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Saturday, 13 January 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Liverpool in no short supply of magicians

LIVERPOOL fans can’t help but feel a sense of deja-vu following the British record sale of £142mil (RM772mil) Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona last week.

Just when it feels like the team is about to hit top gear with quality players both new and old emerging in the team to take the club to new heights, their best player leaves.

The more recent examples include Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling (debatable, but still a quality player) and now Coutinho.

The same predicament was also a whisker away from happening to club legend Steven Gerrard, who almost joined Chelsea back in 2005.

Following Coutinho’s transfer to Barcelona, he posted a goodbye message to Liverpool FC and their fans: “I gave 100%, 100% of the time I played for Liverpool. Five years, I did everything I could possibly do. I love this club, but it is time for a new adventure. I have so many memories and have so many people to thank at Liverpool.”

There are many reasons why a top player decides to leave. Some of them leave because they have achieved most of what they can achieve in their present club and want a new challenge elsewhere.

Some move because they can earn a higher wage elsewhere while others leave because they do not think their present team is strong enough to realistically challenge for silverware.

And, there are the players who say “It has always been my dream to play...”

Coutinho is this sort of player.

“I would not have left for any other club, but Barcelona is something different. It is a dream, a place of magic for me. When I was young I would watch Ronaldinho play, I would watch him give magic. Now they have Messi doing the same,” Liverpool’s former little magician said after he completed the transfer.

To be fair, most South American players tend to have this “dream” of playing for either Real Madrid or Barcelona, mainly because they grew up watching other top quality South American players playing for these two clubs.

The selling club’s fans understandably, are often enough aghast when their best players decides to leave the club. Fans even brand the player with unflattering labels or burn jerseys with the player’s name in anger.

The fact is football has always seen big transfers all the time, its just that fans sometimes expect too much of professional football players.

Many football fans are guilty of expecting players to stay loyal to their club simply because the club pays their wages.

But many forget that players themselves also have their own dreams, desires and motivations and they have only about 15-20 years to achieve these targets before they have to retire. Some may not even have that long if they suffer a career-ending injury.

Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Thierry Henry, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Didier Drogba are just some of the top class players who had left their club ,where they were idolised, to play elsewhere.

If Liverpool fans are upset with Barcelona for pinching Suarez and Coutinho over the past three years, imagine how Southampton fans might feel of the Reds buying six of their players since 2014.

I know there will be games where Liverpool might struggle to unlock a resolute defence and the fans would have wished they had Coutinho on the pitch to conjure up a moment of magic.

This season, Liverpool have been banging in a lot of goals, largely thanks to Mohamed Salah, who is also the Premier League’s top goal scorer, but continued to look shaky in defence as they have over the past several seasons.

However, in a move that stunned fans and the footballing world, Liverpool paid a record breaking £75mil for a defender in Virgil Van Dijk, who in turn had a dream debut when he scored the winning goal against Everton in last weekend’s FA Cup tie.

Having scored in front of the Kop, fans are already hailing their new recruit and believe the Dutchman’s commanding presence can help improve the team’s troubles at the back as well as provide a goal scoring threat during setpieces.

Liverpool fans would be hoping Van Dijk will be at his best when they take on runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City tomorrow.

It is just the type of test Liverpool need if they want to show the footballing world that they can compete with the best and whether a team under Klopp can still improve after selling one of its best players.

Home advantage and the team’s recent trip to Dubai to relax and unwind after the packed festive fixtures might be enough to see off the Citizens who had a midweek game against Bristol City in the semifinal of the Carabao League Cup first leg.

Elsewhere, Chelsea host Leicester City in another potentially exciting encounter today.

It will be interesting to see if Blues manager Antoino Conte will continue his war of words with Man Utd counterpart Jose Mourinho after both managers openly revealed their dislike for each other through the media.

It is quite entertaining for neutral observers, but for fans of both this teams, pride is definitely on the line as they try to get the better of each other.

Leicester will be hoping to capitalise on Chelsea's tough stalemate against Arsenal in their midweek League Cup clash, and get a positive result.

Meanwhile, I do not see Tottenham being charitable for the second league game in a row following last week’s meek 1-1 draw against struggling West Ham when Everton visit Wembley today.

Spurs were desperately unlucky in that game, having had 31 attempts at goal.

Harry Kane and co should be able to wrap this game up with a comfortable win.

As for Arsenal, I feel for them. With rumours on Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil’s reluctance to sign a new contract and the strong possibility of them leaving the club, or even worse, leave for free in the summer, it makes the mood within the team a gloomy one.

Arsene Wenger has to steady his ship very soon, or the protracted saga might have a negative effect on the rest of the squad.