AFCON has long been a sore point with European clubs who are forced to do without players for a number of league matches. Now, though, Schalke may have to do without a player who chose his club over his country.
Officials at the Bundesliga club on Wednesday were still waiting for an answer from world governing body FIFA as to whether they can insert Cameroon international Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting into their lineup on Saturday against Ingolstadt. A club spokesman told the DPA news agency that Schalke could only hope that FIFA would provide an answer in time for kickoff.
Choupo-Moting announced earlier this month that he would give this Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) a miss due to all of Schalke's other experienced strikers being out through injury. However, the 27-year-old did not actually retire from the national team, and Cameroon named him to their roster for this year's tournament. As he did not formally retire from international football, Cameroon could file a complaint with FIFA, which could in turn ban him from playing for Schalke for the duration of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Now, coach Markus Weinzierl is wondering whether he will have to leave Choupo-Moting out of the lineup for Saturday's match to avoid Schalke having to pay a possible fine. Both Weinziel and sporting director Christian Heidel have previously expressed their displeasure at having to release players for AFCON. They are currently without Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria), Bernard Tekpetey (Ghana), and Abdul Baba Rahman (Ghana), who is on his way back to Gelsenkirchen after sustaining a bruised meniscus at the Nations Cup in Gabon.
Joel Matip forced to watch from the stands
First confronted with this problem was Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, who left former Schalke defender Joel Matip out of his lineup for last Sunday's draw with Manchester United.
Both Liverpool and Matip, who hasn't played for Cameroon since September 2015, thought he had retired from international football, but the Cameroonian Football Federation (CFF) still named him to their AFCON roster.
According to the Reuters news agency, CFF officials have not asked FIFA to stop Matip from playing for Liverpool, but they have also not given him clearance to do so.
FIFA has warned Liverpool not to play Matip unless they get permission from the CFF.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Klopp expressed his frustration at the situation.
"In this moment, we are sure - not we only think we are sure - we did nothing wrong. We are sure Joel Matip did nothing wrong... But in this moment, we have no 100 per cent guarantee that he could play for us. That's the situation."
FIFA has said it will decide on Friday whether to open a case on the issue. It will likely take several days for the governing body to rule on Matip's eligibility to play for Liverpool during AFCON.