Ahead of Saturday night’s game against Newcastle United, Jürgen Klopp has revealed his hard-nosed side when it come down to team selections, stating: “I am the friend of the players, but not their best friend”.
Against Barcelona, the German went for a midfield three of James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum, and Naby Keïta, unexpectedly leaving Jordan Henderson out of the starting XI.
The captain eventually came on for the injured Keïta – who will now miss the end of the season – as Klopp explained fixture build-up and keeping Hendo fresh for the title charge influenced his decision.
So Naby Keita’s season is said to be over, with an estimated recovery time of two months.
How would you rate the Guinean’s first season at Liverpool? 🗣🇬🇳 pic.twitter.com/ITYRg0S1hp
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) May 4, 2019
“In your question is immediately involved the idea that Newcastle is not as important as Barcelona,” Klopp claimed, as he argued the games at Camp Nou and St James’ Park were equally important.
“Because Hendo played five games in a row, outstanding shape. I usually don’t like to explain things like this but I do it once.
“Five games in a row, the only one in the midfield who did that. And three games in six days were coming.
“So it’s clear Hendo can not play these three games – so you tell me which is the most important one?”
And he’s right to be honest. It’s Henderson’s work rate and stamina that have seen him clock up so many appearances this season, but he can’t play every game pushing himself to the edge.
Having not started against Barça, the captain looks very likely to come back into the side as we look to travel to Newcastle for three points from Rafa as take back pole position from Manchester City.
Ok I’ve said it before but how can people say Jordan Henderson isn’t a top player. He makes Liverpool tick #lfc
— Stephen Elliott (@SleevesElliott) April 26, 2019
“It was clear Hendo would play (against Barcelona) but wouldn’t start,” Klopp went on to say.
“Naby’s now injured but you try to avoid that sometimes with different line ups. Naby didn’t play that number of games like all the others so he could have been more resistant against injury but it happened still.
“How I said, I am the friend of the players, but not their best friend. So I can not make decisions because of ‘that’s a big game so you can have this and a picture’, all that stuff.
“I am not like this – I never was, I never will be. I make decisions for good reasons – my good reasons obviously. And sometimes people understand them and sometimes not.
“But I expect in situations like this the understanding of the players. It’s not a case of a lot of explanation around that. There will be reactions, but not from the players I hope.”
In comments like this, Klopp seems to actually belie the sentimental label he often gets branded with. Yes, he can be an idealist, but you don’t get this far in management without having a shrewd and pragmatic streak.
We trust the boss to make the right decisions to win us games – that’s all. The players should understand that they have a job to do and their turn will come.