The hours after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea saw the Reds’ African trio take separate flights to Cameroon, to join training camps with their national teams.
Mane reported to the Senegal squad alongside Edouard Mendy, while Salah flew with Aston Villa forward Trezeguet and Keita made his way to Guinea’s base alone.
They left with the blessing of Jurgen Klopp, his staff and their team-mates, with Pepijn Lijnders telling them to “become even bigger legends” in pursuit of the trophy.
But it remains a big blow to Liverpool, who will be without Salah, Mane and Keita for four games at the least.
So when could they return to Merseyside?
Earliest – January 19/20
At the very least, all three of Liverpool’s AFCON representatives will take part in three group games, with Mane and Keita pitted against each other in Group B.
Salah’s Egypt will play Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea-Bisseau, while Senegal and Guinea are due to face off against Zimbabwe and Malawi.
There is, of course, a chance that none of Egypt, Senegal or Guinea make it out of their groups – though it is unlikely – and in this event they could be back in Liverpool before the end of the January.
Senegal and Guinea will round off the group stage on January 18, and if either are knocked out they would be able to return on January 19.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s final game of Group D is against Sudan on the evening of January 19, which in theory could see Salah then fly back to England the following day.
That could, in turn, allow them to be involved against Crystal Palace on January 23.
It is likely that all three of Liverpool’s African internationals progress to the knockout stages, however, which would mean they miss the Palace game.
Here are the earliest return dates if Egypt, Senegal or Guinea are knocked out at these stages:
- Last 16 – January 24-27
- Quarter-finals – January 30-31
- Semi-finals – February 3-4
Latest – February 7
Once progress from the group stage is secured, there is little difference for Liverpool when it comes to return dates for Salah, Mane and Keita due to the winter break.
An earlier return would be beneficial in terms of training, but with the final to take place on February 6, there would be ample time to report back for the Leicester clash regardless.
However, there is a chance Klopp affords his AFCON internationals more time off to recover following their exploits in Cameroon.
If that is the case, involvement in the trip to Burnley on February 13 may be more realistic.