Gareth Southgate has the opportunity this year to help Liverpool avoid a repeat of a scenario they are currently navigating.
The Reds will be without the services of Mo Salah for the remainder of January – and possibly the start of February – due to his involvement with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), with the £350,000-per-week forward (Capology) being the club’s sole representative at this year’s edition of the tournament.
However, even if the 31-year-old were to depart LFC upon or before the end of his existing contract in June 2025, Jurgen Klopp could still see a member of his current squad called up for the next AFCON.
As per SPORTbible, Curtis Jones remains eligible to play for Nigeria through his grandmother; and despite featuring regularly for England at under-21 level, he’s yet to win a senior cap and could therefore switch allegiance if desired.
Liverpool have become familiar with losing the likes of Salah and (previously) Sadio Mane to AFCON, which for its last two editions (including the current finals) has been held in winter.
While the next version of the tournament is earmarked for June/July 2025, it’s already been liable for sudden rescheduling, so it’s not unthinkable that a similar scenario could arise once again.
Also, even if subsequent editions remain in the summer of odd-numbered years, that could see a clash with FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup. The Reds won’t play in that competition next year but could qualify for it in the future if they were to win the UEFA Champions League.
Therefore, for as long as the possibility of Jones playing for Nigeria remains, Liverpool may fear the prospect of losing the midfielder to AFCON should he switch allegiance to the Super Eagles.
Southgate has the opportunity to put that scenario to bed once and for all if he hands the 22-year-old a competitive appearance for England. On form, the Reds maestro would surely be more deserving of a place in the Euro 2024 squad than the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Henderson or Mason Mount.
Go on, Gareth – do the right thing and give LFC’s number 17 his senior Three Lions bow this year!