Mohamed Salah is considering his international future with Egypt, a source has confirmed to ESPN FC, because of his unhappiness about being drawn into a political row during his stay in Chechnya with his national team during the World Cup.
CNN first reported on Sunday that the Liverpool forward was deciding whether to return to the Egypt team after the World Cup.
Before the tournament began, Salah was pictured alongside Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic, at Egypt’s base in Grozny. Kadyrov declared Salah to be an honorary citizen of Chechnya in a ceremony with the player.
“Mohamed Salah is an honorary citizen of the Chechen Republic! That’s right!” Kadyrov wrote in a social media post. “I gave Mohamed Salah a copy of the order and a pin at a celebratory dinner that I gave in honour of the Egyptian team.”
Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya since 2004, is a controversial figure on the global stage because of his hard-line rule over his people and a series of contentious comments, particularly against the gay community.
CNN reported that Salah was uncomfortable with the criticism that followed the photo and is unwilling to being used as a political pawn. A source with knowledge of Salah’s position on the matter confirmed this stance to ESPN FC, adding that the player is now considering his future with his national team.
The Egyptian FA later on Sunday tried to play down the reports, insisting Salah was still happy, saying: “Reports that Salah wants to leave are completely wrong.”
“Mo is still with us now and he is happy in the camp. He is eating and laughing with his teammates. He is training well and that means no problem.”
The Chechen controversy is the latest that Salah has experienced while on international duty, with the forward winning a battle against the Egyptian FA in April over the use of his image rights.
Salah, who was forced to miss Egypt’s opening defeat against Uruguay as a result of the shoulder injury he suffered in last month’s Champions League final against Real Madrid, is still expected to play for Egypt in their Group A finale with Saudi Arabia on Monday before flying home and embarking on a summer break. Egypt have no chance of advancing to the World Cup knockout stage.
Whether Salah ever plays for Egypt again will now be under consideration as a result of the events in Chechnya during the tournament.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_