Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that it is “unfortunate” that Manchester United have signed – and got the best out of – Bruno Fernandes.
The Portuguese midfielder has contributed directly to 30 goals in 34 Premier League appearances since joining from Sporting last January.
But as well as his scoring contributions, he continues to serve as as a crucial leader for his teammates.
His continued presence and effect in December won him last month’s Premier League Player of the Month award. Indeed, that was his fourth such accolade in a calendar year – a new English record.
The 26-year-old will travel to Liverpool on Sunday looking to extend his side’s lead over their arch rivals at the top to six points.
Klopp said in his pre-match press conference (via Liverpoolfc.com): “He’s an outstanding player. We played against him before he joined United, we played against Sporting in the USA on the [pre-season] tour.
“In that game, already you could see ‘wow’, everybody knew him. But the first time my team played against a team he was involved in, you could really see that he’s a difference maker.
“That’s what he shows now, he’s settled, he’s a very influential player for United. I know people talk mostly about his goal involvements which is very important, but he is the link-up for a lot of other situations as well.
“I don’t know him well enough but he seems to be a leader as well. So, good signing – unfortunately – for United.”
As for Liverpool’s team news, Klopp could not confirm whether Joel Matip will play a part. The defender is “close” to a return from an adductor injury and could take part in training sessions later on Friday and Saturday.
However, midfielder Naby Keita will not make Sunday’s game. The Guinean has a muscle issue but details over the extent of his injury have remained mostly a mystery – until now.
Klopp clears up Keita injury
“Naby’s not ready for involvement,” Klopp added. “It’s not a big thing but it’s a little bit like with other players in the past.
“When they come back from injuries and because of the amount of games, the situation, they had to play. Then a little injury would happen again.
“So now we had to put the brake on and say ‘Let’s settle it properly’. In the moment, we have alternatives in midfield so we really try to give him all the time he needs to get 100 per cent fit.”
Sunday’s game is Klopp’s 200th league game in charge of Liverpool.
READ MORE: Liverpool U-turn over defensive target