Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told to make Philippe Coutinho transfer because of Man City
That’s the verdict of Liverpool legend Steve Nicol.
The Reds finished one point behind Manchester City in last season’s Premier League title race despite amassing a club-record 97 points, a total 11 greater than their previous best in the division.
And Pep Guardiola’s back-to-back reigning champions will be the team to beat again in 2019-20 as Liverpool look to end a 30-year wait for the title.
Having won the Champions League to end a seven-year wait for silverware, Klopp’s stance on transfers this summer has been that his current squad has enough room for improvement that new signings are not necessary.
But recent reports have suggested that the Liverpool manager could alter his stance in the market and offer an Anfield return to Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho, who looks set for a Nou Camp exit after just 18 months.
The play-maker left the Merseyside club to join Barca in January 2018 for £142million but endured an underwhelming first full campaign and the Catalan club are looking to recoup some money after spending £107m on Antoine Griezmann last week, with Coutinho one of the players seemingly deemed dispensable.
Despite reports of interest from Manchester United, Coutinho’s agent Kia Joorabchian confirmed this week that if the player was to return to England it would only be to Liverpool.
Joorabchian told talkSPORT: “It [his Anfield exit] has no reflection on the fact his heart and affinity is very much with Liverpool.
“I know he was cheering every time they had the chance. Lucas Leiva is the same way. A lot of these guys who leave Liverpool remain Liverpool fans because of the fans and the passion they have.
“So it would be hard for him to go to a rival. Every time we’ve spoken about it we’ve had that same conversation, he would find it hard to play for another club in the Premier League.”
And while a return for Coutinho would split the Liverpool fanbase, former right-back Nicol thinks the diminutive South American could prove the difference against City because of his goalscoring abilities, after he scored 54 goals and added 45 assists in 201 appearances in his previous six-year spell at the club.
“Philippe Coutinho could play where he played when he left which is part of the front three but he also did a stint in the middle three as well,” Nicol told ESPN FC.
“He’s already shown in the Premier League that he can work on both these positions.
“What you’re trying to do constantly is bring in players that not only make your squad better but make everybody in your starting eleven better.
“Of course, to have the quality of him, he’s now pushing somebody like [Sadio] Mane or [Mohamed] Salah on the other side.
“You’re just talking about making Liverpool better. That’s what’s going to be Liverpool’s problem. How do they make the squad, first of all, but even the starting eleven even better?
“One of the reasons why I think City did Liverpool last year was because they had more goalscorers.
“Now you’re adding a goalscorer in Coutinho. That could be that one-point difference.”