Klopp warns Barca off Coutinho chase

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

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.

Ney­mar daz­zles

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.”

REUTERS

Liver­pool's Philippe Coutinho un­leashes a shot dur­ing the Reds’ 2-1 vic­tory over Leices­ter City in Hong Kong on Satur­day.

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