Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool had “no other choice” but to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona – hinting the Brazilian was not prepared to play for the club in the second part of this season.
The Brazilian’s £142m transfer was confirmed this week after a long, drawn-out affair. The Reds will earn around £105m up front, with a further £37m due in add-ons.
Coutinho had wanted to move to Camp Nou in the summer, only to be denied the chance by Liverpool, who simply refused to sell at any price.
They were rewarded with some strong performances from the 25-year-old in the first part of the season, but Klopp told his press conference on Friday that he felt Coutinho would not have offered the same level of commitment had Liverpool stuck to their guns again in January.
“There was no other option,” he said. “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.
Philippe Coutinho leaves Liverpool
“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.”
Asked how Liverpool would look to replace Coutinho, Klopp said: “If we do something, we have to make the right decisions. We don’t have to ‘replace’ him, we have to step up. We will have 11 players, eh, and we play fantastic football without Phil.
“I don’t want to sound disrespectful because I really liked him. He was here five years, and you do miss a person in the dressing room. I’m sure he’s missing us even if he doesn’t realise it at the moment!
“We have to carry on. We have had fantastic games with him and not-so-good games with him. We are already used to it, it’s a week ago.
“First we have to replace him internally, then we can go with open eyes in the transfer window. But we will not make crazy things. That’s how it is. It must be ‘right’ before ‘expensive’.”
Later, Klopp was asked about the significance of losing key players – as he had as manager of Borussia Dortmund previously.
“I don’t know if you can compare,” he said. “We lost plenty of players at Dortmund. We couldn’t deal with that very well in the end, but when it was one player it was not a problem.
“If you want to know, the player of the season in Germany in 2011 was Nuri Sahin. He was the best player, played an outstanding season and he left. The replacement was Ilkay Gundogan, and he needed half a year. Things like this happen.
“It’s normal in the business. You lose a player, you buy a player and all the players need to react. It’s all about the atmosphere in the club.
“On Sunday, if there is a free kick from 18 yards or 20 yards and everybody in the stadium is thinking ‘ah, Phil!’ then….that would be quite, not too cool!
“The team will not. We will have solutions, 100 per cent. With the past, use it, don’t suffer because of it.
“I like Phil, he was a fantastic player. I said to him after a game ‘Chapo! What a character!’ But he still wanted to leave, and now he’s there and we are still here. We can’t compare, we just have to deal with the situation.
“This club in the past had one or two situations where, looking from afar, they didn’t deal too well. Like Sterling, who made a decision, like Suarez, stuff like this. It’s a normal thing, we have to make the best of it – and it’s easy because we have fantastic players.