Klopp warns Barca off Coutinho chase
HONG KONG — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has told Barcelona it is wasting its time trying to sign Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho — no matter what the offer.
Klopp has already rejected a $93 million bid for Coutinho, who scored a superb winner in Liverpool’s 2-1 Premier League Asia Trophy final victory over Leicester City in Hong Kong on Saturday.
Barca is expected to test Liverpool’s resolve with an improved bid, but Klopp has told the Catalan giants not to bother.
“If I say he is not for selling, he is not for selling,” Klopp told British media.
“There is nothing else to say. It’s a club decision, it’s my decision. That’s how it is.”
Liverpool sold Luis Suarez to Barca and Raheem Sterling to Manchester City in recent years but Klopp bristled when asked if he had received assurances from the board that Coutinho would not be next.
“I can say 20 times, he is not for sale,” said Klopp, who has been frustrated so far in his attempts to sign RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita and Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk during the transfer window.
“If you ask the other question the other way and I say, ‘There has been no assurance’, you make the story the other way.
“With Suarez I was far away,” added the former Borussia Dortmund coach, who joined Liverpool in 2015.
“When the club sold Sterling I was maybe the last to know about it. Those situations have nothing to do with this one.
“We are approaching a very important moment and we want to get better. For this we have to keep our key players.
“There is no story for me. Whatever happens from their side, I say he is not for sale. You can say whatever you want. The answer is ‘not for sale’.”
Klopp confirmed he had spoken to Coutinho in private at the team’s hotel before Saturday’s game but refused to reveal what was said.
The German did, however, explain the reason for his first-half rant at referee Bobby Madley following some heavy challenges by the Foxes on Coutinho.
“I was not too happy about two decisions around Phil,” said Klopp. “He (Madley) told me if I behave like I behaved today (in the Premier League) then I would have to go in the stands.”
Islam Slimani gave the Foxes a 12th-minute lead before Mohamed Salah — a $44 million summer signing from Roma — equalized eight minutes later. Coutinho’s stunner then clinched victory on the stroke of halftime.
Meanwhile, Neymar gave Barcelona fans a dazzling reminder of what they could be about to lose on Saturday, scoring twice as the Spanish giant defeated Juventus 2-1 in a pre-season friendly.
The 25-year-old Brazilian superstar is at the center of frenzied speculation linking him to a world-record $257 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
Neymar had kept the guessing game about his future bubbling away after posting a picture of himself looking pensive on Instagram on Friday.
But there was little to suggest that the charismatic striker is overwhelmed by the transfer saga as he produced a bewitching performance in front of a sell-out 82,104 crowd at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said of Neymar: “He played a fabulous game. Along with (Lionel) Messi, they are tremendous talents and you could see that on the pitch.”
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho unleashes a shot during the Reds’ 2-1 victory over Leicester City in Hong Kong on Saturday.