Premier League • England

Klopp reveals Gerrard talks after Aston Villa sack; claims Liverpool star is in pre-season mode

Jurgen Klopp Steven Gerrard

Jurgen Klopp revealed he’s spoken to Steven Gerrard following his Aston Villa dismissal, and explained why one Liverpool star is effectively in his own mini pre-season.

Aston Villa called time on Gerrard’s tenure at the club on Thursday night. The Reds legend took a leap of faith leaving Rangers for Villa last November, though struggled to recapture the magic he created at Ibrox.

Indeed, he departed his role with Villa languishing 17th in the table. The seven goals they’ve scored this season are the league’s joint-second fewest. Only Wolves (five) have struggled more in the final third.

The race is on to find a new manager with Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino among the early favourites.

However, speaking in a press conference on Friday, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was understandably asked about a man who is an icon at the club he manages.

Klopp stressed Gerrard will bounce back from his setback and revealed he had a quick exchange with the former midfielder on Friday morning.

Klopp’s message to Gerrard

“I am sure he will come back from that,” said Klopp (via the Liverpool Echo).

“I’ve been seven years at Liverpool, we’ve not met a lot for different reasons, but we created a close relationship and I’ve always followed him. Had a quick exchange this morning, nothing too deep.”

Klopp added: “I can imagine it’s disappointing for him because of the things he wanted to achieve at Aston Villa.

“We all get knocks and it’s about how you respond. These things can happen. A lot of great managers out there had to leave clubs for different reasons. He will be back.”

While Gerrard will now turn his attention to his next career move, Klopp’s focus remains entirely on matters at Anfield.

Liverpool have won three in a row across all competitions and appear to have turned the corner following a dismal start.

The Reds travel to Nottingham to take on Forest in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Klopp won’t have anything like a full compliment of players to choose from, though did reveal a handful of players are on the comeback trail.

Klopp admitted no one who was ruled out against West Ham in midweek will be fit to feature. However, he noted the rarely seen Naby Keita has returned to light sessions.

A hamstring injury has limited Keita to just nine minutes of action this season. As such, Klopp claimed the Guinea international has effectively been placed in pre-season mode to ensure he does not suffer another untimely setback.

Liverpool midfield injuries finally easing

Regarding Keita, the German manager said: “Tomorrow too soon? Yes! We can’t rush it, a tough injury. Only in parts of training.

“Ibou [Konate] will be in full team training [next week]. It’s football pre-season if you like. Ox Oxlade-Chamberlain] is 1-2 weeks ahead of Naby. What happens in the summer no-one knows at the moment.”

The last comment was in reference to Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s long-term futures at Liverpool. Both players – as well as James Milner – are out of contract next summer.

On Keita specifically, Klopp later added: “What we can do in rehab with tough muscle injuries is everything but team training.

“Nothing can replace football sessions. Different intensity. So it’s football-part of ‘pre-season’ for him.

“He can run a marathon but he needs different movements.”

Curtis Jones returned to the bench for the visit of Man City last weekend. The academy graduate then got a handy 33 minutes off the bench against the Hammers on Wednesday.

Explaining his recent absences, Klopp added: “Some freak injuries, a finger in the eye!

“Stress reaction too, with young players these things happen, he’s still growing, but it’s perfect to have him back.

“An exceptional talent who can play different positions. Space for improvement, that’s normal.”

Finally, Klopp kept his cards close to his chest regarding Darwin Nunez’ fitness.

The Uruguayan scored his first goal at Anfield in midweek, though was subbed off mid-way through the second half through precaution.

Klopp later claimed Nunez complained of a slight muscle tweak during half time and his substitution soon after was down to Klopp taking no chances.

When asked for an update on the former Benfica hitman, Klopp simply said: “We will see.”

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