Liverpool ‘selfish’ for blocking Mohamed Salah from Egypt’s Tokyo 2020 team, as Stuart Pearce says Olympic Games are ‘bigger than the World Cup’
Liverpool’s decision to block Mohamed Salah from playing at this summer’s Olympic Games has been labelled ‘selfish’.
talkSPORT host Stuart Pearce, who managed the Team GB men’s football team at London 2012, believes no player should be denied the opportunity to represent their nation at an event ‘bigger than the World Cup.’
The delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8, and while they end before the Premier League 2021/22 season’s opening weekend, a number of teams could be without players as a result.
The Reds have denied one of their star players, Salah, from representing Egypt at the tournament.
Neither Japan international Takumi Minamino or new signing, Frenchman Ibrahima Konate, will report for the tournament, either, and will instead be available for Liverpool’s full pre-season campaign.
But that doesn’t sit well with Pearce, who says representing his country was the pinnacle of his footballing career, and that he wouldn’t deny any player the opportunity to do the same, especially at such a huge event.
“Of course Jurgen Klopp doesn’t want Salah at the Olympics because he’s supposed to look after the interests of Liverpool Football Club,” Pearce told talkSPORT.
“You want Mo Salah to stay, but if I was a manager of a club or a coach I would never, ever stop a player representing his country, whatever level that might be.
“If I was a manager at any club and a player came to me and said to me, ‘I want to represent my country’, I would not be selfish enough to turn around and say, ‘no’.
“All the international experiences I’ve had as a footballer, the biggest achievement of my football career is captaining my country.
“For me to then step into the world of management and have a total sea change, which managers do by the way, all of a sudden international managers ring me up and say ‘release this player, release that player’ then they become club managers and try to block their players.”
Football in the Olympics may not be important to fans in the UK, but Pearce pointed out how much it means to other nations.
Team GB played against Senegal star Sadio Mane, while Lionel Messi battled Barcelona for the right to represent Argentina at Beijing in 2008, where he won gold.
And don’t forget the celebrations from Neymar and co when Brazil won gold at Rio in 2016.
“It blows your mind how big the Olympics are,” Pearce added.
“They are bigger than the World Cup. As a global event, the Olympics are bigger than the World Cup.
“The World Cup is just football, by the way, the Olympics is every sport. You don’t understand how big the Olympics are until you’re on the inside of it, the vastness of it, the kitting out of it.
“The lead up to it, clubs were telling me they didn’t want their players to play in it. People were telling me in the press that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics for Great Britain.
“We faced Uruguay in our second game and in the Uruguay front line is Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. We play against Brazil, who have Neymar. The holy grail for Brazil is to win an Olympic gold.
“It was the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in in management, definitely. It was just enormous.”