Former Liverpool captain would welcome Philippe Coutinho back at the club 'in a heartbeat'

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Philippe Coutinho has struggled at Barcelona.

Former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson believes the club should be open to welcoming back Philippe Coutinho, who left for Barcelona in January 2018.

The Brazilian playmaker has “suffered” while at Barcelona, according to Thompson, who believes Coutinho has been used in the wrong position at his new team but has the ability to return to being the impact player he was at Liverpool.

Barcelona made Coutinho a club-record signing last year, in a deal that could be worth up to £142million, but are now reportedly open to selling him. The Reds’ Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester United both having been linked with a move for a player who turns 27 this summer – and Thompson believes Liverpool should also be in the running.

“I would take him back in a heartbeat,” the ex-Reds defender told Sky Sports.  “But it would have to be now. You don’t want to leave it another 12 months.

“I think he still has the ability,” Thompson added.

“He’s suffered at Barcelona. We’ve seen him playing out wide on the left, but he’s not Neymar. He likes to be in the middle where he can pull strings and is getting on the ball to hurt teams. He doesn’t do that and he’s not a left-winger and that’s where he’s playing at Barcelona.

“They don’t love him like Liverpool loved him.”

Coutinho left Liverpool having made just over 200 appearances over four-and-a-half seasons, scoring 54 goals and adding a further 45 assists, and Thompson cited the Brazilian’s performance during that spell as enough evidence that he could still make an impact if he returned.

“He was that little bit clever, that creativity behind those front three that you could go to in games where you knew you were going to have the majority of the possession,” said Thompson.

“He could open that door, he could score the goals that would get you the win.

“I would have him back, I don’t know about the football club, but he is the one with that ability.”

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Thompson, who won seven league titles and three European Cups with Liverpool, captaining the side for four of those honours, hopes his former club included a buy-back clause when selling Coutinho last winter.

“Knowing our club, we’ve been very shrewd, maybe there’s a buy-back clause in there for maybe less than half what we sold him.”

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Andrew Robertson believes 'tight-knit' Liverpool side can star for years

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Andrew Robertson.

Defender Andy Robertson believes the “tight-knit” nature of the Liverpool squad will keep them together for years to come as they seek to overcome title rivals Manchester City.

The Scotland captain warned the back-to-back champions the Reds are “here to stay” when it comes to contesting domestic honours, and believes the group Jurgen Klopp has assembled can remain united as they attempt to do that.

“We are a tight-knit group, a young group, so hopefully we will be here for many years and we will be a better team in terms of maturity and experience next year,” said the left-back.

“Whether we can put in the performances remains to be seen but we hope we can.

“It is an incredible squad and I love being a part of it. I am sure we have learned a lot of lessons this season, and we just need to take that into next.

“Fingers-crossed we don’t lose anyone. We are a tight group and we don’t want to lose anyone. We will go into next season as strong as ever.”

With a second successive Champions League final to come, fellow defender Virgil Van Dijk said he felt it was the beginning of something special at Anfield.

Van Dijk also referenced the spirit within the club as a whole, and the relationship the players have with supporters as being key to that success.

“With the level we have shown this season, the consistency we have, we have to build on it, try to do it again next season,” said Van Dijk. “That’s what we all aim for, and I am looking forward to it already.

“There is a togetherness we have throughout the whole club. It is also the connection we have with the fans that helps us through tough, tough moments, through tough games.

“The fans will always be there and that’s is a special thing to know, and one of the big reasons I joined Liverpool.”

City manager Pep Guardiola conceded Liverpool had given them their toughest test in pushing them all the way to the final day, forcing them to win their final 14 league matches to finish on 98 points and edge out their north-west rivals by a single point.

Liverpool finished 25 points ahead of third-placed Chelsea and 31 in front of sixth-placed Manchester United.

“Man City know, hopefully, we are here to stay,” added Robertson. “We know they are definitely here to stay, they are incredible.

“There have been ups and not many downs. It’s been a very good season for us and we have just fallen short to a world-class team.

“Ninety-seven points wins every single league apart from last season so if we do that again we will keep knocking on the door and we won’t be far off it.

“Man City were 14 games unbeaten and for them to do that without dropping a point was incredible. Fair play to them.

“All the teams have to catch us as there was quite a gap between second and third.

“They all need to come up to us, and if they do, it will be an incredible title race next season.”

Robertson insists disappointment at not ending a 29-year wait for the league will not affect preparations for the Champions League final against Tottenham on June 1 in Madrid.

Liverpool (1)

“We need a couple of days to probably get over this and then it will be forgotten about because we can’t dwell on it,” he said.

“We have the Champions League to play for. Everything else is forgotten about.

“In my opinion, it won’t be thought of that we came second in the Premier League and all that nonsense.

“There is no bigger game to get yourself up for: a Champions League final against Tottenham will be incredible.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Liverpool must suffer in order to succeed as Jurgen Klopp's men take next step in development

Alex Rea 13/05/2019
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Jurgen Klopp after victory over Wolves

Seasons are defined by moments, but it’s not moments which win league titles.

Liverpool had their fair share. Errors from opposition goalkeepers, three of them in fact, a Riyad Mahrez penalty miss, sensational goals (Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge versus Chelsea immediately spring to mind) late strikes (25 goals from 75 minutes onward), plus let it not be forgotten, some fortuitous officiating.

These snapshots of the season are now viewed differently because of the outcome.

But Manchester City enjoyed moments of their own, from the micro (Sergio Aguero against Burnley and Sadio Mane against them) to the macro (Vincent Kompany’s piledriver versus Leicester).

These are the events remembered, yet it is a disservice to both teams that their campaigns be viewed through the lens of these single shots. Each had their own moment when it seemed some predestined force was on side.

But this title battle was much more than that, and seconds or moments did not decide a season which is made up of close to 60 hours game time. It is for this reason why Liverpool will challenge City again next season, because Jurgen Klopp’s ‘giants’ stood tall for the entirety of 2018/19, from start to finish.

In previous tilts, they were the underdogs, the surprise challengers who rode their luck before it eventually ran out.

However the expectation now, and the reality is, that through money spent, structure built and psychological pathways created, this team should be right there with City.

Before the season began, the minimum target was to at least compete for honours. That it came so close is a bigger step forward than anticipated, but it was always the direction.

Liverpool ended this season with a new goalkeeper owning the Golden Glove, a defender in his first full season claiming Player of the Year awards, record-breaking full-backs and two forwards beginning to peak, sharing the Golden Boot.

Alisson

Alisson

Add in, the bridging of a gap from 25 points to one, the accumulation of 97 in total alongside the least goals conceded, just one defeat and a squad with an average age of 26.7 (the youngest in the top six) and there is every reason for optimism.

From a Liverpool supporter’s perspective, the development might not be enough to outweigh the vacuum of disappointment. Yet, this is new territory for fans born after 1990.

There genuinely used to be such joy in finishing inside the top four, as if joining the elite again created an excuse to bring out the scrapbook of memories from past European dominance.

Before Klopp’s first full season, Liverpool finished inside the top four just once in seven campaigns. Now, this iteration isn’t just joining them, but heading it up and establishing its own era.

There is sadness in claiming second, not in the same way of 2008/09 or 2013/14 when it seemed then that every last sinew of talent and energy was poured into those bids.

They felt like the end of the road. This time, it’s just another step.

That is the true indication of the shift which has been made because there is an emotional conflict of pride and pain.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

In truth, this team must suffer to succeed. There was at least 12 occasions like Southampton away when Liverpool produced a result which induced the comment “they looked like champions”.

And the reason for that, is because in those contests, Liverpool suffered but triumphed. Klopp’s men must do so again.

On Sunday, the German did not want to blanket the disappointment with too much talk of the positives.

“Everybody knows we will go again but if you really want something, you feel the disappointment as well. That is what we feel,” he said.

“But I am not worried that this is as good as it can be.”

Klopp wants his players to feel the pain of this defeat in order to use it next season. It’s exactly the method used after last season’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid – they return to the showpiece on June 1 as favourites.

Suffering is what makes these players human and there are few coaches more adept than the German in fusing emotion with data, tactics and so on.

This team will ultimately be defined through the prism of trophy success, yet they’ve taken the biggest step toward it.

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