Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admits the continued absence of Philippe Coutinho is jeopardising his side’s season as the transfer saga regarding the wantaway playmaker rumbles on.
Coutinho, who submitted a transfer request on the eve of the Premier League season amid ongoing interest from La Liga outfit Barcelona, has been left out of the Reds squad to face Hoffenheim in Tuesday’s Champions League qualifier.
A back injury was cited for Coutinho’s unavailability for Saturday’s Premier League opener at Watford, which ended in a 3-3 draw, and now Klopp will again be without the 25-year-old as he plots Liverpool’s return to the Champions League group stages.
“Nothing has changed. Not on one side or the other,” said Klopp. “He is not available for us in the moment, that’s the main issue if you want. He cannot play for Liverpool in this moment and, how everybody can imagine, that’s quite a blow for us.
“We’ve known for a few days about it so we can prepare for this game without him, like we have to prepare for the game without Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge.”
Liverpool have rejected a £90m bid from Barcelona for former Inter Milan forward Coutinho, who declared himself “very happy” to sign a new five-and-a-half-year deal at Anfield in January.
“It would have helped us this year [if the window had shut when the season started]. The whole market has changed this year,” added Klopp.
“In the car on the way to the press conference I wasn’t thinking about it [Coutinho]. I only think about the players I have in this moment.”
The situation is not dissimilar to that of Luis Suarez, who was courted in 2013 and submitted a transfer request only to be convinced by then Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard to stay for another year.
Present-day captain Jordan Henderson, however, believes he can have limited impact on the situation. He said: “The transfer window is open and you have to expect things like this to happen. If you ask anyone in the team of course they want him to stay.
“I don’t think I can influence the situation but I can have conversations with him. But at the end of the day anything that happens has nothing to do with me.”
Barcelona, meanwhile, have money to spend following the sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £200m, which was prompted by the six-time Ligue 1 champions activating a release clause in the Brazilian’s contract.
The Catalans are closing in on their first signing since that transfer windfall and have agreed a €40m (£36.4m) deal with Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande for ex-Tottenham midfielder Paulinho.
Paulinho, now 29, made 45 Premier League appearances for Spurs after moving from Corinthians in a deal worth around £17m. He left two years to join the Chinese Super League but is set to be unveiled at Camp Nou on Thursday.
Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said: “Losing Paulinho is a loss to Evergrande, but it is a good thing for Chinese football. It proves that the world’s leading club are paying attention to the Chinese Super League.”