'Never doubt his commitment' - Pep Lijnders hits back at Mo Salah accusations

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has hit back at criticism of Mohamed Salah after the winger returned to Merseyside to continue treatment on his hamstring injury.

The 31-year-old left the Egypt national team at the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday night, with a plan in place for his possible return to Ivory Coast later in the tournament if he recovers well.

Salah sustained a hamstring issue in Egypt's clash with Ghana last Thursday and while it was initially presumed the knock was relatively minor, it has since been revealed the Liverpool No. 11 could need up to 28 days to recover.

His future participation in this year's AFCON is now in serious, though there remain hopes that he could make a return as captain in the final should Egypt make it that far.

The decision for Salah to undergo treatment back in Liverpool rather than in Ivory Coast with his national team has drawn criticism from some, with Egypt legend Ahmed Hassan among those insisting the forward should stay, regardless of the severity of his injury.

He said: “He had the possibility of bringing in someone from Liverpool’s medical staff to be with him during the competition. Again, he is the captain. He should stay with the team no matter what, even if he only had one leg to stand on.”

Mohamed Salah talks to an Egypt teammate in the dugout after suffering an injury during the Africa Cup of Nations match against Ghana.

Mohamed Salah, ProShots

Asked about Hassan's comments in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Reds' Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Fulham on Wednesday, Lijnders hit back at suggestions Salah was not committed to his national team.

"You should never doubt the commitment of Mo Salah," he told reporters.

"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.

"I know the country is devastated to lose him. We were devastated to hear that he got injured.

"The only reason that their medical team and our 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."

Lijnders also addressed the confusion surrounding the reporting on Salah's injury blow, but praised the co-operation between Egypt and Liverpool over the star's welfare.

"I think because of the first message that it would only be a few days or a week, but then they made a detailed scan and then it came out that it was proper tear in his hamstring, so it will take between three and four weeks, if everything goes smooth and right – Mo knowing it will go smooth and right because of how he treated his body before.

"What I'm really happy about is that the medical team of Egypt and Liverpool really worked together in close contact and both made this decision together.

"It's an example of how international football with club football should co-operate to put the player in the centre.

"We, all of us, made the decision of what's best for him."

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