Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says he was “surprised” by Roberto Firmino’s decision to leave Anfield at the end of the season.
The Brazil forward will end an eight-year stay at Anfield when his contract expires in June.
Firmino, 31, had been in talks over a new contract but has chosen to leave.
And I respect that a lot,” Klopp said on Friday.
Firmino scored seven goals in 13 Premier League games prior to the break for the World Cup but suffered a calf injury that kept him out for two months following the domestic restart.
However, he came off the bench to score Liverpool’s final goal – and his 108th in 354 Reds appearances – in the 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United on Sunday.
“I loved the reception he got when he came on against United,” said Klopp, who added that the striker had told him he now wanted “to bring this wonderful story to a positive end”.
Liverpool have won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Club World Cup during Firmino’s time at Anfield, and he can expect an emotional send-off in Liverpool’s final home game of the season against Aston Villa on 20 May.
“There’s no time for a goodbye or whatever in this moment, there’s enough time for that later in the season,” Klopp added.
“Whenever he will come back, everybody knows that the song [Reds fans’ Bobby Firmino chant] will still be for a long, long time in everybody’s ears.