'Never doubt the commitment of Mo Salah' - Liverpool defend star after Egypt criticism

Reds assistant manager Pep Lijnders insists he is pleased with how club and country's medical teams have worked together over attacker's treatment

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Liverpool have leapt to the defence of Mohamed Salah after the injured Egypt captain's commitment to his country was called into question back home.

Salah is due to leave the Egyptian squad currently out in the Ivory Coast for the Africa Cup of Nations to receive treatment on a hamstring injury back in the UK.

The 31-year-old picked up the problem during their 2-2 draw with Ghana and missed the final group-stage game against Cape Verde.

Salah will fly back on Wednesday so Liverpool's medical staff can take care of his rehabilitation, with the hope he could rejoin the national team should they reach the latter stages of the tournament.

On Sunday, Egypt play the runners-up in Group F for a place in the quarter-finals. The final takes place on 8 February.

The move to send Salah back to England has drawn fierce criticism from former Egypt captains Ahmed Hassan and Wael Gomaa who said the talismanic attacker should have stayed with the squad in Africa.

But Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders insisted any comments questioning Salah's determination to play for his country are unfair.

“The one you should never doubt the commitment of is Mo Salah,” he said ahead of Liverpool's League Cup semi-final second leg away to Fulham on Wednesday.

“I 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 to lose him. We were devastated to hear he got injured.

“He played the first game, scores, assists, he's captain and massively important, of course, but the only reason our medical team and their medical team decided for him to come back is to give the best possible chance to be available if Egypt make the final.

“[It is] a proper tear in his hamstring. His expected return to play will be between three and four weeks if everything goes smoothly. Knowing Mo it will go right because of how he treated his body before.”

Egypt manager Rui Vitoria was also unhappy at news of Salah's return to the UK being leaked out by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, ahead of the draw with Cape Verde.

“We didn't want to alarm anyone. I didn't think it was right for Liverpool, via any intermediary, to speak about this, because we had a tremendously important game,” said Vitoria.

And again, Lijnders believes the criticism is unjustified. “What I'm really happy about is the medical team of Egypt and Liverpool Football Club worked together, were really in close contact and they made this decision together,” added the Dutchman.

“It is an example of how international football and club football should co-operate to put the player in the centre and not the targets of everyone because it is a conflict of interest.

“All of us made the decision which is best for him and the best is having a stable environment, knowing the people and having people who are committed and have the time to focus on his rehab process and we know how it will go here in this facility.”

While Egypt focus on attempting to win their first Afcon crown since 2010, Liverpool go into Wednesday's game in London looking to move a step closer to securing the League Cup for a record-extending 10th time.

They hold a 2-1 advantage after goals from Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo overturned a first-half strike from Willian in the first leg at Anfield.

While Salah's absence will now stretch into the middle of next month at least, the Reds have been boosted by the news left-back Andrew Robertson is back in the squad for the game at Craven Cottage.

The Scottish defender has been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder since October while fellow left-back Kostas Tsimikas is another two weeks away from recovering fully from a broken collarbone.

“Robbo is now 13 weeks after surgery and he got clearance to train fully with the team, can make contact as the bone has healed and that's really cool,” added Lijnders.

The Reds assistant manager also confirmed Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominic Szoboszlai are back in training and will be available for the FA Cup fourth-round tie against Norwich City on Saturday.

Updated: January 23, 2024, 2:01 PM