Klopp: No problem with Coutinho as he wanted Barca not Everton

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes it would have been difficult for Philippe Coutinho to return to Anfield had he wanted to join a club other than Barcelona… like Everton.

Coutinho was desperate to leave Liverpool for La Liga giants Barca, handing in a transfer request but a move did not eventuate as the Reds reportedly rejected three bids before the transfer window closed.

Man City 9/1 to beat Liverpool 1-0

The 25-year-old – yet to make an appearance for Klopp’s men this season – is back at Liverpool following two appearances for Brazil during the international break, though he has been left out of the squad for Saturday’s trip to Manchester City.

And Klopp is confident there will be no problem reintegrating Coutinho as he did not seek a move to Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals.

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“Do I think that somebody could have [a complaint]? Most of them are friends for many years,” he said. “100 per cent if a club like Barcelona is around then nobody says: ‘Are you crazy, what do you want to go there for?’

“Everyone has this little bit of understanding and thinks ‘OK it’s Barcelona’ and it is not that he wants to go to Everton. Then it would have been different I would say. Another wonderful club but a different situation.

“[The rest of the squad] know him. He wasn’t in for three, now four weeks with the international break, that is nothing. They are really good friends. They understand it a bit. They probably wished it could have been different, but now it is not anything.”


No Neymar, Verratti or Coutinho, but Barca banking on Dembele to heal transfer troubles

The outcome of Barcelona’s season will depend much upon Ousmane Dembele. After the Catalan club missed out on Marco Verratti and Philippe Coutinho this summer, while Neymar departed for Paris Saint-Germain, the Blaugrana are banking on the €105 million signing from Borussia Dortmund to deliver.

Following Neymar’s shock €222m move to PSG, Dembele was supposed to be the first piece of a new jigsaw as technical secretary Robert Fernandez promised at least two new arrivals going into the last week of the transfer window.

But there were no further additions as Barca bizarrely pulled the plug on a deal for Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri at the last minute, were never close to Liverpool’s valuation for Coutinho and even missed out on Angel Di Maria in the final few hours before the deadline on September 1.

Four new players were brought in prior to that. Right-back Nelson Semedo arrived from Benfica, winger Gerard Deulofeu returned from Everton in a buy-back deal, midfielder Paulinho was signed from Guangzhou Evergrande and Dembele joined from Dortmund.

Barcelona possible Espanyol

So now Barca will have to work with what they have. Many of their top targets, including PSG’s Marco Verratti and also Coutinho, were out of reach in the end and it remains to be seen whether the Catalans will be stronger or weaker following Neymar’s exit.

What is clear is that, for the Blaugrana to have any hope of winning La Liga and the Champions League, the new signings will need to impress. And that has not been the case too often over the past few seasons.

Of all the new arrivals in the 2015 and 2016 windows, only Samuel Umtiti has really shone and that is partly why Barca have fallen gradually into decline over the past two years, crashing out of the Champions League in the last eight twice in a row in that time.

Deulofeu has been hit and miss so far since his return, although the winger is obviously a talented player and will be expected to step up under Ernesto Valverde. Semedo, meanwhile, has looked bright in his appearances.

Neymar PSG

Phil Coutinho

Paulinho was a late substitute in the 2-0 win at Alaves prior to the international break, but could feature as a starter against Espanyol with Ivan Rakitic doubtful. And even though there was pessimism surrounding his signing, Catalan daily Sport this week called the 29-year-old “Valverde’s secret weapon” in a front-page spread, claiming the Barca boss will use the player’s work-rate to help get the best out of his team-mates.

Time will tell, but it is fair to say much more is expected of Dembele, with many fans extremely excited about seeing the young France forward line up alongside Messi and Luis Suarez.

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“Semedo is young, with a bright future ahead,” president Josep Maria Bartomeu said in an interview this week. “Paulinho will help make us stronger in midfield and we have a lot of faith placed in Deulofeu.” And he added, “Dembele was the player chosen to replace Neymar and he will make us more competitive. We would have liked to have brought in Coutinho to strengthen the midfield and the attack, but the team is sufficiently good and very competitive. It’s a team that will aspire to win all the trophies.”

Bartomeu, who faced calls for his resignation during Dembele’s presentation late last month, will hope that is the case. But tactically, Valverde will need to make it work and there is more now resting on the French forward than on any 20-year-old at Barca since Messi back in 2007.

It is a signing that simply has to work out and if it does not, this is unlikely to be a happy season for the Catalan club. Good luck, Ousmane!


No Coutinho in Liverpool squad to face Man City

Philippe Coutinho has been left out of the Liverpool squad for Saturday’s Premier League match at Manchester City, manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed.

Reds 28/1 to win 3-2

Coutinho’s future dominated the closing weeks of the transfer window after he handed in a request to force through a move to Barcelona, but Liverpool stood firm and rejected three bids for the Brazil playmaker – the last of which was understood to be worth in the region of £119m.

Barcelona director Albert Soler claimed Liverpool’s demands were closer to £180m.

The 25-year-old made two substitute appearances for his country during the international break, scoring in a 2-0 win over Ecuador.

But Klopp told a news conference Coutinho still requires further work on his fitness having missed the opening weeks of the season with a back injury – a stance the player agreed with following talks ahead of the crunch clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Phil Coutinho

After joking that he would not answer questions on Coutinho and the transfer window, Klopp said: “We had a very good talk, he was in a very good mood and training was even better.

“But I have to make a decision. We have seven games in the next three weeks, so there will not be time to train. We had this conversation.

“Before he went to Brazil, he couldn’t train for around three weeks. That means we have to try to prepare him now for the rest of the season – that’s quite difficult with our schedule.

“So I have decided to leave him out of the squad for City. We can use these four or five days for proper training – we have all the numbers [regarding Coutinho’s physical performance] from the Brazilian FA.

“He played twice for 15 to 20 minutes [for Brazil], so he could have played 15 to 20 minutes in the City game, maybe longer.

“But I think this makes sense – and he agreed completely so it’s not that he said he doesn’t need training and wants to play. It was a good conversation.”

HD Phil Coutinho

Klopp also insisted he had no issue with Coutinho as he hopes to move on from the whole saga.

“It was not an easy time, but that’s the transfer window,” he added. “It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time that similar things will happen.

“I think we handled it really well. Nothing that I’m aware of was unforgivable. It’s a normal thing.

“He came in and accepted the situation 100 per cent. It was not that I had to say something about it.

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“Now, we have a wonderful player in our squad who wants to get fit and wants to play for this club. We don’t know how long anybody will play for this club.”

In Coutinho’s absence, Liverpool picked up back-to-back home wins against Crystal Palace and Arsenal in the Premier League and head into Saturday’s early kick-off level with City on seven points.

Deadline-day signing Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain could be in line to make his Liverpool debut.


Fantasy Football: Alexis Sanchez and the other stars who stayed this summer

We’ve already discussed the players that moved on transfer deadline day, but how about the ones that didn’t? Many big name stars who wanted away from their clubs, have been forced to remain. So, now that they are staying there are lots of questions that need to be answered. Who will they replace? When will they return to the fold? What will their value be when they do return?


Alexis Sanchez – Forward, Arsenal, £8.0m

Likely replaces – Danny Welbeck

Estimated return – Unknown

His’ situation is probably the ugliest from this window, but manager Arsene Wenger has come out and said that he thinks Sanchez “will be back very quickly to his best”. If that does happen, everyone will rush to add the Chilean who was, without question, the best Fantasy player last season. As such, he will become a must own as soon as he finds his way back into the Arsenal XI.

HD Phil Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho – Midfielder, Liverpool, £7.4m

Estimated return – September 16

The Brazilian was struggling with bouts of illness that have mysteriously both gone away now that the transfer window has closed. It’s unlikely that Coutinho starts this weekend, with Jurgen Klopp insisting the 25-year-old isn’t yet up to speed but he did play 15 minutes for Brazil over the international break. Coutinho was not an elite Fantasy option last season but, with so many shares sunk into his teammates, the playmaker could make for a very high end differential play.

Virgil van Dijk Southampton

Virgil van Dijk – Defender, Southampton, £6.1m

Likely replaces – Jack Stephens

Estimated return – September 26

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After being linked with a move to Liverpool all summer, Van Dijk has remained at Southampton. He has not played for the club since his ankle injury in January but his return could come soon with the Dutchman returning to first-team training this week. With only two top 10 defences on the schedule before November, van Dijk should become a Fantasy stud as soon as he walks back out on the pitch.



Klopp reveals ‘really good conversation’ with Coutinho, who is unlikely to play against Man City

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed he engaged in a “really good conversation” with Philippe Coutinho, but the player is not expected to be considered against Manchester City.

The 25-year-old, who tried and failed to manoeuvre a switch to Barcelona this summer, reported for training at Melwood on Thursday after returning from international duty.

Liverpool 16/5 to beat City

It was the first time he was involved in a full session since the club’s pre-season camp in Munich, where he complained of back pain ahead of final friendly against Athletic Bilbao.

That injury, which sidelined the playmaker for all five of the club’s fixtures this season, subsided while he represented Brazil, with their team doctors saying the problem was more to do with the stress over his situation.

“I know what people think, but Phil had the back problem a few weeks ago and couldn’t train so that means he missed around about three weeks,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.

“Yes, he went to the national team and trained normally, but now we have to prepare for a normal season so we have seven games [before the next international break] and we saw training this morning and thought ‘OK, maybe we should use him immediately’ because he was really good, but that doesn’t make sense. 

HD Phil Coutinho Jurgen Klopp

“We have now to continue with the pre-season, not too long, but in a few sessions we have to give ourselves the time because in the next month we have seven games. 

“We always have the same decision to make, ‘does he need training or can he play?’ and all that stuff. Yes, he will now do a little bit more than the other boys but he showed up in a very, very good mood and looks really promising.”

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Klopp confirmed that he has held fresh talks with Coutinho, who has scored in four of his six league matches against City.

“Of course – all good, all good. Nothing else to say, actually, so he’s back and we had a really good conversation, so good,” the Reds boss added.

Coutinho had submitted a transfer request to leave Anfield, but Liverpool were resolute in their definitive stance that he would not be sold in the transfer window just past, rejecting three offers bloated by add-ons from Barca.


What next for Coutinho & Liverpool? A lesson from the Luis Suarez saga


On deadline day in the off-season three years ago, the “definitive stance” Liverpool stuck to with Philippe Coutinho in the transfer window just past was already one of the scenarios fighting for space in Steven Gerrard’s head.

Coutinho 9/1 for last goal Saturday

Still in possession of the captaincy, and having a quieter summer than the previous one, in which he had spent months trying to persuade Luis Suarez not to agitate for an Anfield exit just yet, the Reds’ skipper was visited by the Uruguayan at Melwood.

HD Phil Coutinho

The forward had sealed a £65 million move to Barcelona in July 2014, but returned to the training complex on September 1 to say his goodbyes to his old team-mates.

Seated in the same recreational area where a year earlier Gerrard convinced Suarez he’d be better served by rejecting a move to Arsenal and staying at Liverpool for another season before moving to Catalunya, it was the attacker’s turn to share some advice.

“Before he left Melwood for ever that day, Luis spoke to me about Philippe Coutinho,” Gerrard details in My Story. “Make sure you look after him. He’s a good kid.”

Those words underlined what the former England international already knew: the Brazilian could morph into Liverpool’s “leading player” and “Barcelona and Real Madrid will come looking for Philippe in a few more seasons, just like they did with Luis.”

Steven Gerrard Phil Coutinho

Gerrard had already paid special attention to Coutinho and, if unavailable for selection for a lengthy period, he would text the playmaker before and after games, as he knew the Reds “needed to keep hold of him as long as possible.”

Despite Barca’s quite public and intense two-and-a-half month push to sign the 25-year-old this summer, Liverpool have managed to do exactly that – even though Coutinho back-heeled the amicable route in-between to submit a transfer request.

But what now?

In what can only be described as ‘that awkward moment’, Coutinho returns from Brazil duty via private plane having miraculously recovered from the pain in his lumbar spine that ruled him out of Liverpool’s opening five fixtures of the 2017-18 season.

Phil Coutinho Brazil

Where he was once core, he will now have to stretch his back to show he deserves to be part of the fold. The Merseysiders do have experience of dealing with this kind of reintegration, though, having refused to sell Suarez in the summer of 2013, and while no two players or situations are exactly alike, the successes of that episode can be revisited.

Despite Brendan Rodgers and the striker not speaking properly until October of that year, the club was put first, with pride and egos pushed aside. Keeping Suarez was central to Liverpool achieving their ambitions for the campaign, so once an exile from training with the first team – penance for publicly accusing the manager and owners Fenway Sports Group of breaking promises while pushing for an exit –  was lifted, it was straight back to business.

There was no PR-driven apology, no sulking, no circus – the Salto-born phenom went full tilt in sessions and said sorry for his antagonist behaviour through exceptional performances on the pitch.

GFX Suarez quote Liverpool

The big conversation between Rodgers and Suarez only happened in October, which “more or less drew a line under the whole affair”, the forward noted in Crossing the Line.

“There was a sense of forgetting everything that happened and concentrating on working together for the good of Liverpool.”

The state of play was simple: if Suarez showed commitment to the club, they would in turn reward him with a new contract that had a clear release clause and wave him off with good wishes if a ‘mega club’ wanted his services.

In December, he inked fresh terms with Liverpool, went on to be crowned the PFA Players’ Player of the Year before securing the move to Camp Nou he had coveted since his teens.

Coutinho, who counts Suarez as an older brother of sorts, can use this template to revive his reputation on Merseyside and leave in the right way when the time is right.

Apologies can be questioned, debated, pulled apart – brilliant displays cannot.

HD Phil Coutinho

There is nothing the Brazil star can say to erase what has happened over the last month, but he can make it no more than background noise by being willing to and going above and beyond to orchestrate Liverpool’s play again.

Having not trained with his team-mates since the pre-season camp in Munich and given the impressive nature of their last two performances, Coutinho will rightly not immediately command a place in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI, as he works to convince the manager as well as the dressing room that he is focused and fully dedicated to their cause.

Supporters will sing O Magico’s name again if they are also sure of the above.

There is no room for fuss, for circling round the saga or for strops. Liverpool are better with Coutinho and they have made him better.

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Their relationship status may be complicated, but the best way forward is far from complex: forget everything that happened and concentrate on working together for the good of the club.


Ronaldinho reassures Liverpool fans over Coutinho: He’ll give everything

Brazil legend Ronaldinho believes Philippe Coutinho will continue to give his all for Liverpool, despite a summer move to Barcelona breaking down.

Coutinho 23/10 to score Saturday

Barca claimed Liverpool were asking for €200 million for the attacker after seeing repeated bids knocked back as they sought a replacement for Neymar, who moved to PSG in a €222m deal.

Coutinho, 25, tried to aid the Catalans by going on strike, sparking fears about his attitude this season, but Ronaldinho says supporters should rest easy.

“This season they will see him give everything for the club – that is the sort of player he is,” he is quoted as having said by the Daily Mirror.

“Also, no player is going to refuse to play when it’s the World Cup at the end of the season.

“The Liverpool fans have nothing to worry about – I do not believe any of the stories about him refusing to play for the club. I know him that is not his way.”

Meanwhile, Coutinho has not seen his opportunity to move to Camp Nou ended, according to a man who spent five years as a player there.

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“They made it clear how much they wanted him and I am sure that they will come back for him.”


Wenger calls for closing January window among transfer system changes

Arsene Wenger believes the January transfer window should be eliminated to stop the distraction of players looking for midseason exits.

The Arsenal manager saw his club close out a chaotic summer transfer window with talk of a deal for Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and a sale of Alexis Sanchez both fall through on deadline day.

Gunners 17/2 to fail to score v Bournemouth

Sanchez was reportedly unhappy by his inability to move to Manchester City, with the Gunners’ Premier League rivals possibility returning in January for a new bid.

Elsewhere, talk remains Barcelona will renew their approach in January for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.

And Wenger believes such situations are detrimental to the game, believing players become distracted for a January move as early as October.

“The players who do not play or the players who are tapped up in October they already start again to think where do I go in January,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “That’s not the way to be onboard with the football club.

“We are here to entertain people and you can do that with people who are really on board together, to achieve something together and not every minute that it doesn’t go well to think ‘where can I go next?’

“I believe that we have to bring some decency. We all complain today that it (the sport) has become too much business, but we can do something about it. We have that responsibility in the game.”

Arsene Wenger Arsenal Leicester City Premier League

The January window was not alone in drawing Wenger’s ire, as he lamented the process of players attempting to sort out transfer situations while prepararing for games.

That exact situation occurred for both Lemar and Sanchez, who were rumoured to be in deadline talks while both featured for their national teams in World Cup qualifying.

“You cannot have a player preparing for a football game, that is today vital because nobody accepts anymore to lose a football game, and still be at four o’clock on the phone ‘Do I go or not?’, ‘How much is it?’ ‘Do I have to go?’ It’s impossible.

“These boys are all under high pressure, well-paid. You want them at least have a normal preparation for a football game.”

Wenger’s solution would be to close the window before the start of the season and not have it re-open until the conclusion of the campaign.

“The ideal situation would be to have a transfer period that is closed 48 hours before the first game of the championship and to close it completely until after the season.”

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Wenger and Arsenal are next in action Saturday against Bournemouth.


Coutinho fit to play 90 minutes, says Tite

Brazil coach Tite believes Philippe Coutinho is fit enough to perform for 90 minutes, but says he will not start the Liverpool star against Colombia due to his lack of action this season.

Coutinho came off the bench to score in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Ecuador on Thursday — his first game of a campaign in which reported back injuries and illness have kept him out of Jurgen Klopp’s plans, all the while a mooted £100 million-plus move to Barcelona failed to materialise.

The playmaker is expected to report back to first-team training with Liverpool, who face Manchester City in a blockbuster Premier League clash on Saturday.

Coutinho 17/2 to score last at City

Though Coutinho will once again start from the bench in Barranquilla, Tite is certain that the attacker is fully capable of performing.

“Coutinho is physically fit to play 90 minutes,” Tite is quoted by Globoesporte. 

“I can count on him for part of the game. He’s fine physically, but technically it’s different. He has not played for a long time.”

Liverpool held firm in their determination to keep Coutinho, who submitted a transfer request late in the window, reportedly rejecting four bids for the Brazilian.

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Klopp intimated that he will welcome Coutinho back into the fold, telling SPORT1 this week: “We have exactly the situation we wanted.”