The Grade-A Plan-Bs: Assessing Liverpool’s Back-up Signings under Klopp

Dominic Chandler
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by Dominic Chandler (@Frankly2Shankly)

Liverpool chose to play the waiting game to seal deals for the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. Biding their time for their first-choice additions has certainly paid dividends for Liverpool in the past, but that’s not to say Jürgen Klopp and Michael Edwards are always uncompromising in their approach to recruitment.

After apparently having a bid knocked back for Norwich’s Jamal Lewis this month, the Reds moved swiftly to tie up a deal for Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas – a so-called alternative. With that in mind, here’s a look at four instances where the Premier League champions have pulled off a market masterstroke after seemingly missing out on their first-choice target.

Sadio Mané

Four years ago, Liverpool were rumoured to have been interested in bringing World Cup winner Mario Götze to Merseyside; a link which was met with tangible excitement form Liverpool fans. The attacker had previously worked under Jürgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, and his potential signature was set to inject some star quality into the ranks.

However, the German international opted to return to his former club that summer in a deal worth around £20m. As a result, the Reds turned their attention to Southampton’s Sadio Mané, eventually spending a reported £34m on the Senegalese star.

The deals for Götze and Mané sparked mixed reactions, but the two players experienced contrasting fortunes after their respective transfers. The former has gone on to make just 52 Bundesliga starts over four injury-hit seasons with Dortmund, whereas the latter has developed into one of the finest attackers in the game.  

Sadio Mane clashes with Man City’s Aleksander Kolorov during a PL clash in 2016. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Georginio Wijnaldum

In Jürgen Klopp’s first summer transfer window at the helm, he made a midfield makeover one of his top priorities. The Reds were initially linked with young Polish international Piotr Zieliński, as well as Germany U21 international Mahmoud Dahoud.

Despite pictures of Zieliński donning a Liverpool shirt circulating on social media, the midfielder ended up signing for Italian side Napoli that summer. Meanwhile, Dahoud’s club (Borussia Mönchengladbach) were seemingly reluctant to sell the starlet, having just sold his ex-teammate Granit Xhaka to Arsenal for a reported £35m.

A year later, Dahoud joined Mario Götze at Dortmund, but has so far been a peripheral figure with the Bundesliga outfit. As for Zieliński, the 26-year-old has fashioned a fine career for himself at the Stadio San Paolo, although his exploits have perhaps been eclipsed by his alternative.

The £25m addition of Georginio Wijnaldum has been something of a snip for Liverpool; the Dutch international has cemented his status as a key player for the Premier League, European and World Club champions.

Georginio Wijnaldum during a CL Group C match against between Paris Saint Germain and Liverpool in 2018. (Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Mohamed Salah

It seems absurd that a player who has scored 94 goals over three scintillating seasons was allegedly a fourth choice pick, but this was thought to be the case regarding a player now dubbed the ‘Egyptian King’ by the Kop in 2017.

A year earlier, American teenager Christian Pulisic was a target for his former Dortmund manager, with Liverpool reportedly having a bid rejected for the attacker. Klopp was rumoured to have then turned his attention to German duo Julian Draxler and Julian Brandt; the first of whom decided on a big money move to PSG instead, whereas the latter chose to stay at his former club Bayer Leverkusen for another two years.

Liverpool subsequently moved for Roma’s Mohamed Salah, a player who had previously failed to make the grade in England.

Draxler may have gone on to endure an indifferent spell so far in Paris, but his fellow former Bundesliga stars have seen their stocks go in a different trajectory over the past 18 months.

After his £58m move to Chelsea last year, Pulisic is beginning to blossom into one of the most exciting talents in the Premier League. As for Brandt, he has perhaps been vindicated in his decision to remain in Germany and has been a standout performer for Dortmund since his cut-price switch in 2019.

Be it’s now unthinkable to fathom the possibility that Klopp would trade any of these names for Salah, who now spearheads one of the strongest teams in world football.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah on the brink of slotting the ball into the net against Porto in the CL RO-16 in 2018. (Photo by Craig Mercer – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Andy Robertson

For so long, the left back berth had been a much-maligned area of the Liverpool squad. Patience with the erratic Alberto Moreno had grown thin, so much so that Klopp was forced to play veteran midfielder James Milner in that position for the entirety of the 2016-2017 campaign.

Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell was said to have been on the radar beforehand, a player who had impressed Klopp’s trusted friend David Wagner, whom he managed during a loan spell with Huddersfield. However, the move never materialised.

Twelve months on, names such as Fulham’s young star Ryan Sessegnon and Roma’s Emerson Palmieri cropped up in the media as two potential targets, but the club ultimately opted to move for Hull’s Andy Robertson instead.

Two of these players have gone on to make moves to London, with Emerson signing for Chelsea in January 2018 and Sessegnon joining Spurs last summer. Neither deal has proved to be an overwhelming success so far. As for Chilwell, the England international has developed into one of the most sought-after left backs in the Premier League, with a big money move potentially on the horizon.

Nevertheless, Andy Robertson is the pick of the bunch, and has grown into one of the stand-out full backs in Europe. For just £8m, he’s one of the transfer bargains of the decade.

Andy Robertson on the ball against Newcastle on the final day of the 19/20 season. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
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