Jordan Henderson considers Philippe Coutinho to be an “exceptional footballer”, but admits the Brazilian’s association with Liverpool “has passed” amid talk of a possible return to Anfield.
Speculation regarding a retracting of steps for the South American playmaker has surfaced heading towards the summer.
Coutinho has regressed since departing Merseyside in the winter of 2018, with a dream move to Barcelona turning into a nightmare as he was eventually sent out on loan at Bayern Munich.
It appears unlikely that the Bundesliga champions will take up a purchase option on the 27-year-old, leaving him facing up to an uncertain future.
A second spell in English football has been mooted, with talk of interest from Liverpool delivering a mixed response.
Reds captain Henderson doubts there is a deal to be done there, telling Sport of his former team-mate: “Phil is a good friend of mine.
“I think he is an exceptional footballer, he has everything, he has a great attitude and he loves football.
“So, of course, for me he would always be welcome, but it is not up to me.
“It is probably best to ask the manager that. The boys loved him, so if you ask any of them, I'm sure they'll say they would love to have him back.
“But I think his time here has passed, he has moved and I hope that in the near future we will see the same Phil we saw here.”
Liverpool invested the funds generated from the sale of Coutinho into deals for the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.
“I felt we had to reinforce ourselves, of course,” Henderson added.
“I thought he [Coutinho] would be a great loss for us, it would be for any team.
“But I felt it was a moment to step forward. The boys raised their game and we managed quite well without him.”
Henderson added on deals which have proved to be the final pieces in a trophy-chasing puzzle for Liverpool: “I think you have to give credit to people like Virgil and Alisson, but more players have arrived and they've established themselves really well.
“The two are amazing, we have a really good group of people, not only the best players, but also fantastic people. That helps.”
Liverpool’s star-studded squad swept to Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup glory in 2019, while a 25-point lead has been opened up in the Premier League title race this season as the Reds close in on a first English top-flight crown in 30 years.