Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hinted that Philippe Coutinho was prepared to down tools if the club prevented him from joining Barcelona.
The Brazilian playmaker had a storming start to the current season despite Liverpool’s refusal to sell him in the summer, but speaking to the media on Friday ahead of the Reds’ Premier League clash with Manchester City on Sunday, Klopp suggested that his performance level might not have been maintained for the rest of the season if he had not got his own way and been allowed to leave.
“There was no other option. It’s a pretty easy answer.
“I don’t exactly know how the reaction has been, but if there is someone who should be angry, massively disappointed, then it could be the manager of the club the player is leaving. And I’m not.
“I know the club tried everything to convince Phil to stay here and carry on together with us.
“It was his dream, and it is the truth when I say that he left Liverpool only for one club, Barcelona. There was a moment where we really had to accept that. We were fighting until the last second, tried everything.
“I knew it would come up again in this transfer window, and it did. If we’d have said what we could have done – here’s your contract, and you have to stay here – it would have been difficult to use him in the second part of the season. That’s a decision I have to make; does it make sense, do I think we can use him, can he help us? It was 100 per cent clear, no chance. He was not ready to do that any more.
“He was fantastic in the first part of the season, and the team did. It’s never easy to talk about this all the time. He had fantastic games and fantastic sessions, but that’s over now. So we made the decision.”
The 25-year-old completed a £142m move to Camp Nou earlier this week (with Klopp issuing a long statement wishing him well), but a thigh injury means that it will be the end of this month, or perhaps even the beginning of February, before he plays for his new club.
Liverpool begin the post-Coutinho this weekend as they aim to become the first side to beat Pep Guardiola’s runaway league leaders in domestic competition this season. Given the fact that they are unbeaten against Man City at Anfield for over a decade, not to mention the 17-game unbeaten run that they are currently on, Klopp will fancy his chances of getting at least a point from Man City this time around.