Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists the situation with Philippe Coutinho is “all good” after speaking with the wantaway playmaker on his return from international duty.
The Brazil international handed in a transfer request almost a month ago in an attempt to force through a move to Barcelona, who had three bids rejected after owners Fenway Sports Group insisted the 25-year-old was not for sale.
He has not yet played a match for the Reds this term because of a reported back injury but, having joined up with his national side for World Cup qualifiers, he made two substitute appearances against Ecuador and Colombia, scoring a trademark goal against the former.
Coutinho returned home via private jet on Wednesday with club-mate Roberto Firmino, Manchester City trio Ederson, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus and Chelsea’s Willian after the three Premier League clubs once again pooled their resources to ensure their players were back in the country as soon as possible.
He trained with the rest of the squad on Thursday and afterwards Klopp told liverpoolfc.com: “Of course – all good, all good. Nothing else to say, actually, so he’s back and we had a really good conversation, so good.”
But while relations were said to be friendly, it is doubtful Coutinho, who played a combined 47 minutes for Brazil, will feature against Manchester City on Saturday.
“I know what people think but Phil had the back problem a few weeks ago and couldn’t train so that means he missed around about three weeks,” Klopp added.
“Yes, he went to the national team and trained normally, but now we have to prepare for a normal season so we have seven games (before the next international break).
“We saw training this morning and thought, ‘Okay, maybe we should use him immediately’, because he was really good, but that doesn’t make sense.
“We have now to continue with the pre-season, not too long, but in a few sessions we have to give ourselves the time because in the next month we have seven games.
“We always have the same decision to make: ‘Does he need training or can he play?’ and all that stuff.
“Yes, he will now do a little bit more than the other boys but he showed up in a very, very good mood and looks really promising.”
Youngster Ben Woodburn also returned to Melwood on the back of two impressive substitute appearances and a senior debut for Wales.
The 17-year-old has yet to feature in Liverpool’s match-day squads this season, appearing once for the under-23s, but Press Association Sport understands he is set to be offered a senior contract when he turns 18 next month.