Jürgen Klopp in no rush to call upon Coutinho’s services
Brazilian midfielder not included in the squad for the trip to Manchester City
Philippe Coutinho: “We could have put him in the squad to play at City but we both agreed it was probably better to wait . . ,” said Jürgen Klopp. Photograph: Bruno Kelly/Reuters
“Only the game, yes?” Jürgen Klopp teased, all mock earnestness before Liverpool’s visit to the Etihad. “The transfer window is now closed and Philippe Coutinho is still with us, so the only thing to talk about must be Manchester City. ”
Fat chance. The Liverpool manager would have been entitled to do a lap of honour of the Melwood press room after keeping Coutinho out of Barcelona’s clutches and pinching Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from under Chelsea’s noses, yet perhaps his greatest source of pride is that Liverpool can go to Manchester without feeling the need to rush either of his “two new players” into action.
“Philippe loves football and he still loves this club,” Klopp said.
“We could have put him in the squad to play at City but we both agreed it was probably better to wait and do a few more full intensity training sessions. The same applies to Alex. He has only had time for one full session with us and obviously we play in a different way to what he has been used to at Arsenal.”
Klopp is likely to name a similar team at City to the one that beat Arsenal a fortnight ago, though he knows someone will have to make way for Coutinho at some point and does not see any problem with resentment within the dressing room.
“Most of them have been friends for several years and of course everyone understands that if a club like Barcelona is around then things are a little different,” he said. “Nobody is going to say: ‘Are you crazy, what do you want to go there for?’ Everyone understands the situation. It’s not like he wanted to go to Everton.”
Liverpool might have missed out on Virgil van Dijk but Oxlade-Chamberlain was not the only transfer coup of the summer. Naby Keïta’s future was settled too, even if the midfielder will only be arriving after a further season with Leipzig. Liverpool managed to secure the services of a 22-year-old regarded as one of the best players in the Bundesliga, and according to Klopp the subject of whether the club can promise Champions League football next season did not even arise.
“All the players we were allowed to speak to were really positive about joining the club and it is more about the project than the Champions League,” he said. “Naby, for example, has no idea whether or not we play Champions League next year.”
Pep Guardiola has said he was unable to buy Jonny Evans because Manchester City could not afford West Bromwich Albion’s asking price. The manager’s failure to strengthen at centre-back has been quickly exposed by Vincent Kompany’s calf injury before the visit of Liverpool.
Kompany has been ruled out with a recurrence of a problem that has plagued the captain in recent seasons and will revive concern about his long-term availability. West Brom’s valuation of Evans is thought to be around €27 million.
Guardiola began the summer targeting Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk but the club hierarchy balked at a fee in the region of €65 million. Evans was viewed as a more affordable option yet Guardiola said City did not have the funds despite believing they could buy Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez on the window’s final day. The Chilean’s price was an initial €60 million.
Guardiola said of Evans: “My colleague Tony Pulis [West Brom’s manager] put a price that we couldn’t afford at that moment. I don’t know about the summer or next season but now he’s a player for West Brom. We will survive. In the end we spent money, we sold players. We bought five players who cost around £35m each. It’s not a big issue because we sold a lot. We’ve got money to invest again. I’m happy with the squad.”