Egypt Under-23 coach Shawky Gharib, who will lead the country’s Olympics team this summer, has reiterated his desire to include Mohamed Salah as one of the three over-age players in the squad and claims the Liverpool superstar wants to play.
The Olympic football competition, which was originally due to take place last year until the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement, is now scheduled for 22 July – 7 August this year and Salah’s involvement would see him miss a significant chunk of Liverpool’s pre-season training.
The 2021/22 Premier League season is due to begin on 14 August. But while Salah could be back with Liverpool by then, his absence for the intensive Olympic tournament prior to that might mean that he also has to miss the start as he rests and catches up on training and preparation.
“I have made it known publicly that I would like to have him with us during our Olympic campaign and he did not refuse, which means he also wants to play with us,” Gharib is quoted by L’Equipe.
“Salah’s participation in the Olympics is supported by the state, represented by the Ministry of Sports and the Egyptian Football Federation, in our joint effort to bring home an Olympic football medal for the first time,” the coach added.
Egypt have already included Salah on a preliminary squad list assembled by the federation that is thought to feature 10 over-age players in total. That must be trimmed down before the final tournament, with squads at the Olympics capped at 18 players.
The men’s tournament is age restricted to Under-23 players, with the exception of three over-age players allowed to be included in each squad. Neymar represented Brazil as an over-age player in 2016 and won a gold medal, while Ryan Giggs captained Great Britain in 2012 at the age of 38.
Despite Egypt’s strong desire to include Salah in the final squad, they will only be able to do with a formal agreement from Liverpool and manager Jurgen Klopp.
Barcelona initially blocked Lionel Messi, who was 21 at the time, from representing Argentina at the 2008 Olympics in China and were fully within their rights to do so as clubs are not honour bound to release players for the Olympics in the same way as usual international football.
But he was supported in his bid to play by then newly hired Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who had himself played at the Olympics for Spain as a young player in 1992.