Liverpool approached me to replace Philippe Coutinho, says Marseille youngster Maxime Lopez

The Reds were linked with the young midfielder towards the end of last year

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Marseille’s Maxime Lopez has claimed Liverpool approached him to join the club as Philippe Coutinho’s long-term successor.

The 19-year-old midfielder, who was reportedly subject to interest from the Reds last year, says he travelled to Anfield to attend a match and even met Steven Gerrard before being told “in five years you will be playing in place of Coutinho”.

Lopez has also been linked to Arsenal but turned down interest from the Premier League in favour of signing a new contract at Marseille. The youngster penned a new deal with the French outfit last month, tying him to the club until the end of the 2020/21 campaign.

Speaking to L’Equipe, Lopez said: “They even told me: ‘In 5 years, you will be playing in place of Coutinho!’ 

“They really smooth-talked me well. I even met Steven Gerrard, at the stadium, after the match. I wanted to go, but I also wanted to stay at Marseille. 

“To leave like that, at that age and even with my family accompanying me, it is very tough. I realised they had about 30 young players who were professional, without including the starting players. 

“You really have to be ready mentally.”

Lopez has scored once and provided seven assists in 26 games for Marseille so far this season.

Marseille president Jacques Henri Eyraud recently praised the youngster for his talent and insisted his new contract deal marked a “strong” moment for the club.

“Maxime Lopez’s extension is a strong symbol for all of us,” Eyraud explained.

“He is a young, talented player who is very appreciated by the fans, and to whom we want to give a chance to develop into a man at the foundation of our sporting project.

“Beyond that, the message we want to send to the young Marseille players is that everything is possible with Marseille.”

Marseille are currently fifth in Ligue 1, but stand way off the pace in the fight for Champions League football, 18 points behind third-placed Nice.