Jurgen Klopp will not be surprised if Christian Benteke comes back to haunt Liverpool on Saturday. Liverpool paid £32.5million to sign the striker from Aston Villa in the summer of 2015 but then sold him a year later to Crystal Palace.
Now Benteke will line up against Liverpool for the first time since leaving Anfield and will no doubt be looking to prove a point.
The Belgium striker has made a good early impression at Palace, scoring three goals in seven Premier League games, and he has an admirer in Klopp despite the decision to let him go.
The Reds boss said of Benteke’s form: “It’s no surprise. When you have a player like Christian in your squad, of course we knew about his quality.
“But every player needs the space to perform, to develop and to show things. For different reasons we couldn’t give him all the time (he needed), you lose a little bit of confidence, you feel pressure.
“We couldn’t change it and I thought, and I’m pretty sure Christian thinks the same, it made sense. He made the transfer so, for Crystal Palace, what a player.
“We know it best because we had him all the time in training and in all moments he showed always his quality.”
Keeping a large squad full of international players happy is a perennial issue for the Premier League‘s top managers.
But the German insisted his is a happy camp, saying: “I’m always honest and I say my door and the door in the team is always open but it’s about performing.
“We have always this agreement: work hard, don’t talk too much, win games. If a player doesn’t want to be happy I can’t keep him happy, but if he wants to be happy it’s quite easy for me to keep him happy.
“Being happy only when you make 48 games, it’s difficult for each player. To feel you are important for the team, that’s 100 per cent true for each player in the squad. I think it’s not too difficult to be happy in our team.”
A young Reds team defeated Tottenham in the EFL Cup in midweek and Klopp’s impact has been praised by Sir Alex Ferguson.
The former Manchester United manager said the German has revived Liverpool’s enthusiasm and that the Reds are title contenders.
“I’m not sure it’s allowed if I say I like Alex Ferguson as Liverpool manager,” said Klopp with a smile.
“I knew him before and he’s a really nice person. He did what he had to do at Manchester and that automatically means it’s not good for Liverpool.
“When he has to say something positive about Liverpool, it’s better than if he would say something negative so it’s all good. But it doesn’t mean a lot. It doesn’t disturb us or help us.”
Klopp, meanwhile, declined to comment on reports that Liverpool have signed 15-year-old Bury defender Emeka Obi and insisted no decision has yet been made about the future of Melwood.
It has been reported that the Reds are ready to sell their long-term training base in order to bring all age groups under one roof.
Currently the academy and youth teams train at Kirkby and there is no room to expand Melwood. Klopp said: “It makes sense to improve the circumstances. We didn’t finally decide about it because it’s not all in our hands but of course we have to think about developing things, to make it more likely to get the best out of our talents, to have the best circumstances for the first team, the under-23s, all the youth teams, and space is an important thing to think about.”
Watch Klopp’s press conference in full: