Sadio Mane more important to Liverpool than Philippe Coutinho - but he won't be sold now - Jamie Carragher
Jamie Carragher believes losing Philippe Coutinho would not be the worst thing in the world for Liverpool because Sadio Mane is more important to their cause this season.
Coutinho topped Barcelona’s wish list once they sold Neymar for £200m, but despite offering Liverpool nearly 60 per cent of that fee, they were not able to land the 25-year-old Brazil international.
As revealed exclusively by The Independent on Tuesday, Coutinho has now accepted that he needs to return to the club and will seek clear-the-air talks with Anfield officials following the latest rejection of a Barcelona offer, believed to be around the £119m mark.
Coutinho has been absent from Liverpool’s opening two Premier League matches as well as their Champions League play-off first leg win over Hoffenheim last week due to a back injury, with the attacking midfielder also set to miss Wednesday’s return fixture against the German side.
While Coutinho has not featured, Mane has excelled and has already scored twice this season, and former Liverpool defender Carragher believes he is more important to Jürgen Klopp than Coutinho currently is.
"I'd make an argument for that, especially with the way Jürgen Klopp likes to play,” Carragher said on Sky Sports. “I think he's [Mane’s] massively important.
“You see the goals that he's got and his goals record for a wide player is phenomenal since he's come to the club.
“All the other players on the list are top strikers in the Premier League. For Mane to be there, it shows his impact.
“If you compare him to Coutinho, who is a fantastic player which is why Barcelona want him, but if he carries on the way he is going, the top clubs around Europe will be looking at him because he has been a revelation since he came in.”
Mane missed the season run-in after suffering a knee injury at the start of April, but still managed to register 15 goals for Liverpool as they secured a fourth-place finish in the league and a place in the Champions League play-offs. Regardless of whether they hold on to their 2-1 aggregate advantage on Wednesday when Hoffenheim visit Merseyside, Carragher now expects Coutinho to stay at the club, although he admits the club have backed themselves into a corner over his future.
After issuing a statement insisting that they would not sell Coutinho under any circumstances, Carragher said that the club needed to stick to their guns and ride out the storm, even when Coutinho handed in a transfer request on the eve of the new season.
But the failure to land summer targets such as Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita means Klopp’s squad would struggle to cope without Coutinho for the season ahead.
"They will hang onto Coutinho now, of course. I don't think there is any doubt now. I said a few weeks ago that they can't sell him, but the problem is it becomes more political rather than the business of it," Carragher added.
"Liverpool have had such a poor window, they couldn't be seen to be letting go of him. Now if Liverpool three big targets of Virgil Van Dijk, Naby Keita and Mo Salah had all come in the door, it may have been easier to prise him away.
"Even a supporter might have thought '120m for Coutinho?' with the ability to go and spend that with a few weeks of the season to go, but they were never going to sell him because of the fact they had not bought enough players in."