Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers praised his side despite their 3-1 loss to Manchester United in the International Champions Cup final in Miami, particularly talking up Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
On the Brazilian midfielder, Rodgers could not confirm whether Coutinho had yet been offered a new contract with the Anfield outfit, but stressed the importance of keeping the 22-year-old at the club in the long term, per David McDonnell and Sam Adams in the Daily Mirror:
There is no doubt that Coutinho is an invaluable player for Liverpool and he was arguably their best performer at the Sun Life Stadium, per Squawka:
Steven Gerrard gave the Reds a 1-0 lead from the penalty spot in the ICC final but goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard overturned the deficit. Nevertheless, Coutinho's performance was particularly encouraging.
Still so young, he arrived from Inter Milan for £8 million in January 2013 and Rodgers is unequivocal in his hope that Coutinho will spend his prime years on Merseyside, per Chris Bascombe and Mark Ogden in the Telegraph:
Now he’s moving into the best years of his life as a footballer. He’s 22 and hopefully by the time the next World Cup comes around he will be an important part of the Brazil team, I’m sure his best years will be at Liverpool.
Last season Coutinho bagged five goals and seven assists in the Premier League and Rodgers will likely look for a greater contribution this term.
Furthermore, 19-year-old winger Sterling was terrific for Liverpool on Monday, drawing the penalty from Phil Jones in the first half and arguably warranting a second, per ESPN FC:
I thought Sterling was outstanding, a real threat. The intensity in his game, how he presses the ball, and technically he’s very aware for a young player. At 19 years of age he’s a young talent and getting better all the time.
Football writer Graham Ruthven highlights the need for both Sterling and Coutinho to contribute more goals in the coming season after Suarez's departure, though doubts they can add enough:
Indeed, the Reds potentially need to add a further striker to plug the gap left by the Uruguayan, especially with Champions League football to come in 2014-15.
Rodgers has brought in a handful of players over the summer transfer window but admits there are still more additions needed, per Mark Ogden in the Telegraph:
"There are a few missing and one or two to come in."
However, despite their final loss, Liverpool had a relatively successful time in the USA, beating Olympiacos and AC Milan, as well as overturning Premier League champions Manchester City on penalties.
They face Southampton in their opening clash of the new English top-flight season and will be aiming for a fast start in their pursuit of the title.
The main concern for Liverpool in the coming campaign may well be the strains of the Champions League as few of the current squad have genuine experience in the competition.
But if Rodgers can make a couple of key signings before the transfer window closes—added strength in defence is also needed—they should be able to compete well on several fronts in the new term.