Liverpool defends Mo Salah against accusations of not being committed to Egypt after injury

Salah’s injury, which happened during Egypt’s second group game, wasn't initially regarded as serious

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Published: Tue 23 Jan 2024, 4:58 PM

Liverpool defended Mohamed Salah against accusations he was showing a lack of commitment to Egypt by returning to his club from the Africa Cup of Nations to get treatment on a hamstring injury.

Salah, one of the most high-profile players at the Africa Cup, is scheduled to fly back to England on Wednesday and will “begin an intensive rehabilitation program,” Liverpool said, in an effort to get him healthy again before the end of the competition.

Liverpool assistant coach Pep Lijnders said on Tuesday that Salah has a “proper tear in his hamstring” which is expected to keep the winger out for three to four weeks, backing up a timeline given by Salah’s agent on X.

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Former Egypt international Ahmed Hassan said in British newspaper The Daily Mirror that Salah should be staying with the Egypt squad “no matter what, even if he only had one leg to stand on,” adding that the team captain “was plotting his departure from the Egypt camp.”

Lijnders was quick to downplay those comments.

“The one you should never doubt the commitment of is Mo Salah,” said Lijnders, who was speaking at a news conference a day before Liverpool plays Fulham in the English League Cup semifinals. “I’ve never met a guy — a player but also a human being — who is more committed to the life of being a professional football player.

“I know the country is devastated at losing him. We were devastated to hear he got injured. He plays their first (group) game, scores and assists and is captain. He’s massively important, of course. But the only reason why our medical team and their medical team decided for him to come back is to give him the best possible chance to be available in the final, if Egypt reach the final.”

Lijnders said some confusion might have been raised because Salah’s injury, which happened during Egypt’s second group game, wasn't initially regarded as serious.

The Dutchman said it was in Salah’s best interests to be treated in Liverpool’s medical facility because it is a “stable environment” and there are “proper people who are committed and have time and can focus on his rehab process.

“What I’m really happy about is that the medical team of Egypt and the medical team of Liverpool really worked together and are in really close contact. We both made this decision. It’s an example how international and club football should (work). Put the player in the centre and not the target of everyone.”

Egypt secured a place in the round of 16 on Tuesday by drawing with Cape Verde 2-2, with Salah cutting an animated figure on the sidelines during the game. It was a third straight group-stage draw for the Pharaohs, who lost the Africa Cup final on penalties to Senegal in the last edition.

Liverpool is top of the Premier League by five points and will play in the League Cup final on Feb. 25, should Jurgen Klopp's team get past Fulham. The Reds hold a 2-1 lead from the first leg ahead of the return match in London on Wednesday.

Liverpool has won all three of its matches since Salah departed for the Africa Cup, scoring eight goals in the process without the team’s top scorer.

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