Jurgen Klopp revealed he had already been wowed by Bruno Fernandes before Manchester United signed the man who has driven them to the top of the Premier League.
The deal to take Fernandes from Sporting CP to Old Trafford last January could eventually go down as one of the best pieces of business by an English club.
His arrival transformed United and sparked a surge into the Champions League places, and this season the playmaker is inspiring a title challenge. Klopp quipped that Fernandes was "unfortunately" proving a shrewd signing.
Since Fernandes' Premier League debut on February 1 last year, United have won more points than any other team in the top flight (68) – Manchester City and Liverpool have earned six fewer.
During that time frame the Portugal international has been involved in a league-high 33 goals (19 scored, 14 assisted) – Harry Kane is second on 29 (18 scored, 11 assisted) – and on Friday was named the competition's Player of the Month for the fourth time.
Klopp has been an admirer of Fernandes since he scored in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool for Sporting in a pre-season friendly at Yankee Stadium in July 2019.
"He's an outstanding player. Before he joined United we played Sporting in the USA on tour," Klopp said.
"In that game already you could see... wow! You could really see he was a difference maker and that's what he shows now.
"He's settled and is a very influential player now for United. He's involved in a lot of things. I know people talk mostly about the goal involvements, which is very important stuff, but he's a link-up in lot of other situations as well.
"I don't know him well enough to really judge but he seems to be a leader as well. So he was a good signing, unfortunately, for United."
United will go six points clear of Liverpool if they win on Merseyside, but Klopp's side have won the past two league clashes between the teams at Anfield and will go top if they triumph. Liverpool last reached three home victories in a row over their great rivals in March 2011.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has yet to beat Liverpool in the Premier League since joining United as manager, drawing twice and losing once. Only two managers in United's history have failed to win any of their first four league clashes with the Reds - John Chapman (1921-26) and Tommy Docherty (1973-76).
Klopp looked to play down the significance of the points perspective in this weekend's battle, saying: "Winning a football game and winning against United is enough itself.
"There's no extra add-on in that game because they're in the situation they are. They deserve the points they have so far and we have ours and the season has still a long way to go.
"We just try to win our games and we need to perform on our highest level because United are good and always were."
Klopp ruled injured midfielder Naby Keita out of the game but said centre-back Joel Matip was "close" to full fitness and suggested he could be involved, depending on how he trains.