Klopp hopes Liverpool can retain African stars for vital games

Klopp hopes Liverpool can retain African stars for vital games

Jürgen Klopp has said he is optimistic that Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané will be available for travel from Liverpool to Leicester and Chelsea during the holiday season after talks about the postponement of their departure for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Liverpool have approached the Egyptian and Senegalese football associations about the possibility of their main attackers showing up late for a tournament to be held in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6. The club are looking for a similar arrangement with Guinea on Naby Keïta.

According to Fifa regulations, the trio are expected to join their international teams after Liverpool’s Boxing Day match against Leeds. But with crucial visits to Leicester on December 28 and Chelsea on January 2, Liverpool want their departures delayed. That would mean Salah, Mané and Keïta would only miss two Premier League games, at home against Brentford and away at Crystal Palace.

The Liverpool manager said: “It is not yet decided. I’m an optimistic person so I hope so, but it’s not written in stone and not completely in our hands.

Liverpool travel to Wolves on Saturday before traveling to Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday when, with the group won, Klopp is likely to turn. It could see Nat Phillips making his first start to the season and Klopp, who describes the defender’s lack of playing time as unfair, says the 24-year-old could move in January. But he praised a player who was instrumental in qualifying Liverpool for the Champions League this season.

Klopp said: “People often ask me which player has made the biggest improvements under my leadership and I say Robert Lewandowski. That’s probably true, but not far away is Nat Phillips, just in a completely different department.

Nathaniel Phillips (left) celebrates with Roberto Firmino after leading Liverpool 2-0 at Burnley in May. Photograph: Gareth Copley / EPA

“I remember when I saw Nat Phillips for the first time. I spoke to him after the game and he’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever worked with. I said, ‘You know you’re not the nicest to watch?’ But he’s improved in just about everything since then, and he doesn’t play. Sometimes life isn’t fair and I can’t blame it. We can’t keep it forever, that’s clear. We needed him, just to be safe, this semester.

“We’ll see what happens in the window. He was doing it well because he’s a great guy but his development is absolutely insane… I would sign him for any club except Liverpool because we have him.

Klopp, meanwhile, believes that this week’s appointment of World Cup winner in Brazil Claudio Taffarel as additional goalkeeper coach will have a major impact on the career prospects of the club’s young talent.

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“For the boys who aren’t involved on a weekend, we can really work with them properly and consistently,” he said. “We thought someone with their own opinion would be good. We want to challenge ourselves and improve goalkeepers. We had to buy the best goalkeeper in the world for a lot of money [Alisson]. It shouldn’t happen that often anymore. We invest a lot in scouting and youth, and I think we have in Marcelo [Pitaluga] et Harvey [Davies] incredible talents.


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