LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp defended goalkeeper Loris Karius from television critics on Monday, with former Manchester United captain Gary Neville and brother Phil the main men in the line of fire.
“The pundits, former players a lot of them, forgot obviously completely how it felt when they got criticised,” the German told reporters ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League match at Middlesbrough on Wednesday.
“Especially the Neville brothers; I have to say the one who was a manager, he obviously should know that too much criticism never helps but he’s not interested in helping a Liverpool player I imagine,” he added.
“Obviously the Neville brothers don’t like Liverpool but I’ve no problem. If they can cause bigger problems than we already have, I think they try it.”
Gary Neville, a pundit for Sky Sports television, was sacked as Valencia manager in March after 16 La Liga games in charge of the Spanish side.
He and younger brother Phil, who was in the BBC studios on Sunday, have been critical of Karius’ performances and were handed more ammunition when Liverpool drew 2-2 at home to West Ham United on Sunday.
Liverpool also lost 4-3 to Bournemouth the week before when Karius conceded a late winner.
The goalkeeper acknowledged the Bournemouth mistake but felt the pundits, including ex-Liverpool player Jamie Carragher, had gone too far.
“I don’t care what Gary Neville said,” the player told the Daily Mail last week. “He was a top player, then he was a manager for a short bit and now he is back to being an expert again.”
Phil Neville replied to that on Sunday by saying Karius should focus on improving his game.
“Until you’ve got a couple of seasons under your belt, then you can come out shouting your mouth off and having a go at pundits,” he said.
“That’s been the biggest mistake he’s made for me. Keep your mouth shut, do your job, go home, have your tea and play football.”
Klopp said earlier in the news conference that he tried to protect his players as much as possible but could not control what they did on the field.
“It’s a normal situation, criticism from outside. It’s normal for me, normal for my players, normal for the goalkeepers, we all wish it would be different but it is not like this,” said the German.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tony Jimenez