Craig Bellamy: I’d be concerned if Coutinho didn’t want to take Barcelona’s offer

In his first PP News column the former Reds striker cuts right to heart of the Brazilian’s transfer saga and gives Mike Ashley a thumbs up at Newcastle…


When a footballer tells the boss he wants to go, then managers tend to move on quite quickly, because in their heads they have to.

If a player came to see me and asked to leave, I’d want to know the reason why and if it was a club like Barcelona I’d understand. At the same time, if the footballer sees his future elsewhere then as a manager I have to prepare and move on to other targets.

I can understand why Liverpool want to hold on to Philippe Coutinho – a lot of clubs are taking a hard-line now. They don’t have to sell these days.

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But Coutinho has to want to leave – of course he does. It’s very easy to point the fingers at footballers but, no matter what your job is, if you had the chance to go to the best in the business, getting paid way more than you are, then you’re going to want to take that offer up.

In fact, I’d be concerned if Coutinho didn’t want to take up Barcelona’s offer.

Even if Coutinho has to stay at Anfield, I don’t see his relationship with Klopp turning into an Antonio Conte/Diego Costa situation though. I’m sure they’ll get to a solution where they say, ‘Look, it hasn’t happened. Let’s get the best football out of you’.

It’s a World Cup season as well and Brazilians will want more than anything to play in that tournament. That’s because you’re only a success as a Brazilian if you win a World Cup.

Can Klopp shut up shop?

I like watching Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. I enjoy the way they attack, especially on the counter – they’re one of the best at it, the pace they break with is immense.

My concern is when they’re attacking in the final third Liverpool seem very vunerable to the counter themselves. That’s been their biggest weakness with Klopp at the helm and it still hasn’t been addressed yet.

He has tried to sign players to shore the defence up, but he hasn’t been able to get those players over the line.

Klopp will be more frustrated than anyone, because they’re what the club needs.

I believe getting Virgil van Dijk is nigh-on impossible now and it appears Klopp’s heart was set on him, as well as Naby Keita from RB Leipzig.

But, to me, it looks like unless he gets the players he wants, which looks unlikely, then he’s not going to move in the market.

Keita and van Dijk would have definitely helped Liverpool with their set-pieces issue. From my coaching experience now I have to say you can’t underestimate the importance of set-pieces and I’m sure Jurgen Klopp knows that.

I’ve worked with some managers who spent a lot of time on them, organising as much as we could to defend them and we still conceded from set plays on a regular basis.

But then I’ve been with other bosses, like the Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and we did very little on set-pieces. Yet, he was the best at them attacking and defending.

O’Neill was very simple with his instructions and he signed players he knew could attack the ball at both ends of the field, that’s what he expected from them.

Newcastle fans need to embrace mighty Mike

I’m sure Newcastle will do business in the next few weeks, as they’re short in a few areas.

The owner is a very wealthy man, and the fans want him to spend loads of money.

But the club doesn’t need to run into debt. For one of the first times in Newcastle’s history, they are running without debt.

I know it’s not what Newcastle fans want to hear because they want to be competing. They want to be spending £50m on players. However, Mike Ashley wants to keep the club in a healthy situation.

The only way I can ever see them competing at the top, top level again and being in the Champions League is if a new owner comes in.

But, I tell you what Mike Ashley has done; he’s got Newcastle to such a good place that if I was a foreign owner they are the club I’d want to buy.

There’s no mess there financially, they own the training ground and they’re the one team I’d advise them to invest in.

At this present moment, I’d rate them just above the relegation zone. Rafa Benitez needs to be happy and he does like a bit of spending.

So it’s a frustrating time for him at the moment, but there’s still some business to be done and I’m sure Rafa’s knowhow should be enough to keep The Magpies in the Premier League.

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