With a contract expiring in 2018 and patchy form in midfield, many questions surround the future of Emre Can. Before the game against Hull City, Klopp talked about a player who retains his trust and remains part of his plans for the future.
“Maybe if he didn’t know what I think it would affect him but he knows what I want,” Klopp said. “I speak to the players, not the press. If I say yes it puts pressure on the club to do it immediately.
“If I say no the player thinks I do not want him any more. Emre knows exactly what we want. That’s the only thing that matters.”
Can doesn't seem to fit any of the positions in midfield compared with captain Jordan Henderson, season debutant Georginio Wijnaldum, and the repositioned Adam Lallana as Klopp switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3. The 23-year-old excelled in the double pivot alongside Henderson last season and entered this campaign as a key player. Now it seems he no longer has a clear role in Klopp’s system.
Although Can only turned 23 last month, he lacks the positioning to play deeper but seems bereft of composure or guile in the middle to final third to help build Liverpool attacks. He is still developing, though, and has excelled in big games where his physicality and energy have helped Liverpool compete. Klopp did reveal that Can has been battling a calf issue this season, and that could explain some of his inconsistent form.
“Emre has for the first time had no problems with his calves,” Klopp revealed. “We need him. In different parts of the game he is really consistent for us, and Chelsea was his best game for a few weeks, that is for sure. He has this calf issue which we are still looking into and trying to find out why. Is it his back? Is it his ankle?
“It lets him stay on the pitch but it makes him struggle a little bit. We could have said ‘stay off for two or three weeks’, but we don’t have a lot of options.
“We’ve tried to work on this while he is playing. It would be nice if we have now found the exact reason and the solution. Everyone could see the difference when he’s able to play without issues.”
Liverpool might need to look at increasing options in the summer to perhaps avoid pushing players through injury, but until then, Can has a role to play with just 15 games remaining. Klopp’s arrival at the club ensured that Can finally played in midfield where he thrived, but maybe too much is expected from him. In terms of league minutes and starts this season, Can ranks twelfth in comparison to fourth in 2015/16.
He has been the player Klopp turns to when injury or suspension strikes in midfield or attack, but the return of Sadio Mané should see Can return to being one of the first options from the bench. Can has looked ponderous on the ball as Liverpool struggled last month, but the German international has also played his part against Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea.
Despite links with Juventus, Emre Can remains focused on the task ahead. For a squad in need of strengthening, agreeing an extension to Can’s contract keeps a solid option in midfield. He may be a player with no clear role in a three-man midfield but represents the best depth Liverpool have in any position. Can is too talented to give up on just yet, and with his skill set, Liverpool have a fine defensive midfielder in the making.