Liverpool have reportedly omitted Joel Matip from their squad for Wednesday night's (18 January) FA Cup third-round replay against Plymouth Argyle. The former Schalke stalwart has this week been the focus of a bizarre and ultimately confusing club versus country row relating to his eligibility for domestic action during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Matip was one of seven to withdraw from Hugo Broos' 35-man provisional Cameroon squad for Gabon last month. Current Fifa regulations state that players are not permitted to represent their clubs during the period for which they should have been released, although Liverpool believe that the 25-year-old should be available to play for them given that he has not featured for the Indomitable Lions since September 2015 and is now essentially retired from international football.
While Matip was withdrawn from contention for the 1-1 Premier League draw with Manchester United on Sunday, it had been speculated that Liverpool, who have been repeatedly frustrated in their attempts to gain clarity on the situation from Fifa, may risk the governing body's wrath by fielding him against Plymouth.
Klopp admitted during a pre-match press conference yesterday that he did not know if he would be allowed to pick him and claimed that he would need to seek further legal advice.
And after receiving guidance on the possible repercussions behind such a decision, the Liverpool Echo now report that Klopp has decided to err on the side of caution and not include Matip for the trip to Home Park.
Liverpool's decision not to play Matip until the situation is properly clarified is probably a wise move. As a sports law expert told IBTimes UK earlier this week, while the list of potential sanctions is not clearly defined, the Reds could theoretically have been expelled from the FA Cup regardless of their result. Fines and bans are also possible, while clubs who field ineligible players in league matches leave themselves open to points deductions.
Fifa initially responded to Liverpool's queries by referring them to the relevant sections of their Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players and indicating that any potential violation of the applicable provisions would need to be investigated by their disciplinary committee. Klopp, who lamented a potential eight-game absence for his defender and also urged basic common sense, further revealed yesterday that Fifa will decide whether or not to open a case regarding Matip on Friday. Liverpool have been told that they would receive a decision within the following seven to 10 days.