The ex-midfielder has suggested that Jurgen Klopp’s side became contenders for major honours after selling the Brazilian

Liverpool became a “proper team” after selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, says Graeme Souness, with that deal allowing them to bring in Virgil van Dijk.

Back in January 2018, the Reds reluctantly accepted that a Brazil international playmaker was destined to head through the exits at Anfield.

Talk of a big-money move to Camp Nou had raged for some time, with Coutinho making it clear that he fancied a shot at life under the brightest of spotlights.

Before a switch to La Liga was made official, Liverpool swooped on Premier League rivals Southampton to land Van Dijk in a £75 million ($96m) deal.

The Dutch defender has become a talismanic presence on Merseyside, while Coutinho finds himself on loan at Bayern Munich after struggling to make the desired impact with Barca.

Liverpool have certainly found the greater value in transfer dealings, with Jurgen Klopp’s side now Champions League and Club World Cup winners.

They are also chasing down a first league title in 30 years, with a 13-point lead opened up at the top of the Premier League table, and Souness believes shrewd recruitment is responsible for the impressive progress.

The Reds legend told Sky Sports: “Maybe, for the neutral, they were a better watch a couple of years ago.

“But when they got rid of Coutinho and brought in Van Dijk and Alisson, that’s when they made that jump.

“All of a sudden they’re a proper team.”

While many are suggesting that Liverpool already have one hand on the English top-flight crown, Klopp will not allow those at Anfield to buy into that mindset just yet.

He saw his side edge out Wolves 1-0 on Sunday to prolong a stunning sequence of results, but told reporters when quizzed on the Reds’ title claims: “There is a long way to go for all of us.

“Everybody asks me what it was like in 2019. My 2019 team was brilliant but that’s not important, we count seasons, not years.

“The 2019-20 season is not over. We are halfway there. There are 19 games to play. That’s a lot.

“And probably 19 of them will be like this tonight, for different reasons.

“We will be facing teams who will be fighting for the league with all they have, and the fight for the Champions League and Europa League has opened up again.

“We have to be ready. Who cares about points in December? We have just created a basis we can work with from now on.

“It’s not about belief. If we weren’t confident it would be really crazy. It’s not about knowing or wanting to know it’s already done. It’s just a game with the media.

“It would be crazy for me to sit here and think it’s done. It is not done. For the last five or six weeks, I am asked that question constantly and as a normal human being it’s the same answer, it’s not done.

“You can ask me if you want but don’t expect a different answer.”

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