Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, has described the change in timing of the Africa Cup of Nations back to January as “for us, a catastrophe.”
The 2021 tournament has been moved forward from June to January because of “unfavourable” weather in host country Cameroon.
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The Reds risk losing Senegal forward Sadio Mane, Egypt winger Mohamed Salah and Guinea midfielder Naby Keita for a month in mid-season.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday ahead of his club’s game with Manchester United on Sunday, Klopp admitted that the timing switch may affect the club’s decision in recruiting players of African descent.
“If we have to make a decision about bringing in a player, it is a massive one,” said the Anfield boss.
“You know for four weeks you don’t have them. As a club you have to think about this. It doesn’t help African players.
“I couldn’t respect the Africa Cup of Nations more than I do because I like the competition and watched it a lot in the past. It’s a very interesting tournament.
“But, it’s an obvious problem that you play a tournament in the middle of the season, although it makes more sense for Africa to play it in our winter when the weather is better for them – I get that.
“But we have absolutely no power – so if we did say ‘We don’t let him go’, the player is suspended.
“If a player is injured and cannot play for us we have to send him to Africa and they have a look and in one or two weeks they are back. Nowadays, it should not be like this.”
The 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt was the first one to be held in the summer after the tournament had traditionally been staged in January and February.
The decision, made in 2017, to move the start of the competition to June was widely welcomed, especially by top European clubs.
Reverting to a January start also means that the competition will not clash with the expanded Fifa Club World Cup, being held in China in June 2021.