Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp does not believe Mohamed Salah will be looking for an escape route in search of Champions League football.

Writing on social media after Manchester United’s win over Chelsea on Thursday consigned Liverpool to the Europa League next season, the Egypt forward said he was “devastated” and there was “absolutely no excuse” for not finishing in the Premier League’s top four.

Last summer the 30-year-old signed a new contract, making him the highest-paid player in the club’s history, but even if next term goes to plan and they regain their place in the Champions League he will be close to entering the final 12 months of that deal.

Asked whether he was concerned about Salah’s immediate future after his rare public statement, Klopp said: “No worries, no. I only heard what he said but I couldn’t read anything that could lead in that direction.

“Obviously Mo loves being here and Mo was part of it. He said apologies for what ‘we’ did – not apologies for ‘what the other guys did, but I had to go with them’. It is all fine.

“If ever a player would come to me and said, ‘oh, we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, I have to leave’, I would drive him to the other club myself.

“I would take the key, (and say) ‘come in the car, where do you want to go, I drive you’.

“That would be something I never could understand. It is, I would say, ‘oh, we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, I need to work in the Champions League so I go’.”

Klopp said if that was a mentality he accepted he too would be looking to leave.

“I am responsible for this mess, or whatever, so you cannot go in these moments,” he added.

“It is not the case with Mo, not at all, and nobody else told me. They ask if they can have a longer holiday or whatever – but nobody asks me if after the holiday they have to come back.

“So that was not in our conversation.

“I saw him now in the canteen and he was smiling. I don’t know for which reason as I didn’t ask him, but he is not in a bad mood. That’s it.

“We didn’t point fingers at each other. That’s all good. If you don’t qualify for the Champions League, the best place you can possibly end up is fifth, so that’s what we did.

“If you’d have asked me 10 games ago if that was possible, I’d have said no. That the boys did that is really good but it’s not perfect.

“We didn’t end up fifth because of the last 10 games, we ended up there because of the lack of consistency before that.

“We didn’t deliver what everybody wanted or expected but we are still really united, that’s the good thing about it.”

Failure to qualify for the Champions League is set to cost Liverpool at least £50million next season but there may be implications in the shorter term as UEFA’s second-tier competition is likely to be less attractive to leading players.

The club have already pulled out of the running for primary target Jude Bellingham after the asking price for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder became prohibitive, and reports this week suggested Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount’s preferred destination is Manchester United.

Klopp is keen to get his business done early and is hopeful finishing fifth will not put a spanner in the works of their planning.

“I don’t think so but we will see. That is obviously possible, it’s always possible things don’t go as quick as you want. It’s not only possible, it is probably likely,” he added ahead of Sunday’s final match of the season at Southampton.

“The better the players you want the lesser is the desire of the other club to let him go and that’s exactly what we are prepared for.

“But it’s a long window and a long pre-season and a long break in-between so we have time. If we get in players tomorrow or in six or seven weeks it is not a game-changer for me to be honest.

“In an ideal world they all sign tomorrow and I can tell them when to be here and we can start giving them the plans for the summer break but that will not likely happen.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits his side failed to live up to expectations this season and has no issue with Mohamed Salah saying the team let down fans.

Writing on social media after Manchester United’s win over Chelsea on Thursday night consigned Liverpool to Europa League football, the Egypt international said he was “devastated” and there was “absolutely no excuse” for not making the top four.

Klopp had already resigned himself to not playing Champions League next season and admits he even thought fifth place was out of reach prior to their current 10-match unbeaten run, which includes seven victories.

“It was a just a normal description of his situation, of his feeling, and in that moment directly after the game he’s right, it’s not the moment to immediately send any optimistic messages,” said Klopp.

“But I saw him now in the canteen and he was smiling. I don’t know for which reason as I didn’t ask him, but he is not in a bad mood. That’s it.

“We didn’t deliver what everybody wanted or expected but but we are still really united, that’s the good thing about it.

“The dressing room is not in a bad mood. We have learned to deal with the situation. We didn’t get divided in one moment between manager and team, which is super helpful.

“For a long time and it was clear from a specific point on it would not be a historically good season. We made mistakes, we couldn’t deliver often enough and were not consistent enough.

“We didn’t point fingers at each other. That’s all good. If you don’t qualify for the Champions League, the best place you can possibly end up is fifth, so that’s what we did.

“If you’d have asked me 10 games ago if that was possible, I’d have said no. That the boys did that is really good but it’s not perfect.

“We didn’t end up fifth because of the last 10 games, we ended up there because of the lack of consistency before that.”

Failure to qualify for the Champions League is set to cost Liverpool at least £50million next season but there may be implications in the shorter term as UEFA’s second-tier competition is likely to be less attractive to leading players.

The club have already pulled out of the running for primary target Jude Bellingham after the asking price for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder became prohibitive and reports this week suggested Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount’s preferred destination is Old Trafford.

Klopp is keen to get his business done early and is hopeful finishing fifth will not put a spanner in the works of their planning.

“I don’t think so but we will see. That is obviously possible, it’s always possible things don’t go as quick as you want. It’s not only possible, it is probably likely,” he added ahead of Sunday’s final match of the season at Southampton.

“The better the players you want the lesser is the desire of the other club to let him go and that’s exactly what we are prepared for.

“But it’s a long window and a long pre-season and a long break in-between so we have time. If we get in players tomorrow or in six or seven weeks it is not a game-changer for me to be honest.

“In an ideal world they all sign tomorrow and I can tell them when to be and we can start giving them the plans for the summer break but that will not likely happen likely.”

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah insists there can be no excuse for missing out on Champions League football.

The 30-year-old admits the team has failed and let fans down this season with a fifth-placed finish.

Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Chelsea means fourth place is now out of reach for last season’s beaten finalists.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have underperformed all season and it was only their current 10-match unbeaten run – which included a sequence of seven victories – which gave them a remote chance of qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition.

But their participation in the Europa League, the first time Klopp has not made the top four in a full season at the club, has left Salah frustrated.

“I’m totally devastated. There’s absolutely no excuse for this,” the Egypt international, who rarely makes public statements, wrote in a strongly-worded post on Twitter.

“We had everything we needed to make it to next year’s Champions League and we failed.

“We are Liverpool and qualifying to the competition is the bare minimum.

“I am sorry but it’s too soon for an uplifting or optimistic post.

“We let you and ourselves down.”

In a disappointing season Salah has still scored 30 goals and is only one away from becoming the first player in Premier League history to provide 20 goals and 10 assists in three seasons, which would surpass the record he shares with Thierry Henry.

He is one short of reaching 20 league goals in a season for the fifth time in six years at Liverpool (he scored 19 in the other) and if he manages to score at Southampton on Sunday he will become the first Liverpool player since Roger Hunt in 1965-66 to score 20 league goals for a third successive season.

What the papers say

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson has reportedly made it onto Real Madrid’s transfer radar.

According to the Daily Mail, the 29-year-old Scotland captain is viewed by the LaLiga club as a potential replacement for injury-plagued defender Ferland Mendy. However, Robertson is contracted to Liverpool until 2026 and has shown no intention of leaving.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reports Arsenal are prepared to move mountains in order to fuel their transfer capital. The paper says Gunners bosses are willing to sell as many as eight players to raise funds for their summer transfer pursuits, which includes Leicester’s James Maddison and West Ham’s Declan Rice.

Ajax forward Mohammed Kudus is eager to part ways with the Dutch club, according to The Sun. Citing De Telegraaf, the paper says the 22-year-old is ready for a change of scenery, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle all believed to be interested in the Ghana international.

And The Guardian reports Tottenham are considering approaching Feyenoord boss Arne Slot to take over as Spurs manager.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Ilkay Gundogan: ESPN says Arsenal are interested in a move for the Manchester City midfielder.

Julian Alvarez: Bayern Munich view the Manchester City forward as a summer transfer target, reports Bild.

Virgil van Dijk does not believe missing out on Champions League football makes Liverpool any less attractive to potential new signings.

The last-gasp 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa all-but ended the club’s unlikely pursuit of a top-four place as they now require either Newcastle or Manchester United to lose both their remaining matches.

It is the remotest of possibilities but as transfer planning is well advanced and with Liverpool’s desired rejuvenation of their midfield no secret, Van Dijk insists players will not be deterred from joining even if they face the prospect of playing Europa League football.

“Obviously the chances to reach Champions League football were quite slim but now it makes it more difficult,” said the Netherlands captain.

“Pre-season will be massive. I’m very excited for next season. I think that feeling came a couple of months ago when we turned the page.

“Obviously there’s still a lot to work on but the good thing in this case is that we have the whole pre-season to work on this and that’s definitely the plan.

“The noises I’m hearing, it’s going to be a very intense pre-season with a lot of physical work but also a lot of tactical work trying to get ready for a tough season.

“Players are leaving, hopefully players come in and will be ready for the start of pre-season.

“Everybody knows we’ve been going through a little bit of a transition and, if I’m a player on the rise and I have options to go to the next step and Liverpool is knocking on my door, then I would be very interested.

“I don’t think it’s going to change much but, if someone wants to play Champions League no matter what then that’s their ambition.”

While the draw was not the send off they wanted to give their departing quartet of players, there was the fitting moment of Roberto Firmino coming off the bench to score an 89th-minute equaliser on his final appearance in front of the Kop.

The Brazil international will leave next month when his contract expires, along with midfielders James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, and leaves a huge hole to fill having been an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s game-plan.

January signing Cody Gakpo appears his heir-apparent, having performed the central false nine role in the majority of his appearances.

Compatriot Van Dijk admits it will be impossible to replace Firmino but thinks Gakpo will grow into the role.

“Bobby (Firmino) has been a very big part of the goals and the assists, together with Sadio (Mane) and Mo (Salah), and that creates the headlines,” he said.

“But all the other stuff that the other three have been doing as well shouldn’t go unnoticed and that’s why they’re very respected within the group and also Liverpool fans.

“I think it’s a very difficult role to play and I think Cody’s doing exceptional. He’s still learning, still adapting. In my opinion, Bobby has been one of the best in this role.

“Cody, it’s his first six months and he’s already doing so well, so that’s a positive sign and he has to keep going, keep both feet on the ground – and listen to me!”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp accepted his side have not been good enough to qualify for the Champions League this season.

A 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa not only ended a nine-match winning run but also made their outside hopes of making the top-four even more remote.

They would have to win their final match at Southampton and rely on Newcastle or Manchester United not picking up another point from their remaining two games, an outcome Klopp admits is not going to happen.

“I think the whole season is rather a season where we qualify for Europa League than for Champions League,” he said.

“We were for too long not good enough or ourselves.”

While the draw was a disappointment there was, at least, a memorable end as Roberto Firmino, who is leaving the club after eight influential years, came off the bench to score at the Kop end in the 89th minute to cancel out Jacob Ramsey’s first-half effort.

Firmino was not the only one saying goodbye to Anfield as James Milner and fellow midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, who were not in the matchday squad, are also departing when their contracts end next month and it added to an emotional but frustrating afternoon.

“This day was not an easy day for us – no excuse for anything, it just was not easy because we all love these four boys,” added Klopp.

“The first half was not great I would say. We were too much in a rush in both departments, with the ball, without the ball.

“Our pressing was not good, you could see we wanted but the timing was ‘Wow. ‘Who is where?’ That was not helpful.

“They (Villa) had moments in the game and they are a good football team obviously.

“It was clear in the second half we have to calm down, increase the pressure but calm down in the right areas, and that’s what we did and then you could see the whole game was for Aston Villa super-intense as well.”

Villa boss Unai Emery was satisfied with the performance, despite the late disappointment of conceding an equaliser.

His side moved above Tottenham and will secure European football with victory over Brighton in their final match next week.

“You can analyse 90 minutes in different ways,” Emery said.

“I think the first half we played very well but we played well because to play to avoid the high press is not easy and to play with the personality we did is not easy.

“To have got three points would have been fantastic, we defended very well and our commitment was fantastic.

“I’ve played here before and I know what a difficult match it is here at Anfield. They were in their best moment of the season, confident, trying to get top four.”

Roberto Firmino signed off in fairytale fashion with a goal in front of the Kop on his final Anfield appearance but his 89th-minute strike only earned a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa to leave Liverpool’s Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.

The Brazil international, leaving after eight years, came off the bench to an emotional welcome and responded in perfect fashion with his 110th goal in his 361st and – most likely – penultimate appearance.

That he could not inspire the winner to keep their top-four hopes within realistic reach would have been a massive disappointment to a player who has played an integral part in the huge success under Jurgen Klopp.

But the hosts took too long to respond to Jacob Ramsey’s goal in the first half on a frustrating afternoon as a nine-match winning run came to an end.

Liverpool have not spent a single day in the top four this season and they are now highly unlikely to – barring an aberration – as United’s win at Bournemouth means they need only a point from two matches as the farewell party primarily for stalwarts Firmino and James Milner, but also Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, fell flat.

Klopp had to watch from the stands as he served a one-match touchline ban, and it was probably best he was up there as his side endured an infuriating afternoon in more ways than one.

Referee John Brooks, who was the fourth official in whose face Klopp celebrated against Tottenham which led to his suspension for this game, made a number of decisions that irked the home fans, who believed Aston Villa were time wasting.

Liverpool may argue he made a mistake in not sending off Tyrone Mings for a chest-high challenge on Cody Gakpo in the first half which ripped the Liverpool attacker’s shirt, although the decision was backed by VAR.

They might also complain over Brooks’ interpretation of Ezri Konsa not deliberately playing the ball, meaning Virgil Van Dijk was ruled offside for what would have been Gakpo’s equaliser early in the second half.

But, in truth, Liverpool lacked ideas in the final third, too often sending hopeful crosses into the arms of Emi Martinez as Villa’s well-marshalled defence denied them space in and around the penalty area.

Even Trent Alexander-Arnold’s radar appeared to be off as his usually reliable delivery misfired.

And by the 27th minute the visitors had something to hold on to after Ramsey had put them ahead.

That honour should have gone to Ollie Watkins seven minutes earlier when he raced on to John McGinn’s flick over the top to induce an ill-judged tackle from Ibrahima Konate, but the striker placed his penalty well wide.

Ramsey was not so wasteful as his well-executed volley from Douglas Luiz’s cross whistled past Alisson, who succeeded in denying Ramsey from a well-worked free-kick routine minutes later.

However, Villa, who succeeded in their bid to frustrate both their opponents and most of Anfield, appeared fortunate to finish the half still with 11 men on the pitch.

Brooks only booked Mings for his challenge on Gakpo, verified by VAR who also turned down appeals for a penalty for Luiz’s challenge on Jordan Henderson, as Liverpool closed the half without a shot on target.

Gakpo thought he had an equaliser after the restart when he followed in a rebound from a Konate shot which was blocked on the line by Mings, but VAR invited Brooks to view the pitchside monitor and he overturned his original decision.

The Premier League’s subsequent explanation was that Van Dijk was in an offside position from Diaz’s header and Brooks determined it was a deflection off Konsa and not a deliberate attempt to play the ball.

Still Liverpool pushed without genuinely testing Martinez and even the introductions of Firmino, along with fellow departee Milner, Kostas Tsimikas and Diogo Jota, failed to raise the threat level.

That was until the 89th minute, when the Brazil international slid in to convert Salah’s low cross to sign off in style and set up a frantic spell in 10 minutes of added time. However, as with much of their season, they fell just short.

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino was so determined to play at his Anfield farewell he joked he would have been knocking on Jurgen Klopp’s door had the manager not put him in the squad.

The Brazil international will leave the club this summer after eight years, during which time as part of arguably the best forward line in the world at its peak alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane he won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup.

Beloved by the Kop not just for his talent but for the joy with which he plays the game, Firmino’s last home appearance was put in jeopardy by an injury which only relented this week to allow him to rejoin training.

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He has done everything to get himself back into contention to face Aston Villa and admitted he would have made himself available even if he was not fit.

“If I’m not 100 per cent I would play anyway,” said the 31-year-old.

“If the boss don’t put me in the squad I will go (to his office)… no (joking).

“It’s a special day for me, my last game at home with the fans, with the club, my team-mates.

“I try to focus on the game because it is an important game for us and after the game I will cry 100 per cent. It will be emotional for me and for my family.”

Firmino is not the only one saying his goodbyes – midfielders James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita have also come to the end of their contracts – but his absence will be most keenly felt.

He has made more appearances under Klopp than any other player, having arrived a few months earlier than the German in the summer of 2015 as one of Brendan Rodgers’ last signings.

Firmino was always selected for the big occasions and nearly always delivered, although his tally of 109 goals in 360 matches far from tells the story of his contribution to the side.

He was the perfect foil for Salah and Mane, who shouldered the greater goalscoring burden but were indebted to the space created and passes made by their team-mate.

“To play alongside these two guys, top players, was an honour and a pleasure for me. I enjoyed it a lot playing alongside them both and the results we earned together,” he added.

“Sometimes I enjoy more the assists than actually scoring a goal myself. It’s important for me. I’m always happy when I give them the ball and help them score.”

But such a significant contribution only came about when he and Klopp decided to introduce the never-before-tried false-nine role.

“In the first week I was here, even I didn’t know where I would be playing,” Firmino said.

“I can play everywhere but me and Brendan Rodgers didn’t understand each other about my position on the pitch.

“When the current manager arrived, we created a position, the false nine. After that I just enjoyed the position.

“Before, the whole time in my career I was a number 10 and then I came here and became a nine, a striker. I tried my best, and thank God it was very good.

“I say we created it together but he’d say it was me. I tell him it was together. I’m very flexible, I can play anywhere in the attack.”

In Monday’s victory at Leicester the travelling support serenaded Firmino with his ‘Si Senor’ song for a full 15 minutes even though the player was not even in the squad and sat in the stands.

He knows there will be plenty of renditions of it on Saturday and even beyond as it is something he even sings himself.

“I sang it in the car with my family two days ago. My children asked if I could put the song on so we could sing together,” he said.

Firmino symbolises everything about the Klopp era: hard-working, talented and humble. When asked how he felt about being considered a ‘legend’ by fans he added: “I’m OK with that. What should I say? It is a privilege. That makes me happy. It is an honour.

“It was the journey we had together, what we achieved together and the trophies we brought to the club all together.

“I worked very hard to be where I am now and this is the result of my hard work every day, and with the club and my team-mates as well.

“I’m very happy to hear they would choose me as their favourite player.”

Famed for always playing with a smile on his face – showing off those perma-white teeth – Firmino knows this is the right time to go, with the forward line undergoing a rejuvenation.

“The cycle here is ended and I understand it is time to go. I am very proud for the beautiful history we made together.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has not ruled out signing a defender in the summer if the opportunity arises.

All the focus has been on reinforcing an underperforming midfield which is losing James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita next month but the Reds boss is still looking elsewhere.

“We look in all departments apart from goalkeeper at the moment,” he said.

“Yes, if there is a good one out there, I would not deny it.”

Liverpool will have already done a lot of groundwork under departing sporting director Julian Ward but the club have yet to announce a successor, although former Wolfsburg chief Jorg Schmadtke has emerged as the frontrunner.

“I cannot speak about that but if it happens, it would not be a ‘Jurgen Klopp signing’ because we are both German or both know each other. That would have nothing to do with it,” added the manager.

“I know he is a good guy and a smart guy. Very good at what he did in Germany, definitely, very successful.

“We could talk about (Klopp’s former sporting director at Borussia Dortmund) Michael Zorc: similar age group, similar situation, just a bit longer in retirement I know him much better.

“There are some good sporting directors in Germany you wouldn’t believe.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has paid tribute to the departing quartet of James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita.

All four will leave when their contracts expire next month and are guaranteed an emotional send-off at Anfield against Aston Villa.

All leave as Champions League and Premier League winners and while Firmino and Milner, who arrived in the summer of 2015 a few months before Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers, have played a greater role, the manager insisted all four had made significant contributions.

“We spoke already with the boys earlier this week about it,” said Klopp.

“It is super-important for us and kind of super-emotional as well for different reasons because we say goodbye to, from my point of view, four Liverpool legends.

“Two of them were here when I arrived – Millie (Milner) and Bobby (Firmino) – and nothing of all the good things which happened in the last few years would have happened without them.

“Bobby, my God, how much I love the guy. It is 100 per cent deserved.

“Millie played an incredible number of games, I think I am the manager he played the most games for in his career, and probably the same for Bobby.

“My English is not good enough to really express my respect for them but that’s the same for Ox (Oxlade-Chamberlain) and Naby, for different reasons.

“Ox was unlucky in moments with bad injuries in absolutely the wrong moment. I remember the (2018 Champions League game) against Roma when he got badly injured and I had no clue how to sort that situation as he was that good and pretty much irreplaceable in that moment.

“Everyone knows we spent a lot of money on Naby and there were a lot of expectations and because of injuries in the wrong moments he couldn’t fulfil all of them but go back and look at the football he could play in his good moments.”

Milner has been heavily linked with a move to Brighton, but the futures of the other three are less clear, although they will not be short of offers.

Klopp added: “I wish them all well and hope they find a place where they are as much respected and needed as here and they find their luck again because they had a lot in the last few years.

“All four won pretty much each available trophy and we love them but it is professional football and nothing is forever.

“There is always a moment and it’s a good moment because it means one chapter will be closed and we can start writing a new one, which is good as well for them and for us.

“I will be forever thankful to them because without them nothing would’ve happened. They were super-important in all they did and that’s the farewell they deserve.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp does not believe his touchline ban will have a detrimental effect on his in-form side.

The German received a two-match suspension, one of which will not come into effect unless he has another transgression before the end of next season, on Thursday and was fined £75,000 for comments questioning the integrity of referee Paul Tierney.

It means Klopp will sit out the club’s final home game of the Premier League season against Aston Villa.

“I expected a punishment with all the things we know, and all the things we could hear and stuff like this,” he said.

“People around me were pretty negative, they thought it would be longer. So, one game is OK.

“I would like to know, as always, where the (fine) money goes. If it’s for a good cause then I’m more than happy to pay it; if not, (and) the FA keeps it then we have to talk again and I think it’s a bit harsh.”

But having already served a touchline ban earlier in the campaign when he watched his side beat Southampton 3-1 in November from the stand Klopp does not believe it will be much of an issue, especially with his team currently flying on a run of seven successive victories.

“From a watching point of view it is (a) much better position to see the game, it was with the Southampton game and it was super-helpful to see the game from there,” added Klopp, who will still be able to join the team for a post-match lap of honour for their final home game.

“Nobody will shout like me at them if they don’t track back but I will tell the boys if they don’t want me to do that in the future they just have to do that now without me shouting.

“I am really in contact with Vitor (Matos, one of the coaching staff) so we can speak about everything, substitutions, and apart from that Pep (Klopp’s assistant Lijnders), is an incredible coach and he will be out there.

“I’m not sure how many per cent of the things I shout are because the boys, Pete (Krawietz) and Pep, saw it on the iPad and said ‘We have to sort this, we have to sort that’.

“They can do it directly because I am the only one who cannot watch it back during a game – now I can do that from the stands.”

Forward Darwin Nunez is unavailable for the game after he missed Monday’s win at Leicester – their seventh in a row – with a toe injury.

“Darwin will not be available. It’s an inflammation of a tendon at the toe – very painful obviously,” added Klopp.

“He didn’t train yet this week, so he will not be available for tomorrow.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has acknowledged how much of a huge loss to the club the departures of James Milner and Roberto Firmino will be.

The pair, whose signings in the summer of 2015 pre-date the arrival of current manager Jurgen Klopp by a few months, have played an integral role in their recent success.

Both will depart when their contracts expire at the end of the season as Champions League and Premier League winners but Henderson believes their importance extends beyond just on the pitch.

On Milner’s contribution, the England midfielder told the PA news agency: “A tremendous amount of value to the team.

“I think the manager said it perfectly in that we wouldn’t have achieved anything without Millie. He is such a big character and such a big leader within the team.

“It will definitely be strange not seeing him at Liverpool next season, he’s been incredible ever since he came to the club.

“He helped me a lot and other players around him and is probably taken for granted a little bit as a player from the outside but from the inside he has got so much respect from all of the players and all of the staff and we wish him all the very best in whatever his next chapter looks like.”

Firmino, who has returned to training this week after missing six matches with a muscle problem, is due a particularly emotional farewell in Liverpool’s final home match of the season against Aston Villa on Saturday.

The much-loved Brazil international travelled with the squad for Monday’s win over Leicester and the away fans dedicated more than 10 minutes of the second half to singing about him.

“He will be a huge miss also,” added Henderson, who was speaking at an NHS Big Tea event in Crewe in his role as an ambassador for NHS Charities Together.

“The good energy he gives the team is always so positive, he’s always in a good mood and smiling but his quality on the pitch is unbelievable.

“Thankfully he is back in training and hopefully he can be ready if not at the weekend then maybe the last game of the season.

“But you have seen the reception he got on Monday from the fans and rightly so. I am sure that will be the case again on Saturday.”

Unai Emery said he has plenty more to offer as Aston Villa boss after being nominated for the Premier League manager of the season award.

Emery has overseen an impressive transformation at Villa Park since replacing Steven Gerrard in October last year, lifting them from fifth-bottom to the brink of European football next season.

The 51-year-old Spaniard is on a six-man shortlist for the managerial award, alongside Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi, Newcastle’s Eddie Howe and Fulham boss Marco Silva.

When asked about his nomination, Emery told a press conference: “We want to take some trophies or be respected for our work, but I’m trying to be focused every day on getting better and trying to improve.

“Our way here has only just started and I’ve only been here for 10 per cent of the time I want to be here, trying to improve, trying to build a strong project and get our objectives. For now, I’m proud of everybody here.”

Villa have won 14 and lost only six of his 26 top-flight games in charge and remain in contention for the final Europa League spot.

Emery, a four-time Europa League winner as manager with Sevilla (three times) and Villarreal, and also a runner-up with Arsenal, is renowned for an intense approach to his work.

He said: “I always try to enjoy my work, and I do enjoy it every day. I feel passion for my work.

“When we are playing and facing big challenges every week, every month, every year, you have to be very focused and spend a lot of time on getting the best results possible.

“When I can have two days off, I enjoy it and I’m trying to take my mind out of my work – not completely, but I enjoy doing different things.

“When I am focused here, preparing the training sessions, preparing for matches, trying to complete our work, of course I am spending a lot of hours here.”

Villa are level on points with seventh-placed Tottenham, who occupy the Europa Conference League berth, after last week’s 2-1 win against the Londoners and play at Champions League hopefuls Liverpool on Saturday.

Emery said he was relishing the challenge at Anfield, adding: “They have very high-level players and a good bench to use in the second half, and they also have a very good coach in (Jurgen) Klopp.

“The crowd there are supporting them a lot. That is what we are going to face. I want to play against them, preparing the match and taking our moments.

“We want to be successful, more than them in 90 minutes. That is the difficulty we are going to face. We need to be clinical.”

Jurgen Klopp’s poor disciplinary record and his failure to heed previous conduct warnings were aggravating factors which led to the Liverpool manager receiving a two-match touchline ban for implying bias by referee Paul Tierney.

Klopp was fined £75,000 and will not be in the technical area for their final Premier League home game of the campaign against Aston Villa on Saturday but the second match of his punishment has been suspended until the end of next season.

The German admitted a charge of improper conduct in that his comments about Tierney implied bias, questioned the integrity of the referee and brought the game into disrepute.

Klopp, who was booked for celebrating in the face of fourth official John Brooks after Diogo Jota’s added-time goal in the 4-3 win over Tottenham last month, suggested in post-match interviews what Tierney had said to him in issuing the caution was “not OK” and went on to add “we have our story, history, with Mr Tierney. I really don’t know what this man has with us”.

The independent disciplinary commission, in its written reasons, said the Professional Game Match Officials Limited viewed Klopp’s comments as an “unwarranted attack on Mr Tierney’s integrity” and so immediately issued a statement in defence of the official.

Klopp later apologised, clarifying his words and denying he had questioned Tierney’s integrity and while that, and his letter to the commission, were deemed “considerable mitigation” it was his history which counted against him.

“Mr Klopp has a poor record for disciplinary offences, having appeared before commissions on three occasions in the past five years,” said the commission in its written reasons.

“In November 2022 in an appeal in which two members of the present commission sat, Mr Klopp received a touchline ban, a fine and a warning.

“Those sanctions plainly failed to deter Mr Klopp from committing nine similar breaches of the rules. Mr Klopp is a high-profile individual in the football world. He must have known that what he said would attract widespread publicity.

“He should have realised that it was incumbent on him to restrain himself and to behave properly.

“The statements that Mr Klopp made/adopted were not limited to comments on the immediate match, but extended to allegations of persistent bias against a blameless referee.

“The intense media interest that followed Mr Klopp’s remarks was highly damaging.”

Klopp created a problem for himself when he charged down the touchline following Jota’s goal after Tottenham’s 90th-minute equaliser had cancelled out Liverpool’s earlier 3-0 lead.

From evidence obtained from the officials’ audio, Brooks told Tierney “Jurgen Klopp has just run and celebrated in my face. I think it’s a yellow card mate, minimum”.

VAR backed up Brooks’ opinion and in booking Klopp, Tierney said: “I have to show you yellow… it could be red, but I am going to show you yellow. We will give you the benefit of the doubt, don’t do anything more.”

Those were the comments Klopp deemed “not OK” but it was not his behaviour on the pitch which produced the disciplinary charge but the aspersions he cast at Tierney, which he subsequently withdrew in a press conference a couple of days later and in a letter of apology to the commission.

Liverpool, in their own letter, stressed Klopp may have misunderstood Tierney and “they do not believe that Mr Tierney purposely gives decisions against LFC and that any suggestion that Mr Tierney was biased or not wholly impartial was totally unintended.

“Mr Klopp did not wish to suggest that Mr Tierney was dishonest, just that there were a long list of key decisions which he felt aggrieved by that have involved Mr Tierney.

“Both LFC and Jurgen Klopp regret that his comments have become a story in themselves and that there has been any question mark cast over Mr Tierney’s impartiality – that was not intended.”

Klopp spelled out his regret in his own letter, saying: “Although it was not my intention I accept now it appears that I was questioning Mr Tierney’s integrity. I take ownership of this. On reflection, the words I used were inappropriate.

“To be absolutely clear, I know that Mr Tierney, along with all other officials, do their work without any pre-conceived bias or prejudice.

“Although not an excuse, I believe we have made up a high percentage of Mr Tierney’s matches this season? Something in the region of 20 per cent of the matches he has officiated have involved my team.

“I do not offer this as a defence, rather it is an observation and could be a reason for both the build-up of frustration governed by an inadvertent accumulation of incidents over an extended period.”

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery is “optimistic” his side’s charge for European football next season will prove successful.

Villa’s 2-1 win against Tottenham last week lifted them level with the Londoners, who sit seventh in the Europa Conference League play-off place, and to within a point of Brighton, who occupy the last Europa League spot.

Emery, whose side play at Liverpool on Saturday, told a press conference: “After the match against Tottenham, I am optimistic. It’s not in our hands, but we are going to play and try to win.”

Villa responded to recent back-to-back league defeats with victory against struggling Tottenham, their 14th top-flight win in 23 games since Emery took charge last October.

That run has seen the former Arsenal boss nominated for Premier League manager of the season.

Two games remain for Emery’s side – they are at home to Brighton on the final day – and their transformation under the Spaniard has brought a possible top-seven finish into sharp focus.

“I love Europe,” Emery said: “I really want to play Europe because after 15 years, spending a lot of time playing amazing matches, amazing performances and amazing matches, I am here to try and do the same with Aston Villa.”

The 51-year-old is the Europa League’s most successful manager, winning the competition three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal, while he was a runner-up with Arsenal when they lost to Chelsea in the 2019 final.

“My focus, my passion, is to play here feeling strong emotions together, firstly in the Premier League, secondly trying to be close to trophies and then playing in Europe,” Emery said.

“That is my motivation every day. It’s the reason we have to be focused and, involving the people around us, thinking about football and the possibilities in our life.”

Emery revealed midfielder Philippe Coutinho will play no part in Villa’s last two games after sustaining an unspecified injury in training before the Tottenham match.

Emery added: “I talked with him this week. He’s a little bit unlucky with his month because I didn’t see him play matches like I want.

“But, of course, with the injuries coming, we have to be patient as well, now we are going to wait for his recovery.

“This year, he’s not going to play again until the end of this season because we are finishing in two weeks.”

Defender Calum Chambers missed training on Thursday due to illness, but is expected to be included in the squad for the trip to Anfield.

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