Mohamed Salah has returned to England for treatment on a hamstring tear to give him the best possible chance to be available for the Africa Cup of Nations final, should Egypt make it, Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders said on Tuesday.
Salah was forced to watch from the stands as Egypt secured their passage to the last 16 of the competition in dramatic fashion on Monday after a 2-2 draw with Cape Verde.
The two-time African player of the year hobbled off during his country’s second game of the tournament against Ghana, but the Egyptian federation have maintained hope he could return should the Pharaohs progress far in the tournament.
However, Lijnders suggested that only the final on February 11 is realistic, even if Salah’s recovery goes as planned.
“They made a detailed scan and it came out that it was a proper tear in his hamstring. So it means his expected return to play is between three to four weeks if everything goes smooth and everything goes right,” Lijnders said at a press conference ahead of the Reds’ League Cup semi-final, second leg against Fulham on Wednesday.
“Knowing Mo it will go smooth and it will go right because (of) how he’s treated his body before.”
Salah’s injury is the latest cruel twist of fate for the player at the AFCON.
He has never won the trophy and twice fallen short in the final, to Cameroon in 2017 and Senegal two years ago.
But Lijnders hit back at criticism claiming that Salah was prioritising his club commitments over leading his country.
“The one you should never doubt the commitment of is Mo Salah. 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,” added Lijnders.
“I know the country is devastated losing him. We were devastated to hear that he got injured. He plays the first game, scores, assists, captain, massive importance of course.
“But the only reason why our medical team and their medical team decided for him to come back is to give him the best possible chance to be available in the final, if Egypt reaches the final.”
Salah’s injury is also a blow to Liverpool’s quest for just a second Premier League title in 34 years.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are five points clear at the top of the table, but will now be without their top goalscorer for crucial matches at home to Chelsea and away to Arsenal.
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