Football

Klopp laughs off talk of Coutinho joining Barca

Reds boss unfazed by photos of Barca shirt with his star player's name in apparel store

Juergen Klopp insists Philippe Coutinho was genuinely injured for Liverpool's 2-1 win at Burnley as he laughed off talk of the Brazil forward joining Barcelona.

Coutinho missed Monday's Premier League fixture at Turf Moor with a thigh injury amid speculation over a move to the Nou Camp in the January transfer window.

The rumours were fuelled further by pictures - subsequently removed - of a Barcelona shirt with Coutinho's name appearing on the website of Nike, the Catalan club's kit manufacturer, over the weekend.

However, Reds boss Klopp claims there was nothing untoward behind the 25-year-old's absence from Liverpool's squad at Turf Moor as he responded to questions about the pictures.

"I heard about it. Somebody told me and I thought 'wow'. But I couldn't be less interested in anything in the world," Klopp said.

"Him (Coutinho) and Mohamed (Salah) are injured, not massively but enough for today, no chance and at least a doubt for Everton."

Despite Coutinho and Salah's absences, Estonia defender Ragnar Klavan scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner for Liverpool after Johann Berg Gudmundsson had cancelled out Sadio Mane's opener.

With the win, the Reds consolidated fourth spot and remain one point behind third-placed Chelsea, who meet Arsenal tomorrow, and three points adrift of second-placed Manchester United.

Klopp was most satisfied with the fortitude shown by his defence on a day when they might have wilted against a dogged Burnley side.

"I am really happy about our attitude and character," Klopp said. "You need to win your average games, win with attitude when you are not 100 per cent.

"It was cold and you need, first of all, concentration, you need readiness to work really hard, organisation, discipline and a little bit of luck. We deserved the three points."

Mane's goal was his eighth of the season and Klopp praised the Senegal winger for his determination when Liverpool's other top players were missing.

Klopp said: "He is strong, quick... He scores a goal like this and it is like 'wow!'. He comes into the dressing room and the whole team gives him a hand."

Klopp added that he is in no rush to introduce new signing Virgil van Dijk into his starting line-up, despite having completed the signing of the world's most expensive defender early in the transfer window.

The signing of the Dutch international centre back was announced last week after the two clubs, who had failed to agree terms during acrimonious dealings in the close season, finally reached an agreement.

Liverpool did not reveal the transfer fee but Southampton announced it was "a new world-record for a defender" with English media reporting that it was a £75 million (S$135m) deal.

NO RUSH FOR VAN DIJK

But with the Reds on a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions, Klopp has little time to integrate the 26-year-old into his team.

Asked whether van Dijk could make his debut in the FA Cup third-round tie with Everton at Anfield on Saturday morning (Singapore time), Klopp said: "I don't know. We made a few tests. No rush. He is on fire, really wants, but we have to make sure he can perform.

"Centre half is a position which depends on the others in the pitch. That means you have to tune it so you work together. Pre-season is for that usually."

He added that he will let Mane and Egypt forward Salah attend the annual Confederation of African Football awards ceremony in Ghana on Friday morning (Singapore time), just 24 hours before the FA Cup game.

Both players are vying with Borussia Dortmund's Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the African Footballer of the Year award. - AFP, REUTERS

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