for doing nothing wrong. I accept rules in life but they should base it on human sense. In this case, we cannot do more. It is really hard."