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The Africa Cup of Nations will be held in Cameroon and will kick off on January 9, with the final to be held on February 6.
Chelsea would lose in-form goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who will be in goal for Senegal, while Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is set to lose three top players in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita to the Afcon.
Klopp had been blasted by a journalist for seemingly referring to the African Cup of Nations as a small tournament.
A reporter – Ojora Babatunde of OJB Sports – firstly asked: “Hi Jurgen, during your last pre-match presser, you deliberately called the Africa Cup of Nations a ‘little tournament’.
“I think it’s an insult to the players, an insult to the fans, an insult to the people on the continent and I think you owe the continent an apology.’
To which, Klopp replied: “I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t mean it like that, I don’t know why you understand it like that to be honest…’
The journalist then rebuked: “That was what you said, I listened to the presser and you said the continent in Africa [is little], that is what you said.”
Klopp then defended his comments: “I didn’t mean it like that, come on. So I was not even close to it being the idea in my mind that I want to talk about the African Cup of Nations as a ‘little tournament’ or the continent of Africa as a little continent, not at all.
“What I meant was, if you watch the whole press conference then you might have understood it the right way if you wanted to, because I said there are no international breaks until March now.
“I said ‘oh there’s a little tournament in January’ and I didn’t mean a little tournament, I was just saying it’s still a tournament, it’s ironic. It’s still a tournament, a big one. We lose our best players to that tournament…”
The reporter then insisted: “But you wouldn’t say that in Europe, you wouldn’t say a ‘little tournament in Europe…'”
Klopp concluded: “I am not a native speaker but if you want to understand me wrong, you can do that all the time.
“I know that I would never think like this. I don’t understand why you thought this to be honest, but that’s really not OK as I would never do that. But that is it now.
“It was not my intention but you made something [more] of it, so that is not so cool to be 100 per cent honest.”
Surely, losing Salah and Mane will be a huge problem for Liverpool in January, at time when the title race will be at its peak.