Senegal manager Aliou Cisse has hit back at Jurgen Klopp’s remarks over the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), suggesting the Liverpool manager owed his success to players from the continent.
Last month, the German caused a stir as he described the AFCON as a ‘small tournament’ following Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Arsenal.
Asked whether he was relieved there was no international break until March, Klopp replied: ‘I’ve heard that so often that there’s no international break until March.
Liverpool are set to lose several of their stars, including Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for the tournament, which runs from January 9 until February 6 next year.
While Klopp subsequently backtracked, Cisse felt he had showed a lack of respect for the tournament and had a swipe at the German’s track record before he managed the likes of Salah and Mane.
‘Who does he think he is? I manage Senegal and my players play for Klopp at Liverpool,’ he told broadcaster iTV Senegal.
‘I respect Liverpool but not Klopp who undermines African football events. He is where he is today because of African footballers.
‘He was losing every final until Salah, Mane, Matip came to his rescue to win his first-ever major European final.’
Cisse, who played in the Premier League with Birmingham City and Portsmouth, pointed out that the AFCON featured the same number of teams as the Euros – 24 – and the quality was just as good.
Speaking after Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Porto in the Champions League last week, Klopp clarified his comments had been misinterpreted.
‘I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t know why you understand it like that,’ he told a journalist, who had suggested his comments had offended African players and fans.
‘It’s not even close to the idea in my mind that I want to talk about AFCON as a little tournament, or the continent of Africa like a little continent, not at all.
“What I meant is, because people said, and if you watch the full press conference, if you wanted to understand it in the right way you could have understood it in the right way.’
The Liverpool boss refuted the suggestion the AFCON was not on the same level of its other continental counterparts.
‘There’s still a tournament. A big one. We lose our best players to the Africa Cup of Nations,’ he continued.
‘I’m 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.’
Photo Credit: Getty