Jurgen Klopp has assured Joe Allen that he has an important role to play at Liverpool and said the midfielder was always part of his plans.
The 25-year-old Welshman has raised doubts over his future at Anfield, having not been in Klopp's favoured starting side and felt that contract talks were stalling.
But Allen was one of the Reds' brightest performers in January, as he followed his late equaliser from the bench in the 3-3 draw with Arsenal with another goal in the FA Cup replay victory over Exeter City. He then hit he winning spot kick of the penalty shootout -- again as a substitute -- in the Capital One Cup semifinal against Stoke City.
Allen was given the captain's armband for the FA Cup fourth-round stalemate with West Ham United on Saturday, reflecting his energetic showings in the previous few weeks. And despite the former Swansea player providing a reminder of what he had to offer, his manager maintained he had never been a forgotten man.
"For me, Joe Allen was always a first-team player," manager Klopp told a news conference on Monday. "He was not in the lineup a few times, that's true.
"But if I can go a few months back, when I came here he was with the national team, before that he was injured, he was not 100 percent fit, but there was no doubt about quality.
"Not 100 percent in shape, not physically and not on the football side, but now he is and that's the best news. "
Klopp had already described the expected return to training this week of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi and Martin Skrtel as being akin to new signings. And he had much the same to say about Allen's impressive month's work.
"It's the next 'transfer' for us, it's really good to see," Klopp said. "I like his style, he's very important for us, he shows what he is able to do and everybody knew it better than I did.
"I see it and it's really good to have him here. I wouldn't say he showed the possibility when you come in, he was always in, but he was not fit enough in the moment.
"Maybe the player sees this sometimes different, that's the nature of human beings, that's no problem, but now I think we both agree he is in really good shape."