Jurgen Klopp is considering leaving Xherdan Shaqiri in Liverpool for his side's trip to Belgrade to face Red Star this week in order to prevent a political sideshow forming around the match.
Switzerland international Shaqiri was born in Kosovo and has made no secret of his pride in his heritage, sporting the Kosovar flag on his boots while playing for the Swiss national team – including in a tense fixture against Serbia in the group stage of the summer's World Cup, in which he made the symbol of the Albanian eagle with his hands after scoring a late winner, provoking an angry reaction from some Serbian fans and leading to a fine from FIFA.
Serbia, where Tuesday evening's Champions League game will be played, still views Kosovo as part of its territory despite a declaration of independence a decade ago, following a bloody war of independence against largely Serbian Yugoslav forces in the late 1990s.
As such, Shaqiri's presence – as a relatively outspoken Kosovar with Albanian roots – is likely to generate a hostile reaction from the home crowd. The Telegraph report that Klopp is leaning towards leaving the Reds' summer signing behind to avoid the issue rearing its head at the hostile Rajko Mitic Stadium.
For his own part, Shaqiri insisted last month that he would have no problem going to Belgrade, saying: "I had this already at the World Cup so I know I can handle this no problem. I just saw a few articles where one player said something. I don't really care what people are saying."
He added: "I just go there to play a football game. It is not about politics, it is about football. I worry about nothing and go to play."