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AFCON 2023: Liverpool defends Salah's return to England

AFCON 2023: Liverpool defends Salah's return to England
Injured Mohamed Salah on the bench before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Group B   -  
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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

United Kingdom

The Liverpool squad have defended Mohamed Salah against accusations of a lack of commitment to Egypt by returning to his club after the Africa Cup of Nations to receive treatment for a hamstring injury.

Salah, one of the most high-profile players at the African Cup, is due to return to England on Wednesday and "begin an intensive rehabilitation programme", Liverpool has said, so that he can return to health before the end of the competition.

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders said on Tuesday that Salah was suffering from a "proper hamstring tear" which is expected to keep him out for three to four weeks, confirming the timetable given by the Liverpool team. Salah's agent on X.

Former Egypt international Ahmed Hassan told British newspaper The Daily Mirror that Salah should stay in the Egyptian team "no matter what, even if he only had one leg to stand on", adding that the team captain was “preparing his departure from the Egyptian camp”.

Lijnders was quick to downplay these comments.

"The player whose commitment you should never doubt is Mo Salah," said Lijnders, speaking at a press conference a day before Liverpool face Fulham in the FA Cup semi-final. the English League. “I have never met a man – a player but also a human being – who is more committed to the life of a professional football player.”

"I know the country is devastated to lose him. We were devastated to hear he was injured. He plays their first (group) game, scores, makes an assist and is captain. He is extremely important, of course. But the only reason our medical team and theirs decided to bring him back is to give him the best possible chance of being available for the final if Egypt reaches the final."

Lijnders said Salah's injury, which occurred in Egypt's second group match's second group match, was not initially considered serious, which may have created some confusion.

The Dutchman said it was in Salah's best interests to be treated at Liverpool's medical centre because it is a "stable environment" and there are "competent people who are committed and who have time to focus on his rehabilitation process".

"What pleases me is that the Egyptian medical team and the Liverpool medical team have worked together and are in close contact. We have both made this decision. It is an example of how international football and club football should (work). You have to put the player at the centre and not everyone's target."

Egypt secured a place in the round of 16 on Tuesday by drawing 2-2 with Cape Verde, with a lively Salah on the sidelines during the match. It was a third consecutive group stage draw for the Pharaohs, who lost the Africa Cup final on penalties to Senegal last year.

Liverpool leads the Premier League by five points and will play in the League Cup final on February 25 if Jurgen Klopp's side gets rid of Fulham. The Reds lead 2-1 in the first leg before the return match in London on Wednesday.

Liverpool have won their three matches since Salah departed for the Africa Cup, scoring eight goals in the absence of their top scorer.

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