John Barnes says Liverpool will need to be cruel to be kind as they look to get back on track in the title defence without Virgil van Dijk.
Barnes says Jurgen Klopp and co. need to stop the talk surrounding Van Dijk and concentrate on the players available to the German coach.
Van Dijk’s injury has left Klopp seriously short at centre-back because Joel Matip and now Fabinho are also struggling with injury.
Jordan Pickford’s tackle on Van Dijk in the Merseyside derby is likely to see the defender miss the whole season with an ACL tear.
Barnes though says the big defender needs to be brushed to the back of Liverpool’s thoughts as they look to topple Everton at the top of the table.
Barnes “Losing a player like Virgil van Dijk is a huge loss for Liverpool but it depends on how much the team focuses on losing him for this season. If they spend too much time thinking about playing without him, then it will naturally become a negative factor.
“I remember when I was playing, whenever big players got injured it was always the Liverpool philosophy that the team is the most important thing, which is something that Jurgen Klopp has brought back.”
Barnes, who played for Liverpool for 10 years, recalls his time at Anfield and says “big players” were ignored if they got injured.
“If a big player got injured, no matter who they were, the staff didn’t even speak to him, which may sound cruel but that’s just how it was,” added Barnes.
“I say this with love and with affection for all the staff, at Liverpool the whole philosophy was no matter who you if you’re injured, you can’t help the team to win the game on Saturday so they don’t focus on you at all.
“I found it so strange when I first went to Liverpool because I remember my first injury and I’m doing really well and all of a sudden, they do not talk to you.
“This must be the attitude that the club takes with [Virgil] Van Dijk. If they focus too much on his injury, it can affect the players and it will become a big deal that he isn’t playing. We of course miss him and rate him very highly, but he’s not around and we need to deal with that.”
Asked whether Klopp needs to a sign a new defender, Barnes added: “It is too early to say whether Liverpool should look to bring in a new centre-back in the January transfer window as it has only been three games without Virgil van Dijk and the team hasn’t lost yet.
“If it comes to January and the team hasn’t conceded many goals and has won every game, then we (Liverpool) won’t need to bring in a new defender. We will have to see how Liverpool get on before jumping to conclusions that we need a new centre half.”
Barnes, 56, also says new signing Diogo Jota does not yet warrant a place in the starting XI, despite three goals in three Premier League and Champions League starts.
“At this moment in time, Diogo Jota would not get picked ahead of one of the front three players, but he is pushing for a starting place. If he keeps going the way he has started the season, he will put pressure on the three starting attackers – it’s a good thing to have competition for places,” said Barnes.
“Before this season, if one of the front three was to get a long-term injury then you would start to worry as Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi weren’t good enough to replace them, but now with Jota coming in, I have full faith that he would come into the starting team and do equally as well as any of the current front three.”
“His price tag of £40m, it doesn’t make any difference, whether he is sitting on the bench or starting. People can complain about a £40m player sitting on the bench, but if you were to put him in the team and drop Mo Salah, then you have an £80m now sitting on the bench.
“If teams want a strong squad, that is the money that you have to spend to bring them in, so for me, his price tag is completely irrelevant.”