Liverpool face the prospect of going a month without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane when the Africa Cup of Nations returns in 2021.
The 2021 edition of the continental tournament is moving back to a January-February slot in the congested global football calendar, a switch likely to be unpopular with Premier League clubs.
Other Premier League players affected could include Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Naby Keita (Guinea), Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria), Riyad Mahrez (Libya), and Ivory Coast duo Serge Aurier and Wilfried Zaha.
Cameroon’s Football Association announced on Wednesday they will be hosting the competition in 2021, with proceedings beginning on Jan. 9 and wrapping up on Feb. 6 to avoid the country’s rainy season.
The entirety of the tournament takes place during the Premier League season and will likely be unpopular with other European clubs, who have long objected to the mandatory release of their players in the middle of the domestic league seasons.
Liverpool would stand to lose star forwards Mane of Senegal and Salah of Egypt, the past two African players of the year.
Hosts Egypt exited in the round of 16 in last year’s tournament, while Senegal finished runners-up to Algeria, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was spared the sort of selection headache that he could face next year, because the 2019 showcase took place during the summer break.
The influential European Club Association has been part of talks with FIFA to move toward coordinating all continental championships in the European offseason.
FIFA’s revamped Club World Cup competition also kicks off in June 2021, with a 24-team lineup including Liverpool set to play in China.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.