Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted that he sees Trent Alexander-Arnold differently to England’s Gareth Southgate – but refused to take the debate any further.
The right-back has been in the international spotlight ever since he made his England debut in 2018. While he has proved a standout talent for Liverpool, he has yet to nail down a Three Lions role.
Indeed, Southgate admitted this week that he prefers Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier’s “all-round game” more. And Reece James and Kyle Walker are also ahead of Liverpool’s candidate.
Concerns over Alexander-Arnold’s defending have been ever-present and actually exacerbated because of his attacking qualities.
Stan Collymore has backed Alexander-Arnold to get his England chance – and then take it – whenever that arrives.
But, Klopp refused to engage in a serious debate with journalists at his press conference over Alexander-Arnold and his battle for an England place.
“Do you really want to open this box?” he asked on Friday. “I mean it.
“It’s a situation where a manager picks a player or not, which I would decide obviously differently, but I’m not in charge of this team.
“If you want to discuss it, I have a lot of things to say, but I’m really not sure that it makes sense.”
Klopp then cemented his claim that “I see him differently – that’s clear, that’s obvious”.
Klopp tackles Alexander-Arnold claims
And on claims that Alexander-Arnold is a poor defender, Klopp said: “That’s not true, he’s a good defender.
“He doesn’t defend always good, that’s true. That’s what we’re working on, he’s 23 and there’s space for improvement, clearly.
“But, we only discuss it on this level because his offensive impact is so extreme for us. Whichever team I would manage in the moment, I would sign him because he is exceptional.
“Is he always exceptional? No. I have never met a player who is always exceptional. It is up to Gareth to find a team.”
Alexander-Arnold has a reputation for goals and assists for Liverpool. There have subsequently been claims that he could be a midfielder instead.
However, England boss Southgate recently tried that experiment without much effect.
He faces a battle to find his way into the England team, with Gabby Agbonlahor claiming he should just retire altogether from international football if he fails to enjoy a decent role at the Qatar World Cup.
Liverpool coping fine with Alexander-Arnold
Klopp’s response over the Alexander-Arnold debate is the right one. While he obviously sees the player’s capabilities differently, he ultimately has to accept that he is not the England manager.
Southgate might well have other ideas for the right-back if he was to become Liverpool’s manager – and vice versa.
The fact is, Alexander-Arnold knows he has his Liverpool role nailed down. There are therefore concerns about why he has not made it for England, but it could be worse for the 23-year-old.
He at least has the unwavering faith of his club manager, who indeed said he would sign him for any team he managed right now.
Alexander-Arnold needs to come back from the international break and show his best form. That is all he can do ahead of the World Cup.