Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has - in his very best 'paper talk' manner - issued a 'hands off' warning to Barcelona over Brazilian forward Philippe Coutinho as the January transfer window hots up.
The 24-year-old has been linked with the reigning Spanish champions in recent months after emerging as a consistent attacking threat for the Reds this season, having previously had a tendency to blow hot and cold.
When Coutinho finally returns from injury pic.twitter.com/LHTbmL5yOq— Éliane Abi-Sleiman (@ElianeA_S) January 9, 2017
But speaking to the press ahead of Wednesday night's EFL Cup semi-final against Southampton, Klopp insisted: “We never had any ideas or plans or any talks about him leaving, because he is our player – there are no other ideas, nothing has changed.”
The Brazil international missed all of December with injury, but the German insisted that it was unlikely that six weeks out of action would have made Barcelona forget about Coutinho's qualities.
“Big clubs don’t think in this way unfortunately," he lamented. "It was not a big injury so there was no question of him not being the same player afterwards. It would be nice if big clubs forgot about a player completely because he’s been injured for five or six weeks. I’m not sure it’s like this though, but he is our player and that is it.”
Klopp also revealed his plans to ease his star man back into action in the match, saying: “I would say it makes sense for him to be involved against Southampton, in the squad. We will see what happens there, whether we have to use him or not.
“We would only leave him out because of United if a few minutes didn’t make sense, and a few minutes for him does make sense. There is a big difference to being fit and match fit, but of course it’s Phil, so we want to try everything we can to bring him close to his 100 per cent.”
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