Friday 22 September 2017

Klopp targets title as Barcelona told hands off Coutinho

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp. Photo: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp. Photo: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

James Ducker

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has set his players the target of winning the Premier League this season as he issued another warning to Barcelona to forget their pursuit of Philippe Coutinho.

Klopp has the highest goals for the forthcoming campaign, believing that ill luck with injuries was the main reason their Premier League bid came unstuck last season.

"Yes we will be playing for the championship - that's what we did last season when we finished fourth," said Klopp.

"You don't start a season without ambition. I think we have our goals and I think we have a good team now.

"We had a bit of bad luck last season, so hopefully that will change. I think we have a strong team. We have to work very hard to achieve what we want and we are doing that."

Klopp was speaking ahead of tonight's Audi Cup match against Bayern in Munich and he took the opportunity to deliver another emphatic message to Barcelona to forget their pursuit of Coutinho.

Unwavering

Klopp, like Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group, is unwavering in his position that the midfielder will not be sold.

Speaking in his native tongue, he swerved an earlier question on the Brazilian's future and was then asked if the query had been lost in translation.

"He is not available to be sold. The word 'not' means there is no interpretation for that," Klopp responded forcibly. "It is nothing new from our point of view."

With Neymar seemingly heading to Paris St Germain for a staggering €220m, Barca look sure to make a fresh bid for Liverpool's playmaker.

But Liverpool are not interested in cashing in and Klopp's resolve to keep Coutinho is 100pc echoed by his board.

Although Coutinho would inevitably be interested in a move to the Nou Camp, Klopp (above) has already told him to shelve those ambitions.

On the pitch, Liverpool's defensive problems have increased ahead of the new season, with Joe Gomez joing James Milner, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne in the treatment room.

Meanwhile, Adon Sancho's future at Manchester City has been plunged into fresh doubt after it emerged that the teenager has failed to turn up for training several times following Pep Guardiola's decision to omit him from the pre-season tour of the USA.

Bundesliga clubs Red Bull Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund have joined Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to sign the England U-17 winger.

Sancho was expected to join fellow rising stars Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz on the tour of Houston, Los Angeles and Nashville over the past fortnight but he was left behind after indicating that he might not sign the new contract he has been offered.

Sancho was dismayed at being left out and failed to appear for training a number of times while the senior squad were in America.

City have offered Sancho a lucrative first professional contract amid strong interest in the player both domestically and abroad but there would have to be a dramatic turnaround for him to now stay.

Sancho is believed to harbour concerns about the pathway to the first team at City, given the club's poor record of giving sustained opportunities to academy graduates over the nine years since the Abu Dhabi takeover.

City have made it clear how highly they value him, Foden and Diaz and view the trio as future first-team regulars.

Leipzig and Dortmund believe they have a strong chance of luring Sancho to Germany and would have to pay compensation of around only €2000,000.

By contrast, any English suitor would face a fee being set by a tribunal and that could be high given the strong case City would be able to put forward about the work they have put into his development and the new deal on the table. © Daily Telegraph, London.

Telegraph.co.uk

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport