Liverpool owner John Henry has questioned why Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho would want to leave Anfield and the Premier League to play in La Liga, “where the competition is so weak.”
Barcelona paid handsomely to acquire Suarez and Coutinho from Liverpool, but both players will be watching from home as their former club take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday.
“Maybe it’s because I’m an American, but I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would want to leave Liverpool,” Henry told The Associated Press. “The club is so rich in history and tradition, supported by so many millions around the world, in virtually every country of the world.”
Henry acknowledged that Barcelona have history and tradition as well, but he criticised the Spanish league, in which Barca, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have all finished in the top three in each of the past six seasons.
“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”
Barcelona cruised to the domestic title this season — their third in four years — but their Champions League push ended in the quarterfinals for the third straight season.
“They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing,” Henry said.
Henry took over Liverpool in 2010, but he credited manager Jurgen Klopp for turning the club around from an eighth-place Premier League finish in 2016 to the pinnacle of European football this weekend.
“He has done a tremendous job getting us into this position,” Henry said. “He has been just as effective in inspiring not just our players but everyone who loves this club. He is an inspired, natural leader who is sensitive to what some might see as small things, but are very important over the long term.”
He added: “Being in the final is a reflection of the incredible support this club gets at Anfield and the ability [of] Jurgen and the entire staff to put our players in the position to be successful. You can do all of that but the players have to step up and they have.”
The Bostonian also praised midfielder Mohamed Salah — but for his team-first attitude as much as his 44 goals in 51 games.
“His record-setting scoring became one of the biggest stories in England this year,” Henry said. “Perhaps my favorite Anfield songs ever are a couple about Mo. We are proud of more than what he has meant to us on the field.
“It is highly significant for a global club with a particular set of values to have a huge star who personifies what can be accomplished with unity rather than the divisions among people we see so often these days.”