With the 2020 Olympics Games set to take place later this year, Liverpool could lose star player Mohamed Salah for the start of next season after Egypt confirmed their desire for him to compete at the global tournament. But is he compelled to do so?
On Wednesday, as reported by Egyptian publication KingFut, Egypt U23 coach Shawky Gharib confirmed his intention to call upon Salah for the Games, which take place between 22 July and 9 August.
Gharib revealed that he had not yet spoken to the player nor Liverpool about the decision, but remained hopeful Salah would agree to take part in the competition as one of the side's three overage players.
"Out of the three senior players we'll call up, Salah is the only one we're settled on so far because he's simply one of the top three players in the world," Gharib said.
"I haven't talked to Salah at all about him joining the U23 squad for the Olympics, but in all honesty, his participation will need a little effort from him as well."
Should Salah elect to join his countrymen at the tournament, he could miss the start of Liverpool's 2020/21 Premier League campaign, which is set to get underway on 8 August.
The question that remains, then, is whether or not the Reds are compelled to release the 27-year-old for international duty, and what would happen should the situation unravel into a club-versus-country row.
On 23 July 2008, ahead of the Beijing Summer Olympics, FIFA released a circular as a supplement to their own regulations, in which the obligation on clubs to release U23 and senior players for the tournament was addressed.
In terms thereof, FIFA confirmed that its member clubs are obligated to release U23 players for the tournament, despite the Games falling outside the international calendar, but added that there is no such obligation on overage players.
"... The release of players over the age of 23 is not compulsory, but, as always, we appeal for solidarity within the football family," the most pertinent part of the circular read.
This is a position that has long been maintained by FIFA and which, in effect, means there is no obligation on Liverpool to release Salah for the tournament, or on the forward to take part, which Egypt U23 coach Gharib has recognised.
"Salah's participation with the Pharaohs team in Tokyo is a decision to be taken only by Salah, his club Liverpool and his coach Jurgen Klopp," the 60-year-old told Reuters.
"We cannot force Salah to participate with us because FIFA regulations do not compel him to participate."
Egypt are one of three African nations taking part in the Games, alongside Ivory Coast and South Africa, and will submit their final list of 18 players for the tournament in June.
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