Belfast Telegraph

FIFA clears defender Joel Matip to play for Liverpool after Cameroon row

Liverpool defender Joel Matip has been cleared to play by FIFA after it dismissed the club-versus-country case which had been rumbling on for several weeks.

The Reds confirmed the world governing body has said there is no case against the centre-back, who has maintained he has retired from international football and did not want to play for Cameroon despite their attempts to call him up for the African Nations Cup.

It means Matip, who was withdrawn from the last two matchday squads because of confusion over his availability, is immediately eligible to play.

However, as the decision came so late, it is doubtful whether the player will be involved in the squad for Saturday's lunchtime kick-off at home to Swansea.

"Liverpool FC can confirm that all charges against the club and its player Joel Matip have been dismissed by FIFA following confirmation this evening from world football's governing body," said a statement from the club.

"The club had requested FIFA to provide guidance on Matip's eligibility after a complaint had been made by FECAFOOT to FIFA concerning the player's purported call-up to the Cameroon national team for the Africa Cup of Nations.

"Following FIFA's ruling, the club now considers the player available for selection."

Earlier in the day manager Jurgen Klopp had complained about the situation after Cameroon refused to sanction Matip's release to play for his club, as they consider the player to have rejected their approach to name him in their African Nations Cup squad despite him having not featured since September 2015.

Asked how tough the uncertainty over the player's availability had made planning for matches, the Reds boss said: "It is difficult in this position because with the fixtures we have the at the moment we don't have a lot of training time and you have to work with the team which could start in the next game, and when you're not sure what to do with Joel he is not that involved.

"I had to put (myself) outside this case a little bit because I need my full concentration on other things.

"It is another experience which you don't need but we have to learn from it.

"But it is not about the African Cup of Nations: I absolutely do not have a problem with the African Cup of Nations, it is the opposite.

"I have respect for all what they are doing there in the most difficult circumstances still.

"It is a great tournament - in the middle of our season makes it not too cool but that is not my decision."

Liverpool have already suffered as a result of the African Nations Cup with the loss of top scorer Sadio Mane.

The forward has scored twice in the two group matches so far, meaning Senegal will qualify for the latter stages and Mane will be absent for longer.

While the loss of the pacy forward has definitely impacted on Liverpool's attacking options, Klopp admits he is conflicted between what is best for the club and what is best for the player.

"'I am happy for you but on the other side I could really kick you in the....lower back'," added Klopp when asked what he had said to Mane about his progress in the tournament.

"They are through, which is good. He played again, scored again.

"I texted him last night but mixed emotions is probably the best description.

"As long as he is fit then we take it like it is and support Senegal."

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