Saturday 21 October 2017

Thompson: Loss of Coutinho not as bad as Suarez

Phil Thompson Photo: Sportsfile
Phil Thompson Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Liverpool legend Phil Thompson is desperate for Philippe Coutinho to reject the advances of Barcelona but does not believe his loss would be comparable to Luis Suarez if it came to pass.

Coutinho is wanted by Barcelona and the speculation is set to increase after Neymar's departure from the Catalans, although Thompson points out that they don't actually operate in the same position.

He admits it would be a blow if Coutinho departed, but reckons Jurgen Klopp's side - who take on Athletic Bilbao in Dublin today - are better equipped to cope with the exit of a star player now than when Luis Suarez left for the Nou Camp in 2014.

"It's vital to keep him," says former Liverpool player and assistant Thompson. "One of the big things at the moment is that he hasn't asked to move and that becomes pivotal.

"If he comes along and says 'this is Barcelona and I'd love if a way can be found' then you've got a problem. It's a downward spiral then and you are hoping upon hope you get through the month without him going.

"It would be a blow but, looking at the players you've there now, the likes of Salah, Mane, Firmino, Lallana, you've got four there with a bit of a wow factor and he fits in with all of that.

"Is he miles above them? No. Is he just above them? Yes. Although it would be a big loss, it wouldn't be as damaging as when Luis Suarez went as that left a massive gap. These flair players that Klopp has brought in, I'd like to think he wouldn't be missed as much as people are making out."

Thompson accepts that normal rules can change when Barcelona come into the equation, much as he would like the reality to be different.

"It's Barcelona and Real Madrid for the Latin guys, that's the holy grail. And you find it hard when foreign managers come in, I was with Gerard Houllier, and they always feel as though if a player wants to go and embrace another culture and country then why do we stand in the way?

"Well, you think, hold on a minute, it's Liverpool Football Club and I want you to be passionate. But I'm realistic. He's not Neymar, he doesn't play in his position. Is he coming to take over Iniesta? Possibly, as he's 33.

"But he might not get as many games as he would wish in that midfield role and it's a World Cup year and if he's not playing regularly that might impact on him."

Thompson would love to see Brazilian-born Diego Costa at Anfield with the same motivations fuelling such a switch - he could have a part to play in Spain's chances in Russia next summer.

But he accepts that is an extremely optimistic wish, even though his preferred destination, Atletico Madrid, are banned from registering new players until January.

It hints at his views on where Klopp's panel is weak. He makes Manchester City favourites because they have strengthened their problem area, whereas he feels his old club lack a striker that can score 20 or more goals per season.

"I'd take Costa for six months. Straight away. I would try and do something like that," he said. "You see players who sign for clubs and get loaned out straight away. But if he can't play for Atletico Madrid then where's he going to go? He needs to play football. It's a World Cup year.

"Jurgen Klopp has not made many mistakes. Everyone is panicking that we've not spent money. We've got a good squad, and this year's he spent some big money on starters who can go straight into the team and make a difference.

"People said the priority was left-back, but I felt James Milner was terrific. Centre forward for me (is the priority). We have all number tens and false nines. If you're going to make an impact you need an out-and-out striker."

Irish Independent

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