Kop boss says he discussed La Liga giants’ interest with Brazilian star and was encouraged from conversation
JURGEN KLOPP has told Barcelona Philippe Coutinho LOVES Liverpool and won’t be leaving.
The German boss confirmed he discussed Barcelona’s interest with his Brazilian ace earlier this week after Liverpool binned Barca’s opening £72million offer – and was encouraged by what he heard.
“We have spoken, but it is not for you,” Klopp teased.
Ironically, the 25-year-old Anfield ace virtually guaranteed the big-spending Catalans will be back with an increased bid after producing a master-class to slay Leicester City in Hong Kong.
Coutinho set-up Mo Salah’s equaliser before bagging a sensational winner before half-time as Liverpool lifted the Premier League Asia Trophy.
His man of the match performance won’t have gone unnoticed in Barcelona where new manager Ernesto Valverde will have £199million burning a hole in his pocket once Neymar completes his imminent move to Paris Saint Germain.
But defiant Klopp last night warned Barca they are wasting their time.
“Everyone knows that Phil Coutinho is a key player for us,” he said.
“I know that he feels completely more than fine, comfortable — whatever — in Liverpool.
“He loves the club and the city – that’s clear. But that he’s able to play like that tonight — in a very difficult moment of the preseason after all these sessions is good to see. That shows his big potential.”
Leicester striker Islam Slimani headed Craig Shakespeare’s Foxes in front after 12 minutes.
But then Coutinho ran riot as he flicked a stunning ball through for Mo Salah to head past Kasper Schmeichel, before sending Liverpool’s Red Army of Asian fans wild with a sensational screamer from the edge of the box one minute before half time.
Yet Klopp – and no doubt Barca boss Valverde too – must have had their hearts in their mouths when two heavy challenges from Slimani and Matty James went unpunished by ref Bobby Madden.
The anxious German could not control his rage and remonstrated furiously with the Premier official during a touchline bust-up – admitting Madden told him he would have sent him to the stand had it happened during a regular Premier match.
But Klopp was unrepentant and rapped: “Even in the pre-season and even though it’s a Premier League tournament, we should talk about this.
“I was not too happy about two decisions around Phil Coutinho, 100%.
“He (Madden) told me that if I behave like I behaved today then I would have to go in the stands.
“I said: ‘If I behave like today then I go in the stand, no problem. But you have to change how you whistle’.
“That’s the only thing. For me, it was a clear foul, 100%. It’s dangerous. We had a similar situation at Wigan.
“What can I do? Write a letter [saying] ‘by the way, that’s a foul next time can you whistle?
“It’s a difficult game to whistle for refs, I know all this. But these things are obvious for me and that’s why I thought it would be nice if he could help the players a little bit more
“”These players make the difference and these players bring people into the stadium. That’s why we have to look after them a little bit.”
However Klopp was happier at his side lifting their first trophy of the new campaign – even though it was in faraway Hong Kong is strength-sapping 28 degree heat.
“I try to be 100% honest in my life,” he said. “It wasn’t a dream of mine to bring a team to Hong Kong and do a camp here. We had a long flight.
“But now we must say thank-you for being unbelievable hosts and the outstanding support we have been shown. Yes it was hard work but it was good. The celebrations around us felt 50% like Anfield.
“It’s been two hard games against difficult opponents so to win both games is a big thing. We don’t need to make it smaller than it is.”
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