Jurgen Klopp believes England manager Gareth Southgate should have no concerns about playing Trent Alexander-Arnold in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The Liverpool right-back has come in for criticism from sections of the media for his defensive displays this season, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville claiming he should not feature in knockout games should the Three Lions make it that far in Qatar.
Alexander-Arnold was named in Southgate’s 26-man squad on Thursday, and Klopp has backed his player, pointing to the numerous finals he has played in and trophies he has won.
“It’s nice. It’s a big tournament, everybody dreams of these kind of things and he was very pleased about the news and I am very happy for him,” Klopp said at a press conference on Friday.
Though Alexander-Arnold has been questioned about his defensive work, he has averaged more progressive passes per 90 minutes (9.5) than any other player in the Premier League this season.
The 24-year-old has played in three Champions League finals, winning one, as well as lifting both the EFL Cup and FA Cup with Liverpool last season.
9.5 – Trent Alexander-Arnold (9.5) has averaged more progressive passes per 90 minutes than any other player in the Premier League this season. Laser.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe)
“I know Trent now for long enough, he knows that apart from playing football he has no influence [on selection decisions], it’s a lot of talk around him,” Klopp added.
“I heard now that Gary Neville said something about in the knockout games [Alexander-Arnold] cannot play or whatever, I’m not sure he said it really or somebody wrote it down and changed the words a little bit.
“He is now 24, he won quite a few finals, that’s a very important game where you have to defend, he played finals against Chelsea last year for example, they were incredibly intense and world-class players were in moments better than players they face at the World Cup, definitely.
“[Champions League] finals against Tottenham and Real Madrid, he was always there and he always defended well. I don’t know exactly why we have this discussion but it’s fine.
“I think he would have been disappointed if he had not been there… I saw his face and realised he was really happy about it.”
Klopp’s Liverpool host Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday in their final game before the World Cup, with the visitors bringing a new manager to Anfield after Ralph Hasenhuttl was replaced by Nathan Jones this week.
“I actually thought Ralph Hasenhuttl did an exceptional job there,” Klopp said. “Everything has its time, but if Southampton showed anything then it was for sure attitude. They were a highly-motivated team, always really going for it.
“Yes, with a new manager there might be an extra few per cent if that’s possible but for us that’s not our problem because we always expect a really motivated opponent.”