Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has praised Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ability to deliver in crucial moments as the debate continues over whether he deserves a place in England’s Euro 2020 squad.
Gareth Southgate names his 26-man party next Tuesday and, having omitted the 22-year-old right-back out of internationals in March, there remains a doubt as to whether he will be recalled for this summer’s tournament.
Alexander-Arnold has displayed his best form of the season over the last couple of months, putting in a man-of-the-match display in last week’s win at Manchester United and providing the assist from a corner for Alisson Becker’s 95th-minute winner at West Brom.
The academy graduate is already a Champions League and Premier League winner and famously delivered on the biggest stage when his smart thinking in taking a quick corner led to Divock Origi scoring the crucial fourth goal in the 2019 Champions League semi-final comeback win over Barcelona.
His assist for Alisson was his seventh in the league this season – the highest number for a defender – and he has 33 in 127 career league appearances.
“This was a world-class corner, not the first, hopefully not the last of Trent,” said Klopp.
“Nat Phillips could have scored if he had left his eyes open. If Ali had missed the ball I think Sadio was in a quite interesting position, that’s how good the corner was.
“We shouldn’t take these things for granted. We saw brilliant players, world-class players, in decisive moments delivering rather average set-pieces as it is quite common in the last seconds of the game there is a free-kick or a corner.
“The corner, the cross made it happen – Ali had only to put his head on it but he did that quite well.”
Alexander-Arnold’s return to form has arrived at seemingly the right time on the eve of a major tournament but Southgate may still need some persuading to bring back the defender.
Klopp, however, is in no doubt.
“He played a good season. He had a problem in that he played with roundabout 20-odd different centre-half pairings, which is just tricky,” he added.
“He is still a young player, he has a much bigger part in organising the last line than he had previously.
“It means from a young, world-class talent to a defensive organiser is a step but he did that as well so yes, he is in a good moment and long may it continue for us.
“Without Trent’s game – not only his – we would be in a different place.”
Someone else Klopp has no doubts over is Mohamed Salah, who continues to linked with a move away.
The Egypt international scored his 31st goal of the season – and 22nd in the league – at the Hawthorns but was even more delighted at seeing Alisson snatch the winner.
“We are together every day and I know how much Mo is committed to this team and this club, so I don’t need a goal celebration to realise ‘Oh look, now everyone can see it’,” Klopp said ahead of their trip to Burnley as they look for the first of two wins which will secure a top-four spot.
“I was never in doubt about his love for his team-mates or the club, not for one second.”
Liverpool’s late push for Champions League qualification could be boosted by the surprise reappearance of Diogo Jota, who did not play at West Brom and had been ruled out of the remainder of the season due to a problem with a bone in his foot.
However, a second assessment of the injury has left the forward in with a slim chance of being available for Liverpool’s last home match of the season against Crystal Palace.
“The swelling went down and it looked better than first scan. So it’s a tiny chance for the weekend,” said Klopp.
“But good news for Portugal and Diogo himself, the Euros are not in danger. We will see if it’s good enough for us.”
Klopp also paid tribute to former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, who has announced will leave Crystal Palace at the end of the season and will not manage in the top flight again.
The German said: “Roy Hodgson is one of the greats of our business. My former manager at Mainz, Wolfgang Frank, showed us a lot of videos of Arrigo Sacchi but also Roy Hodgson with Switzerland so I knew him long, long before I met him.”
On whether he saw himself managing at a similar age to Hodgson, Klopp added: “No, no chance.
“Hopefully I am healthy and alive then, that would already be a great achievement, but no, I would not coach anymore.”