***Originally published on July 24.
Jamie Carragher has said that he would love to see Philippe Coutinho return to Liverpool this summer.
Coutinho was a fan favourite at Anfield during his five years at the club, scoring 54 goals in 201 games before his move to Barcelona in January 2018.
The Catalan club paid £142m for the midfielder. Liverpool used those funds to sign Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker and became European champions as Coutinho floundered in Barcelona.
The Brazilian looks set to be on the move this summer after an unhappy spell with the Spanish champions and Carragher would be delighted if his former teammate returned to Liverpool.
Carragher believes that Coutinho could solve a problem in Jurgen Klopp’s team, adding creativity to their midfield.
“I still think they can improve in midfield,” Carragher told Pundit Arena in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon.
“I still think they could add a creative player. They tried to sign one last season in (Nabil) Fekir, he’s actually gone this summer for a lot cheaper (joining Real Betis for €19.7m).
“I said it before, I’d love to see Liverpool bring Coutinho back if that was possible in any way. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out for him at Barcelona. I just think that would be a great addition. You’ve got Lallana and Shaqiri in those positions, but they’re not Coutinho. He would give Liverpool something that they don’t have compared to City.”
Coutinho’s return to Anfield looks unlikely, with Paris Saint-Germain a possible destination for the Brazilian. However, Carragher isn’t worried about Liverpool’s inactivity in the transfer market. The former England defender fully trusts the club’s approach and believes fans of the club will be feeling likewise.
“In years gone by, if Liverpool hadn’t signed a player by now, there’d be wars going on,” he said.
“Now, everyone has so much confidence in the club, they know exactly what they’re doing. The owners, what they’ve done for the club. You think when Rafa (Benitez) was there, we won the Champions League, (but) it still felt like there were things going on in the background, in-fighting with different people. It never felt like Liverpool were one club, really. I think the other era was Gerard Houllier, but you never felt we could really compete financially with United at that time.”
“Right now, it just feels like Liverpool, if they need to spend big, they can. They’ve got one of the top managers around, a great squad, the stadium now, the stand. It’s probably the best place Liverpool have been in over 30 years. It feels like the best time that Liverpool have had as a club probably going back to before Hillsborough in some ways. It feels like there’s a real connection, there’s not one faction, so the supporters are loving what’s happening. I think they’re all proud of the team they have, they love the manager.”
Jurgen Klopp’s side pushed Manchester City all the way last season, racking up 97-points – the most points ever gained by the runners-up in the English top-flight – and only lost one game, a 2-1 defeat to the champions back in January.
Liverpool did almost everything right, but the wait for their first league crown since 1990 goes on. Carragher expects Liverpool to be City’s closest challengers again for the Premier League title, but he warned that another 97-point season may be beyond them.
He urged Klopp’s side to focus on adding to their trophy cabinet by winning cups and making sure the club doesn’t endure another silverware drought – like the one they experienced between 2011, when they won the League Cup, and June’s Champions League victory.
“I think it’ll be very difficult to improve on 97 points,” he said.
“I mean, only losing one league game was a phenomenal achievement. 97 points was a phenomenal achievement. So, in some ways, if Liverpool got 90 points, I don’t think they’d have gone backwards, because it’s so difficult to do again. But, they’ve just got to hope that City come back as well, a little bit.
“I think over the next two or three years Liverpool have got to be looking to try to pick up as many trophies as possible,” Carragher continued.
“This group of players have got to be looking at this next three or four years because Klopp’s got three years left on his contract. I’m not sure if he would sign another one. He’s only ever stayed at a club for seven years. Over these next three years, don’t just look and say, ‘we’ve won the Champions League’. You want the league, that’s the obvious one. But (they could look back and say), ‘we got the FA Cup and two Carabao Cups’. They’ve got competitions this year, the World Club Cup, the Super Cup, just pick as much as you can before he goes. And hopefully, over the next two or three years, one of those will be the league for Klopp.”
In the Premier League era, Liverpool have arguably never entered a new season with such positivity. Carragher said that a patchy opening to the new season could potentially cause an issue if the players start comparing their results to the previous campaign.
However, he doesn’t expect that to happen, arguing that Klopp’s side have the mental strength to push City all the way once again.
“Liverpool could easily lose two games in their first 10, and that wouldn’t be the worst form in the world,” he said.
“You know, they could win seven, draw one, lost two. And normally you’d say, ‘that’s an alright, decent start that’. But because you only lost one last season, if that does happen it’s how you cope with that psychologically.
“But this team has been called, ‘mentality monsters’ by Jurgen Klopp, so I’m sure whatever is thrown at them in the early stages, I think they’ll be able to deal with, the managers, the players, they’ve proven that. It will be very interesting this season, I think it’ll be very difficult to replicate what they did because it was so good last season.”
Jamie Carragher & Brian O’Driscoll launch ‘Sports Extra’ on Sky. ‘Sports Extra’, which has six sports channels; BT Sport 1, 2, 3, ESPN and Premier Sports 1 & 2, will be available to new & existing Sky Sports customers from August 1 for just €10 extra a month. Alongside Sky Sports, the new pack will give sports fans an unbeatable range of sports and for the first time they can watch every single live Premier League game across Sky Sports, BT Sport and Premier Sports, all in one place.