11 May Hands off Coutinho
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has issued a “hands off” warning to Barcelona and any other club wanting to sign playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazil international’s form has been impressive this season and 10 Premier League goals represent his best return in the top flight since arriving in England in January 2013.
He has constantly been linked with a move to Barcelona, who are looking to overhaul their squad with the departure of Luis Enrique this summer, and only this week one Catalan newspaper claimed an agreement had already been reached between the club and the player.
However, the 24-year-old only signed a new five-year contract in January, with wages of £150,000-a-week making him the club’s top earner, and that gives Klopp confidence.
“When did he sign his new contract?” said the German when asked about the interest in Coutinho, jokingly adding: “With a £400 million clause!”
He added: “There are absolutely no plans (to sell). What our owners say is there is the absolute opportunity not to sell anybody if we do not want to.
“That means we can bring in others players and it is a good situation. We have a stable squad with a good basis.
“We want to bring a few in with fresh blood, but nobody will leave us without our say so I am completely relaxed about this.”
In addition to new signings Klopp will be looking forward to seeing forward Sadio Mane fit again for pre-season after his campaign was ended by a knee injury in April which required surgery.
The Senegal international has proved to be a key figure having arrived from Southampton for £30million last summer and is still the club’s leading scorer, despite missing the whole of January due to the African Nations Cup and then sustaining a knee problem which ensured he sat out the final eight matches of the season.
His influence was recognised at the club’s awards night where he was named both players’ player and supporters’ player of the year.
“It means so much to me. I feel at home at this club and in this city,” said the 25-year-old.
“I have enjoyed playing football for this great team. It was the fact that I’m playing alongside so many great players here that meant I was able to settle so quickly.
“My team-mates, the staff, the manager and the supporters have all made me feel so welcome since I joined the club.
“I have loved every minute of playing for Liverpool this season and can’t wait to get back fit to help the team again.”
Mane is already looking at stepping up his recovery and is confident his team-mates can deliver Champions League football next season with six points from their last two matches guaranteeing their top-four place.
“It’s getting better, much better. The operation went well. Soon I will be running again and I should be fine for the start of pre-season,” he added.
“Every player wants to play every game but injuries are part of football and I just have to accept it.
“It’s frustrating being out and having to watch, but my team-mates are still doing a great job on the pitch.
“I am very confident that they will get the points we need from the final two matches to get us in the top four.
“We have a great manager and he knows what is required. We all want to get this club into the Champions League.”