Last season he was seen as Liverpool’s key midfielder for the years ahead, but Emre Can has become more of a divisive figure this season. A player with his abilities shouldn't be allowed to enter the final 12 months of his contract this summer, but an underwhelming campaign has led to some seeing him as expendable.
Can capped an uneven performance in midfield with a match-winning goal and sexy slide to celebrate against Burnley, but he has yet to provide compelling evidence that he should regularly start ahead of Jordan Henderson or Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield. Klopp expects more from a player he has great faith in, and Can himself spoke out on his future, contract, position, progress, and injuries.
“I read in newspapers it was about money but it isn’t about money,” Can said. “We’ve had a few good meetings and everything is fine. I am happy at Liverpool. We will see. You never know what will happen in football but I am happy here.
“It is about the future, what happens. In the last few months the most important thing has been that I am pain-free and we have spoken more about that than the contract.
“We will speak in the next few weeks and months and see what happens. I am happy to leave things until the end of the season.
“I just want to play injury-free. The meetings are with my agent but I am very happy at Liverpool. In the future I hope to play for many years at Liverpool.”
Can went on to deny that his form has been affected by monetary concerns and spoke about the calf issue that has been a concern for him this season. Interestingly, the midfielder revealed that he has been struggling with calf problems for a number of years.
He did, however, take responsibility for performances that could have been better. To his credit, he has done so in recent weeks so his candour should surprise nobody who has been paying attention to what the talented 23-year-old thinks of his season so far.
“No, that’s not the reason,” Can added. “I am happy and I am still contracted here. Everything is fine and I just wanted to say it is never about the money.
“Maybe it was not good that I played always and did not have a break but the last few weeks were better and I feel strong again. I know when I am fit and pain-free I am confident enough and I know what I am going to do.
“I’ve had calf problems for many years and it has been very difficult for me because I’ve played out of position which means more sprints and always 10 minutes into the game I’ve not been able to feel my feet in a few games.
“I didn’t like to go to the Press and say: ‘I am injured’. I didn’t play well when it was my opportunity to play and it was my mistakes.”
There has been much debate about his best position, an issue that may play a role in Can’s discussion with his manager and the club. Is he better suited at playing as a box to box or defensive midfielder? His physicality, drive, leadership, ability, and appetite for duels could make him an ideal fit for the position.
His comments about being “played out of position” leading to “more sprints” suggest that he clearly sees himself as the deepest player in the midfield three, but many aren't convinced about his tactical awareness to excel in that position. Still, Can appears to think he's best suited to playing deep in midfield.
“When I play as the No 8 I have to go forward and sprint more and I had a few problems with my calf,” Can revealed. “When I play at No 6 you don’t have to sprint too much in that position, you are in the middle and you have to make challenges and don’t have to go too far away.
“Maybe the trainer has to decide. I feel good at the moment. I have to come back to the old Emre because when I am fit I know what I am able to do and I am confident enough to know I can play much better than in the past.
“Now I play in a different position now and I don’t sprint too much. Last week against Arsenal was good, against Burnley it was good too and I was pain-free.”
Emre Can is a solid squad player at the moment, but if he gets back to the form shown last season, Liverpool have a midfielder who has something about him like all the best in his position tend to have. Surely a compromise can be found that keeps Can and Liverpool fighting together next season under the Jürgen Klopp’s leadership.