Jurgen Klopp dropped latest Liverpool summer hint after explaining surprise decision

Roberto Firmino will leave Liverpool at the end of his contract while a decision has to be made on Naby Keita’s future.
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There will scarcely be a Kopite who doesn’t wish Roberto Firmino well as he prepares for a Liverpool exit.

The striker’s opted to end bring the curtain down on his Anfield career when his contract expires this summer. Fresh terms had been offered to Firmino - yet he’s made the decision to depart after eight years of staunch service.

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The Brazil international leaves as a modern-day Reds great. He’ll also move on to the disappointment of his manager.

“Yes, he told me. Surprised? Yes, a little bit but I was not hit by surprise, actually it’s a normal thing to do,” said Jurgen Klopp ahead of Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth.

“It could go two ways and it was one. And I respect that a lot. It’s completely normal in this kind of long relationship that we have and Bobby has with the club and with most of the players and stuff like this, and with the fans of course.

“It’s pretty special and I loved the reception he got when he came on against United. He told me and then the only other thing he said is, ‘Now I want to bring this wonderful story to a positive end.’ So, that’s it. He is completely here and completely committed, how everybody can imagine. And that’s all we need to know.”

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Firmino still has a part to play in the final two-and-a-half months of the season. Liverpool have a dogfight to qualify for the Champions League - and Firmino will want to ensure that is achieved. Starts in the business end of the campaign may be sparse yet his outing off the bench at Bournemouth - albeit an unsuccessful one - shows he’s still very much required.

But with the spotlight already on the summer transfer window, one departure of the five senior players who’re out of contract has been confirmed. Four more decisions are to be made.

James Milner has admitted that he’s weighing up extending his career at the ripe old age of 37. If that is the conclusion he comes to, he has to then mull over whether he spends a ninth season on Merseyside or moves to a club where more game-time will be guaranteed.

Third-choice keeper Adrian also has a similar decision to make, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks almost certain to leave after being omitted from the past Premier League squads.

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The most intriguing, perhaps, has been Naby Keita’s future. Approaching six years since he completed a switch from RB Leipzig (spending the first year back on loan), his time at Anfield has been enigmatic.

Liverpool splashed out £52 million for his services in 2017. It was a club record fee at the time. Certainly, the Youtube clubs of him in action had supporters salivating at what was to come. However, at this current juncture, it appears he’ll be departing on a free transfer.

Keita was absent from the squad yet again for the defeat of Bournemouth. It was the third successive game he’s not featured in. A knock was cited as the reason he missed the 2-0 victory over Wolves. But for the 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United and now Bournemouth, Keita was not involved - despite being spotted in training before both games. That suggests he’s not carrying an injury.

Instead, Arthur Melo - who’s made just one outing after arriving on loan from Juventus - was in reserve for the first time since 1 October. Milner and Jordan Henderson were also on the bench, with teenagers Harvey Elliott and Stefan Bajcetic starting.

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In truth, it was the biggest hint dropped so far that Keita may be heading for pastures. While the Guinea international will depart boasting Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Club World Cup winners’ medals, his time on Merseyside has largely underwhelmed.

It feels like the best decision for all parties. Aged 28, Keita’s in the peak years of his career but his time at Anfield has persistently stuttered. There have been flashes of his quality. Klopp has even previously dubbed Keita one of the best midfielders he’s ever seen on his day, while Virgil van Dijk once hailed him as world-class.

But injuries have blighted the impact Keita’s been able to make. Consistency has also eluded.

Over the past five seasons, Keita has made a meagre 84 Premier League appearances. That works out at an average of 16.8 per campaign - less than half of an entire fixture list. In all competitions, Keita has been handed 145 outings for Liverpool.

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It had been suggested that last summer, his agent - Bjorn Bezemer - held talks with Reds sporting director Julian Ward about a new deal. But in 2022-23, he’s played just 13 times. A hamstring injury that ruled him out until after the World Cup is a chief reason why.

There was a period between January and February when Keita made four successive starts. Yet that culminated in the sobering 3-0 loss at Wolves. He's played only twice since and was hooked off a half-time in a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.

When Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 second leg on Wednesday night, Keita will likely be back on the bench. Competition rules allow 12 substitutes, while Arthur has not been registered to feature.

Keita was signed for such a lofty fee - a club record at the time - earmarked to be the Reds’ midfield maestro in this ilk of encounter. Instead, he might not even get off the bench.

With an engine-room rebuild in the offing, cutting Keita free rather than giving him a new contract on a sizeable salary, plenty will concur, would be the correct one.

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