Liverpool were blown away at the Etihad just over a week ago but it is a sign of people’s faith in this side (and Jurgen Klopp’s), that no one – pundit or fan – is overly alarmed, especially given the inconsistency of Pep Guardiola’s City side.
Just three days later, the Citizens lost their ninth game of the season – 1-0 to mid-table Southampton. And after a 1-3 away win at the Amex on Wednesday evening, Klopp’s champions remain a jaw-dropping twenty-three points clear at the summit.
So no-one should be too upset with the prospect of another ‘quiet’ summer in the transfer market. And nor should they be.
The success of Liverpool’s recruitment team since Klopp’s arrival – their strategy and methodic, carefully calculated approach – is the envy of most, if not all, of Europe’s elite. They’ve earned our trust. And they thus deserve our trust.
A recent report on the ‘premium clause’ inserted into Barcelona’s deal to sign Philippe Coutinho back in January 2018 – stipulating that the Spanish giants would have to pay an additional £89million to sign any Liverpool player for two years – only adds substance to that claim.
Promoting from within
Klopp, of course, is remaining coy on the subject of potential incomings this summer (as you’d expect)…
In his pre-City press briefing last week, the German stated: “It’s not likely that it will be the most busy summer…”
It is not a squad you have to change now and say: ‘OK, we need this position and this position’. What we want is to create our transfers internally. So now, the first glimpses of Neco Williams. Bring the boys up. Curtis, Harvey, Ki-Jana [Hoever], Sepp [van den Berg], Yasser [Larouci], Leighton [Clarkson], Jake Cain: all these boys have done really well”.
So why not promote from within? Curtis Jones’ contribution last Sunday – his first-ever goal in the Premier League – is hopefully the first of many. And Klopp knows the signs are good. Very good.
Neco Williams, the precocious right full-back, also made headlines this week by making his first Premier League start. And if he lives up to the hype, Williams could, potentially, present Klopp with a selection headache in the months (and years) to come. But it’s a good headache to have. Could the rise of Williams mean Klopp is tempted (perhaps forced) to test Trent Alexander-Arnold’s mettle in midfield?
If that is the case, do Liverpool really need to go out and splurge money on, for topicality’s sake, Thiago Alcantara? The Bayern midfielder remains a hot topic on social media. Thiago is likely to leave the German champions this summer.
But his age, 29, casts doubt on whether Klopp, together with Sporting Director Michael Edwards and FSG president Mike Gordon, would be willing to sanction a deal. It could also, of course, block the path for Jones who plays in a similar position.
Food for thought.
Do the pros outweigh the cons?
Interestingly, though, we live in unprecedented times. The pandemic – and all its financial repercussions – has already forced Liverpool to reassess their transfer plans. It’s also important to factor in that the Reds are certain to lose long-time servant Adam Lallana, 31, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
So it’s not far-fetched so suggest there’s a void which needs filling, not just on the pitch but in the dressing room.
As Klopp said a week ago: “We want to strengthen this squad and this squad is strong. The problem is how do you improve a strong squad in the transfer market? It works with money, obviously, but it never works only with money. You have to be creative and we try to be creative“.
Whether being ‘creative’ means Liverpool will try and find an innovative way to dip into the market or decide against it altogether is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, the Thaigo rumours offer up a potential gateway into what Klopp meant by being ‘creative’ post-COVID.
Pursing a player of Thiago’s ilk, at first glance, seems almost left-field. But he’s said to be available for a relatively insubstantial fee – around the £30-40million mark – which is, at the very least, tempting.
With age, comes experience; Thiago possesses bundles of it. But he’s also certifiably world-class; a top-level decision-maker and an expressive midfield ballplayer. If there’s one thing Liverpool lack on the pitch – and this is being picky – it’s cut and thrust in behind the front three.
Naby Keita is improving. But he is yet to convince fan, pundit, or for that matter Klopp, that he’s a certified starter; admittedly, however, he has arguably been the Red’s standout player since the restart. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool’s other forward-minded attacking midfielder, has been largely hit and miss since he made his return from a long-term injury late last year.
It might just make sense
So could the rationale behind potential interest be that Thiago is a transformative player in the mould of Van Dijk and Alisson? Transformative in the sense that he will almost inevitably improve the fortunes of those around him. But there are potential cons as well.
Melissa Reddy said this week that she’d be surprised to see Liverpool move for Thiago. The Independent’s Senior Football Correspondent also points out that the Spaniard’s susceptible to an injury or two. That’s, admittedly, a concern. But it’s important to remember Klopp wanted to retain Lallana regardless of his poor injury record. Medical staff would also of course scrupulously assess Thiago’s fitness before he puts pen to paper and Klopp’s not afraid to pull the plug over doubts about a player’s durability, as the Nabil Fekir saga in 2018 bore out.
It’s patently clear that the German’s a big fan of Thiago and has made no secret of his admiration. Klopp even labelled him the Bundesliga’s standout player in 2016/17.
There are very few players who could walk into a team that has won just about everything there is to win and still have an impact. That’s why a move for Thiago – one of those very few players – cannot be totally ruled out. And, for that matter, that’s why it hasn’t been ruled out – yet.
The Athletic’s James Pearce summed it up nicely in the latest Red Agenda Podcast: “unlikely, but impossible”.
- Liverpool are unlikely to pursue a deal for Napoli centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegalese is not on Klopp’s wishlist. Unless Dejan Lovren leaves the club in the summer, the Reds will go into next season with the same centre-half options. (Sky Sports)
- Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka has signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners. He’s been the subject of interest from a number of Europe’s top clubs (including Liverpool).
- The Guardian’s Ed Aarons claims that the Reds are keeping tabs on German starlet Nick Breitenbücher from Hoffenheim. Breitenbücher, 17, is also on Chelsea’s radar.
- Napoli are in pole position to sign Lille forward Victor Osimhen. The Reds have been tentatively linked with Osimhen all summer by L’Equipe.
- Hull City want Liverpool midfielder Herbie Kane to return to the club next season. Manager McCann says he’s hopeful the Championship side can secure Kane for 2020/21, despite his injury woes. (@MirrorFootball)
- Chelsea are frontrunners in the race for Kai Havertz. But Barcelona and PSG are keeping tabs on the 21-year-old. Liverpool also hold an interest. (@DW_Sports)