Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Friday brushed off a reported $93 million offer from Barcelona for Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, insisting: “We’re not a selling club.”
“We want to work together and we want to make the next step, and to do this we need to stay together,” the German told reporters before his side face Leicester City in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy in Hong Kong on Saturday.
“The very important message is that we are not a selling club,” added Klopp.
As Barcelona circle for Coutinho, Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana backed the mercurial Brazilian to help lead the Reds to success in the new season.
“He’s a fantastic player so it’s no surprise that there’s teams interested in him,” said Lallana. “I feel like we’re going to achieve big things here and I feel like Phil is going to be a big part of that.
“He’s in that elite bracket and there is no reason he can’t continue to be in that elite bracket and continue here at Liverpool,” added Lallana. “We’re a massive club. We’re in the Champions League — okay we need to qualify — but if we are going to win competitions like that, and the Premier League, we need to keep hold of players like Philippe.”
Fan favourite Coutinho signed a new five-year contract at Anfield in January that did not include a release clause.
“He can improve his consistency but there is no doubt about his quality,” Klopp said of the 25-year-old.
“He’s a really good player but the nice thing is he’s still young and he can improve. Phil is a very, very important player.”
Klopp, whose side beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in midweek in their first run-out in Hong Kong, was less keen to discuss Liverpool’s pursuit of Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita.
The German club rejected an $86 million bid for the Guinea star from Liverpool earlier this week.
“I have nothing to say about this,” shrugged Klopp, looking to strengthen as he attempts to end Liverpool’s 27-year title drought.
“Obviously these stories are without my saying, so why should I disturb this process? Do whatever you want with this news, I’m not interested. But keeping the group together would make sense.”
Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare, meanwhile, revealed his club had received an offer for Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez from Roma.
“It was politely declined on the basis that it was a low offer,” said Shakespeare, who watched his team overcome West Brom on penalties earlier this week.
“What that offer is I don’t know. Riyad is a Leicester player and until we hear otherwise we expect him to perform at the standard we set.”
* Provided by AFP
Chelsea are closing in on signing Alvaro Morata, which would bring to an end one of the stranger transfer sagas of this summer that saw the Blues duel with Manchester United for Morata and Romelu Lukaku.
Oddly, each club seems to have landed the other’s No. 1 target, with Lukaku seemingly being set to go to Chelsea earlier in the summer as United chased Morata.
But which club is getting the better striker? Here’s a look at how Lukaku and Morata stack up head-to-head.
While modern strikers are expected to do more than just score, ultimately the goals are what count.
On that score, Morata had the edge on Lukaku last season – his stats per 90 minutes are much better than the Belgian’s even though he started in fewer games.
However, over the last three seasons, Lukaku has out-performed Morata, scoring 0.51 goals per 90 minutes compared to the Spaniard’s 0.33.
And even last year, Lukaku proved to be the more fearsome presence in the box, converting 30% of his shots from inside the area compared to Morata’s 27.08%. The Belgian could still lay claim to being the better poacher.
While Morata has the reputation for being better at holding up play and getting his teammates involved, Lukaku actually created more chances per 90 minutes last season than his counterpart, and leads in this metric over the last three seasons as well (1.30 to over 1.03). He also has completed more passes in the final third over the last three seasons (10.04 to 6.96).
Similarly, while most would assume Lukaku is the more physical player and thus the better target man, Morata won more of his aerial duels last season and draws more fouls. Morata is thus arguably a better player with his back to goal. But is Lukaku the better playmaker overall?
Both Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte require their attacking players to be fully committed to the team cause defensively, and those expectations will be laid upon Lukaku and Morata at their new clubs as well.
Lukaku has more experience playing in a defensive set-up as Everton have often played that way against the sides above them, although Morata had to do his fair share of defensive work when at Juventus.
And the stats show that even last season, when Morata was at Madrid, he bettered his counterpart when it came to tackling and interceptions, although Lukaku had more blocks per 90 minutes.
Morata has more goals in the Champions League than Diego Costa, among others, including a goal in the 2015 semi-final and final. Last season, only Lionel Messi and Neymar had more goals in the last 10 minutes of games.
Lukaku has repeatedly faced criticism for shrinking in big moments. The Belgian hasn’t played in the Champions League yet, and has a poor record in games against the so-called bigger Premier League clubs. He did, however, lead the league last season with goals in the last 10 minutes.
The closest to a head-to-head comparison between the two is their record at Euro 2016, where Morata scored three goals in four games to Lukaku’s two in four.
* All stats via Squawka
Former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs expects his old club to continue their tradition of promoting youth and is hopeful another ‘Class of 92’ can emerge at Old Trafford.
Press Association Sport has conducted a study which found 10 of the players who featured for United in the Premier League last season graduated from their own academy, with Jose Mourinho’s side using more of their own academy players than any other top-flight outfit.
That figure includes Paul Pogba, who returned to United from Juventus in a world-record £89million move last summer, Marcus Rashford and Angel Gomes, the 16-year-old who in May became the first player born in this millennium to feature in the Premier League.
United’s philosophy of handing opportunities to youngsters dates back to the Busby Babes of the 1950s, while the ‘Class of 92’ of Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers formed the core for their success four decades later.
Giggs believes it is increasingly more challenging for clubs to nurture kids through their ranks until they break through into the first team like he did, but he does not see the conveyor belt stopping.
“Generally, you get a chance in the first team (at United) which no other big clubs predominantly give you,” he told Press Association Sport.
“It’s getting harder because of the money (Manchester) City, Chelsea, all the big clubs are willing to pay, which in my day didn’t happen as much.
“You have teams offering all sorts to 14, 15-year-olds. It’s very difficult for parents now to decide which team to go to and it might not be football reasons first but financial stability. But I think United will always produce young players.”
They brought through a glut of talent at once at the start of the 1990s when Giggs and co emerged together and formed the nucleus of a team which achieved great success under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Giggs, promoting the People’s Award for the 2017 McDonald’s Community Awards, would love to see another raft of graduates break through in similar fashion and insists it can happen at Old Trafford, even if the Premier League’s current landscape makes it harder.
“It’s a big ask – five or six players coming through and staying in the team for so long was extraordinary,” he said.
“It probably comes along once every generation but if you have the philosophy within the club to bring young players through I don’t see why three or four players can’t come through and stay in the team.
“That’s the key – not just coming through, but actually staying in the team. It’s getting more and more difficult because managers don’t get much time – they are not able to let them make their mistakes – for them to grow, but I hope it happens.”
Giggs highlighted Tottenham’s Harry Kane and United’s own forward Rashford as two examples of why he believes supporters still cherish witnessing the growth of an academy product over a big-money acquisition.
“You see the emergence of Harry Kane and his song at Tottenham is, ‘He’s one of our own’,” Giggs said.
“Fans can relate to players that they’ve seen in the youth team, then the reserves. At my club there’s Rashford and there’s excitement and pride within Old Trafford when he gets the ball and makes something happen.
“It’s different from a player who has signed for a lot of money because there is an affinity with a player who has been there, like Marcus, since he was eight or nine.”
* Provided by Press Association Sport