Jurgen Klopp insists Philippe Coutinho was genuinely injured for Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Burnley as he laughed off talk of Brazil forward joining Barcelona.
Coutinho missed Monday’s Premier League fixture at Turf Moor with a thigh injury amid a backdrop of 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 Nike 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.
And 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 percent.
“Burnley were an opponent motivated at the highest level. We needed to be ready for the wind, rain.
“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.
“We need the wins on the not sunny days. It was a fantastic moment when we scored. I was never in doubt about the character of my boys.”
– ‘Important’ Mane –
Mane’s goal was his eighth of the season and Klopp praised the Senegal winger for his determination when Liverpool’s top players were missing.
“Sadio is unbelievably important for us,” Klopp said.
“He is strong, quick, so many things. 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.
“We need him, we need him so much for all teams coming. I am happy because I had a lot of players with moments where it wasn’t clicking and he still scores.”
Klopp also confirmed he will show respect by allowing Mane and Egypt forward Salah to attend an awards ceremony in Ghana this week.
The Liverpool duo are to appear at the CAF Awards on Thursday, just 24 hours before the FA Cup third round tie with Everton at Anfield.
“Yes, they will go. We have everything organised. We have two of the three best African players in our squad. We have to show them respect,” said the German.
“If it had been a matchday they wouldn’t have asked, but the night before is fine. We sleep in a hotel, they sleep in a plane. That is all the difference, the modern world.
“If Mo is not fit, it will not be for that. For our side, it is just a sign of respect.
“I know it, I had Aubameyang too, and there is nothing more important for them than to go there. It’s fine.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche revealed his frustration with the result but could not fault the effort of his players.
“I thought we had done enough to earn another point,” he said.
“So I am frustrated with a soft goal right at the end but impressed with the mentality overall.
“We were superb physically, tactically very good, particularly defensively so much to be pleased with but to lose like that is a horrible feeling.