- Liverpool have been enjoying a spot of warm-weather training in Dubai
- Jurgen Klopp’s men have touched back down in the UK following the trip
- The Reds must now prepare for life without start signing Philippe Coutinho
- FAREWELL: Coutinho delivers goodbye message to Liverpool fans after switch
Jurgen Klopp and his men have touched back down on British soil following their mid-season trip to Dubai – but there is no Philippe Coutinho to welcome them back.
The tremendously talented Brazilian sealed what he called a ‘dream’ £145million move to Barcelona, leaving Liverpool to fight the rest of the season without their most talented player.
Now, Liverpool’s Fab Four is missing its most crucial member and Klopp’s job is to get them back to their full complement as swiftly as possible in what is left in this January transfer window.
Coutinho’s former boss Brendan Rodgers, now manager of Celtic, brought him in from Inter Milan in 2013.
And Rodgers, now on a trip of his own in Dubai with the Scottish champions, believes the switch to the Nou Camp can only mean good things for Coutinho.
‘It’s brilliant for both really,’ Rodgers said. ‘He is a Barcelona player if ever there was one.
‘At the time when I brought him he wasn’t in the team at Inter Milan. He was a young player and they needed to sell one or two players to get some money into Inter Milan at the time. So he wasn’t playing.
‘I think people questioned when I brought him in whether he was big enough and tall enough. Was he maybe not as physical as the Premier League could be. But I’d seen him as a young player, saw him at Inter Milan at 18 around top players and I always felt he had the technical quality. And of course he was always going to get better physically.
‘We paid £8.5 million for him. He sent me a nice text the other day when he was arriving in Barcelona. He is a great young guy, he was never a moment’s problem for me. He was a magical player to work with.’
Coutinho could have made the move last summer and he handed in a transfer request in a bid to force through a move to the La Liga side.
The Anfield club rebuffed three sizeable bids from Barca and the Brazilian was denied his wish.
Rodgers, however, believes the 25-year-old’s response to Liverpool’s temporary roadblocks is testament to his character.
‘He is a wonderful example,’ The Celtic boss added. ‘Of course it is difficult for players. It is hard if there is a move to a club, especially a move to a club that maybe he had wanted to go to.
‘Clearly Liverpool rightly stood their ground until they got the fee they wanted. As soon as the window shut he got on with his work.
‘He has been a great player for Liverpool in his time there and he is in the middle of his asset age, he’s 25 years of age, so he’s going to light it up there for the next eight, nine, ten years. A brilliant, brilliant player and a really, really humble boy who works really hard and never forgets his roots.’
The former Liverpool boss revealed that he and Coutinho have kept in regular contact since the former left Anfield back in 2015.
Rodgers said Coutinho, though supremely gifted, somewhat surprisingly lacks the confidence many of today’s superstars have in abundance – and take for granted.
‘I believed in his ability,’ Rodgers continued. ‘It was clear what he was. If you see him play now: he played like that when he was an 11-year-old child, if you see videos of him playing Futsal. He was exactly the same. But he needed that belief.
‘He came in (from Inter) and developed and improved and he was outstanding for me. A real humble boy. He will go and join Luis (Suarez) now. They both got on very well. It’s maybe the type of player they were looking for.’
Although Coutinho now gets the luxury of teaming up with his former strike partner at the Nou Camp, his former employers will be seeking his replacement.
Mo Salah, arguably the Reds’ most potent attacking threat so far this term, will now be the main man leading the line at Anfield – and he arrived back on Merseyside with a smile on his face.
Whether Monaco’s wing wizard Thomas Lemar will arrive this month — following the club-record signing of Virgil van Dijk — to bolster the attack, however, is yet to be seen.