'A catastrophe for Liverpool' - Read Jurgen Klopp's seven-minute rant in full as he blasts AFCON date switch

David Lynch
AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has launched a scathing attack on football's governing bodies after it was confirmed that the Africa Cup of Nations will be played between January and February next year.

The biannual tournament was moved to the summer months for the first time in its history last year, taking place in Egypt between June and July.

That proved particularly good news for Liverpool, who would otherwise have lost Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane mid-season, as happened with the latter in 2017.

However, African football’s controlling body CAF this week revealed that such a scenario will play out next season, with the staging of the 2021 edition of the competition now slated for the first two months of the year.

That prompted Klopp to embark on an extraordinary rant in which he described the situation as a "catastrophe" for the Reds, took aim at Fifa, and suggested African players are less likely to earn high-profile moves as a result of the rescheduling.

The German also claimed that Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane is simply the latest victim of a workload that is only increased by such decisions.

Read the seven-and-a-half-minute answer given by Klopp at his pre-Manchester United press conference in full below...

“You really want to open this book now? So, I couldn't respect the Africa Cup of Nations more than I do because I like the competition. I watched it a lot in the past in my life, very interesting tournament, most difficult circumstances a lot of times and the players what they make of it, sensational players.

“It's not the last time you see the players as they turn up in Europe, they turn up everywhere. But it is 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.

“The only problem is it's a general problem. A couple of things which are not OK: one thing is Fifa plans a tournament in the summer of 2021 [Club World Cup], a week later the actual African Cup of Nations would have started I think, or maybe two weeks later, another tournament for a lot of world-class players.

“I mentioned that in the past. I am not sure if that was part of the decision when they thought, 'OK, it makes no sense to play it after that tournament, it makes sense to play it in the winter', or was the weather the real [reason]. It means another tournament, it's too many tournaments still. That's one thing.

Liverpool could lose Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane to the Africa Cup of Nations next year (Getty Images)
Liverpool could lose Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane to the Africa Cup of Nations next year (Getty Images)

“The other thing is it doesn't help African players. We will not sell Sadio, Mo or Naby now because they have a tournament in January and February – of course not – but if you have to make a decision about bringing in a player it is a massive one because before the season you know for four weeks you don't have them.

“That's a normal process and as a club you have to think about these things. It doesn't help the players, for sure. But these decisions are made without asking the players, without asking the managers, without asking anyone. It is just a decision.

“It is Fifa who should sort all of that as head of all the different associations. It doesn't look like being involved, they are still happy having their 21-team World Cup offering a lot of money, I don't know the exact numbers but it must be a lot of money for all the clubs involved.

“It means the clubs are like, 'Maybe we can play it', they ask the managers and they would say 'no' but they could paid a lot of money. It's a strange situation as we ask for less games and we'd get paid less money but I'm ready to do so, I can say it here.

“But I don't think it is just one problem for this country: European Championships, world championships, it's like no-one can live without that, it's a natural right to have this but we forget these tournaments are played by players, they don't have a break.

“I feel massively for Harry Kane, I now hear he may not be in the Euros. For the first time some English people in the FA may think, 'Oh, too many games maybe'. Something has to happen for them to really start thinking about it.

“Now they send all these guys in winter again, in the middle of a season to a tournament in different circumstances, and coming back from the African Cup of Nations is not easy to take. But the welfare of the players no-one thinks about. These are really important things.

“Fifa, Uefa, FAs of all countries have to come together and finally sort that. At this moment Fifa decide things without talking to Uefa, Uefa decide things without talking to Fifa making the Champions League bigger and then no-one talks to each other.

“It is a little bit like in England when the FA says after the fourth or fifth round we are not having a replay and the Carabao Cup says. 'As long as they have the replays we don't cancel the second semi-final'.

“Ask one of the teams involved in the semi-final what they think about the second semi-finals being another game in that period. And after that you win a competition. If you win it's great, if you lose it no-one remembers you were in the final. Yes, it's silverware, great, but you pushed the boys and we never think about.

“Everyone has their own reasons to keep the competition as it is and involve new competitions or more games. That's the problem. In the end it leads to a little problem.

Klopp feels sympathy for Harry Kane amid fears that the England captain will miss the Euros (AFP via Getty Images)
Klopp feels sympathy for Harry Kane amid fears that the England captain will miss the Euros (AFP via Getty Images)

“The African Cup of Nations going back to January is, for us, a catastrophe. On top of that we have absolutely no power so if we did say, 'We don't let him go' the player is suspended. How is that possible that the company who pays the player cannot decide that the player has to stay or not.

“If you would say, 'Let's play the African Cup of Nations but the players play in other countries, not in Africa', it still would be a great tournament but not the superstars but the superstars of tomorrow. I don't say that would be a solution for it but it is strange we have absolutely no say.

“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. We just sit there and plan the route, the flight for the boys, and say, 'There you go, have the boys'. Nowadays it should not be like this.

“But I speak here about it and no-one will listen. It is like the biggest waste of time ever. The moaner from Liverpool or whatever is again on track. As long as nothing changes I will say it all the time. It is because it is about the players, not one second about me.

“There are so many things to sort but all these guys never find time to sit around one table and make a general schedule. All these different games to play and no break for the players.

"Let's respect that, but if you have that break don't make a replay in this break. This would help massively.”

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