Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has sensationally felt the wrath of Sadio Mane’s Senegal manager after calling the African Cup of Nations a “little tournament”. The 54-year-old will lose several of his key stars in the New Year because of the competition.
Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita are set to feature at next year’s AFCON which will take place in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6.
Klopp had been asked if he was glad that there was no international football until March after having his squad disrupted by his players travelling all over the world.
“I’ve heard that so often that there’s no international break until March,” he responded.
He then quipped: “In January, there’s a little tournament in Africa, I just want to say, and I think Asia is playing games, too – South America as well, great, can’t wait.”
Klopp had used the phrase figuratively but after a journalist had suggested the former Borussia Dortmund head coach had insulted football fans in Africa, the German clarified his comments.
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“I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t know why you understand it like that,” Klopp snapped back.
“It’s not even close to the idea in my mind that I want to talk about AFCON as a little tournament, or the continent of Africa like a little continent, not at all.
“What I meant is, because people said, and if you watch the full press conference, if you wanted to understand it in the right way you could have understood it in the right way.
“I said: ‘there’s no international break anymore until March’ and I said: ‘Oh and there’s a little tournament in January,’ and I didn’t mean a little tournament, just like you say it when there’s still a tournament. It’s ironic.
“There’s still a tournament. A big one. We lose our best players to the Africa Cup of Nations.
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“I respect Liverpool but not Klopp who undermines African football events. He is where he is today because of African footballers.
“He was losing every final until Salah, Mane, Matip came to his rescue to win his first-ever major European final.
“Today, he has the guts to call AFCON a ‘small tournament’. AFCON has the same number of participants, 24, as the UEFA Euro. So who does he think he is?
“AFCON will have the same superstars that are currently helping him to shine at Liverpool. AFCON is the same quality as the Euros.”