Former Liverpool defender Steven Caulker has earned a shock call-up to the Africa Cup of Nations with Sierra Leone.
The 30-year-old centre-back made four appearances for the Reds during a brief and unexpected loan spell on Merseyside.
Caulker joined Liverpool on loan in January 2016, following an injury crisis among the club’s centre-backs, despite having been largely on the sidelines for Southampton earlier in the season.
However, the former England international, who is currently on loan at Gaziantep from Fenerbahce, has since rebuilt his career in Turkey and earned a call-up to Sierra Leone’s squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.
The former Spurs and Swansea defender scored during his only England cap against Sweden in November 2012, but was eligible to switch nationalities under FIFA rules as the game was a friendly.
The ex-Red received clearance from FIFA to represent Sierra Leone in December and was named in John Keister’s final 28-man squad for the upcoming tournament, two weeks later.
“Steven Caulker will bring a lot more experience in the squad, particularly at the back," Keister told BBC Sport Africa .
“He'll bring a bit more height in the defence, more talking in the field and he'll help us in terms of which way we want to go and gearing everyone at their work.”
Caulker, who is eligible to play for Sierra Leone through his grandfather, previously spoke to the Guardian about his “inspiring” trip to the country in 2016, working alongside the charity ActionAid.
The experienced defender will come up against Naby Keita ’s Guinea side during the tournament’s group stages, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and recent Liverpool striker Taiwo Awonyi also taking part in the competition.
Upon joining Liverpool in 2016, where he also filled in as an emergency centre-forward, Caulker admitted he was surprised to get a call from the club.
"It came as a bit of a shock as I'd had a bit of a frustrating time at Southampton and not had any game time, so then to come to a club like this is fantastic and an opportunity which I couldn't turn down," he said .
"I was behind two good centre-halves there. I signed just before they signed Virgil van Dijk and things didn't quite work out for me but I thank them for the opportunity and now I have moved on to something even greater.”
The centre-back has since admitted that he struggled with alcohol and gambling addictions during his time at Anfield , with his spell at Liverpool being cut short after he was forced to enter rehab.
After his short time with the Reds, Caulker returned to his parent club QPR where he stayed until December 2017.
A move to Dundee followed before he joined Turkish club Alanyaspor in January 2019, where Caulker’s performances convinced Fenerbahce to sign him this summer, before being loaned out to Gaziantep.