Continuity or Time to Strike? Inside Liverpool's Transfer Window

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJune 18, 2019

Liverpool's coach Juergen Klopp, center, celebrate with his teammates after winning the Champions League final soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Francisco Seco/Associated Press

If Liverpool capitalise on this moment, they could become Europe's dominant force over the next five years.

Their UEFA Champions League final victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on June 1 means their status has risen. They are a team everyone wants to beat—the ultimate scalp in European football.

So how do they make sure they are prepared to defend their crown while also winning a first Premier League title?

Manchester City are still not satisfied with their squad, despite winning the English title last season ahead of the Reds. Pep Guardiola is on the verge of signing Joao Cancelo from Juventus and Atletico Madrid's Rodri—will Liverpool counter that with their own strengthening?

Real Madrid have signed Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic as part of a rebuild, and Barcelona are adding Frenkie de Jong and, probably, Antoine Griezmann to their setup.

Can Liverpool really stand still and hope this brilliant batch of players raise their game to yet another level? 

We spoke to sources close to the situation about how Reds manager Jurgen Klopp is looking to shape his side for the extraordinary task of taking the European champions to true greatness.

       

Will they spend big?

Owner John W. Henry has promised to back Klopp in the transfer window this summer, but the reality is the Liverpool boss does not want to spend much cash.

As far as Klopp is concerned, his squad is complete. He knows sporting director Michael Edwards has a list of names ready in case he wants to recruit in any area of the pitch, but Anfield insiders are convinced the chance of any major signing this summer is unlikely.

Last week, they were linked to Nabil Fekir—it's a transfer rumour that just won't go away—but there is no longer anything in it. Unless Lyon were to unexpectedly accept a much lower fee than has been touted any time before, the deal is not being resurrected.

In the past fortnight, they have also been linked multiple times to Lille's Nicolas Pepe, but it's not a door that has been opened yet by Liverpool as part of this summer's planning. No contact has been made, and much of that is down to the fact that he is valued at close to £70 million. 

Both cases may seem frustrating to fans who want to see the team make the most of this huge moment in time, when they have the profile and momentum to make big signings and keep them happy. But Liverpool's stance is that they will not go to go ahead with anything major...unless a great deal arrives at their door.

So if Barcelona are suddenly desperate to offload Ousmane Dembele in order to make room for Griezmann, or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a fallout at Arsenal that sees him become available, then great. Liverpool might look into a negotiation for such game-changers who Klopp already knows.

But it is very unlikely.

       

So what should we expect?

The good news is that this transfer window will see some activity.

The primary objective for Liverpool is to sign a back-up for Andy Robertson who not only has the ability to adequately fill in at left-back but can also influence play further up the field. 

Think about the versatility and style of Junior Firpo of Real Betis or Philipp Max from FC Augsburg—this is the type of player Liverpool are looking to bring in. Ryan Sessegnon has been scouted but would prefer not to leave London, hence the fact that Tottenham Hotspur will end up signing him from Fulham.

There is also a gap in the squad left by Daniel Sturridge, but it might be that Liverpool don't need to look outside of the club to fill such a hole.

Talks are beginning over a new contract for frontman Divock Origi, while 19-year-old academy product Rhian Brewster will get the chance to stake a claim to become part of the first-team squad on a more regular basis. 

Sources around the club consistently talk about the fact that Liverpool already believe their best business has been done in signing up so many of their biggest players to new, extended contracts over the past year.

It means that when rumours crop up over players such as Mohamed Salah, who was linked to Real Madrid and Juventus, there is no scare. The player is going nowhere.

        

What the fans want

Craig Hannan, The Anfield Wrap 

I'd love us to build from a position of strength with a big name, but I think it'll be our back-up options that Klopp will upgrade rather than the first team, with as few leaving as possible.

I think the manager looks at his squad, what they did last year and sees a first XI with few weaknesses. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will also be back; he made such an impact filling the void of Philippe Coutinho at the back end of 2018-19 and will have had a full pre-season under his belt. And then Brewster, who is rated so highly within the club, returns having been promised chances next season.

He'll expect more from someone like Naby Keita, too, now that he has settled. And he'll cite Joe Gomez as being one of the best centre-backs in the league if he can stay fit, having impressed so much in the first half of the season. 

Saido Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino celebrate after the 3rd Liverpool goal scored by Mane during the Liverpool v Roma Champions League semi-final 1st leg at Anfield on April 24th 2018 in Liverpool (Photo by Tom Jenkins)
Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

Back-up to Robertson and Alisson will be priorities, and then I'd imagine a young, versatile forward with potential who can rotate with any of Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino.

It might be a tougher sell than you'd think having just won the Champions League: 'Come sign for the European champions, but ahead of you in your position are arguably the best front three in Europe.'

What's strange is there are very few names knocking around in the press at all. Does that mean Liverpool are doing their business quietly and have a surprise statement signing up their sleeve? I hope so. 

        

What the club expert says

Carl Markham, Liverpool correspondent for the Press Association

It's an almost impossible task to keep tabs on the sheer number of players who are linked throughout the summer—it can often top 100 by the time the close of the window eventually comes around. 

Some can be dismissed immediately because they just do not fit the profile or pre-requisites of what you understand Liverpool want in any one specific window. However, some do warrant a closer look—some signings come out of the blue and catch everyone off-guard, like Fabinho last summer.

Lyon's Nabil Fekir has been the saga that has kept fans on tenterhooks this time, in the hope a deal can be resurrected. Rumours began emanating from France last week suggesting Liverpool were back in for him, but the truth is they walked away from the deal last summer. RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner is another who gets fans energised.

We almost certainly will not see the transfer spend they made last summer. Twelve months ago, it was about addressing deficiencies in key positions and that investment was justified with their Champions League win and Premier League title challenge. This time, it will probably be more about filling gaps and topping up the quality already in the squad.

Should a suitable creative midfielder become available, Klopp may be tempted to invest but with Oxlade-Chamberlain's return to fitness and Keita expected to kick on after a first-season settling-in period there is already a lot of competition in that area.

Being European champions makes the club more attractive to players, but Liverpool's trajectory under Klopp even before that made them a preferred destination; Virgil van Dijk being a prime recent example.

And Klopp does not want players coming to the club based on what they think the club can offer them but on what value he believes they can add to the existing setup.

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