Football News

Afcon: The Premier League’s biggest losers from 2021 schedule switch

By Ben Green

Published: 11:23, 16 January 2020

The Cameroon FA have announced the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will take place next January, returning the tournament to its original schedule.

Afcon was switched to the summer months following discussions in 2017, and last year Egypt hosted the first-ever June-July tournament.

Why is the Afcon schedule switch bad for Liverpool? Five things to know…

  • Afcon is traditionally held in the winter months due to the more favourable weather conditions.
  • This means clubs tend to lose key players in the middle of a domestic season.
  • However, after discussions in 2017, Afcon switched its schedule to the summer months.
  • Egypt 2019 was the first-ever Afcon tournament held in either June or July.
  • But Cameroon 2021 will now go ahead on January 9, meaning Liverpool could lose Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah for up to six games next season.

The Cup of Nations has traditionally been held in the winter months because of the more suitable climate conditions, but the original timetable clashed with the European domestic campaign.

It meant clubs would lose key players during a vital part of the season, but after discussions three years ago, the continental competition switched to the summer.

That tweak to the tournament has now been scrapped following a Wednesday meeting between Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) president Ahmad Ahmad and representatives from the Confederation of African Football (Caf).  

A tweet from Fecafoot’s official account read: “The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will be played in Cameroon from 9 January to 6 February, 2021. Date changed for weather reasons at Cameroon’s request.”

Caf’s deputy general secretary Tony Baffoe said: “We have reviewed the period of the competition as requested by the Cameroonian party due to unfavourable climatic conditions during the period initially slated.

“After listening to the various arguments and viewpoints – and in particular from the Cameroonian meteorological authorities, the coaches and players – the representatives of the Afcon organising committee, which received the mandate from Caf Executive Committee to take the decision, has granted this request.

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“A detailed reported shall be presented to the members of the Executive Committee during its next session on 6 February.”

Which Premier League clubs will suffer the most?

The move could leave a number of Premier League clubs without some of their star players for a chunk of next season, with Liverpool at risk of losing Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita to Afcon, while Arsenal could see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe head off to the tournament.

Riyad Mahrez, one of Manchester City’s best players so far this season, could also fly out for the tournament to play for Algeria, with whom he won the competition last year. But losing just one player is nothing compared to Crystal Palace, who could be forced to play without Jeffrey Schlupp, Cheikhou Kouyate, Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha.

Leicester would also lose key players in Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, while Tottenham’s need for a new right-back will increase further if Serge Aurier is called up to play for Ivory Coast.

Like Palace, Aston Villa could also see four players depart for the tournament: Marvelous Nakamba, Trezeguet, Jonathan Kodija and Ahmed Elmohamady.