Liverpool has begun the arduous journey toward the summer. It would be incorrect to state that their season came to an end at the Santiago Bernabeu tonight; in reality, their last chance to win a trophy had already been lost long before tonight’s 1-0 defeat. Nonetheless, with the rest of the Premier League ahead of them, they cannot simply call it a night. They still have a fight on their hands to even reach Champions League qualifying, which Jürgen Klopp has long established as the absolute minimum standard must be met by his team each and every year. Depending on how well that goes, the long-promised rebuild might start after that.
This match was almost as depressing as Liverpool’s 5-2 humiliation at Anfield last month. Real Madrid may not have scored as many goals as they did in the first leg, but it was owing to the hosts’ sloppy finishing and Alisson’s brilliant shot blocking. Every shot the defending champions in this competition made three weeks ago appeared to arrow into the Liverpool goal. Tonight, Luka Modric and company competed for the Puskas award, but Karim Benzema kinda ruined the atmosphere by scoring on the shabbiest opportunity of the game In the middle of the night, Vinicius Junior slid into the air during a volley before hooking the ball across and sending his No. 9 into harm’s way so he could roll the ball into an empty net.
Liverpool last year played every competition they participated in all the way to the final kick of the championship game. Getting back to the competition where they have been so thoroughly humiliated this season—not just by the holders’ arm’s-length annihilation of them, but also by Napoli’s thrashing of them at the start of the Champions League season—is now their last remaining reward. The warning signs that this was not a team that could compete again were there as soon as Victor Osimhen sailed past Klopp’s backline and struck the post.
As usual, the transfer market must provide the answers to this problem. Well, that might be the case for Klopp, a man who only ever opens the club’s checkbook under extreme circumstances. The messages that were repeatedly drilled into his older dogs over the years have become so firmly ingrained in their minds that it appears impossible for these athletes to comprehend that there are times when on-field adaptation is necessary. His senior dogs aren’t really in the learning mode anymore.
Who should remain, with whom is Liverpool stuck, and who might show up to put everything right? Let’s look at this:
There are at least indications that a replacement trident is being fashioned at Anfield in place of the brilliant front three that propelled Klopp’s team to Premier League and Champions League triumph. Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez, two forwards who are somewhat similar to Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, have a lot of things to show. Nunez in particular has added crash, bang, and wallop to his new team; it is obvious that he is a player who can launch bullets.
The forward line has strength in depth if the newest additions don’t quite pan out. For performances that will unavoidably be past their peak sooner or later, Liverpool may be paying Mohamed Salah top salaries—specifically, £350,000 per week. Although 22 goals and 11 assists is not a bad performance, he may even have started to regress this season. It becomes an even more intriguing combination when Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz are included; the biggest doubts surround their ability to regain the form they displayed before to significant injuries.
The attack appears to be set, and Harvey Elliott, Stefan Bajcetic, and Fabio Carvalho, a trio of young players who have already proven themselves as contributors who should have a role at Liverpool over the future years, will augment it. The first two received playing time during Real Madrid’s elimination and appeared to be the talented young players they are right now—young adults unable to significantly improve a challenging Champions League match. However, Bajcetic, who missed the Madrid elimination due to an injury, has some of the tempo-setting midfield skills that Liverpool, outside of Thiago, has lacked, while Elliott has the even more remarkable quality of providing a respectable return on goals.
Using Trent Alexander-on-ball Arnold’s skills and minimizing his defensive flaws should be at the forefront of Liverpool’s thinking when they assemble their next team. Ibrahima Konate, who succeeded in his debut season of covering the space behind his right back, will undoubtedly aid if they can count on him for a sustained stretch of games. They should be securely ensconced in the Anfield rearguard for a number of years to come, along with Alisson.
Veterans remaining local
Even while it is reasonable to question whether players who are 29 and 32 at the start of the new season will ever regain their peak performance, Klopp will undoubtedly stick with Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk for the time being. Losing the old Van Dijk will likely cause Liverpool the most serious tactical problems. With him, Liverpool could play a high line when they otherwise might have been careless because he was the best recovery defender in the world, a player with the strength and sense of danger to stop counterattacks before they even started. These players are difficult to replace.
Jordan Henderson is another player who seems to lack the physical attributes that made him so vital to this team’s finest iterations, and there may be Liverpool fans who would be more than happy to see him leave. He will turn 33 in June, though, and his deal, which runs until 2025, is said to pay him £140,000 per week. Good luck getting anyone to take that. If Liverpool ever intended to leave the Thiago situation, the same might be said (there is no evidence they do).The Spaniard, who has featured in just 93 of his team’s 155 games since leaving Bayern Munich, is not only getting older but also has a history of injuries. In just 32 of those games, he has played the whole 90 minutes. In the future, Thiago projects as a player whose presence on a Liverpool team will always be appreciated but whose availability cannot be counted for granted.
Open to proposals
The other player who began the year in Liverpool’s strongest midfield is Fabinho, whose decline has become so severe in recent weeks that there must be a very good chance that the Reds will make a move for the Brazilian. Who on earth might be able to take him off of their hands, as is always the case with aging stars at major six Premier League clubs? Most likely, the 29-year-old will remain as the default choice. Joel Matip might be in a similar situation given his lesser pay,But with a six figure weekly salary, he is out of reach for many clubs in the continent.
Given that Fenway Sports Group ownership prevents an unlimited transfer budget, there aren’t many players Liverpool could sell to get that amount of money. In the Premier League, players like Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Phillips have demonstrated their abilities. The former in particular garnered a lot of attention before to signing a new contract at Anfield, and Aston Villa may rekindle their interest in the England international.
Liverpool has particularly prospered in the transfer market by capitalizing on talented young players who, while unlikely to make their team, may nevertheless help others. Whether Jordon Ibe, Dominic Solanke, or Nico Williams accomplished anything is debatable, but they certainly contributed significantly to the Anfield club’s financial standing. Might this be done this summer by Curtis Jones and Caoimhin Kelleher? Although neither player fits the mold of a long-term starter, both would be valuable additions to Klopp’s team. Liverpool may be able to sign those who would thanks to the price they charge.
Roberto Firmino informed Klopp earlier this month that he would not accept the offer of a new term, making him the first player to formally announce his intention to leave the team. The Brazilian, who is leaving on a free transfer, has interest from a number of teams, including Inter Milan. Naby Keita is anticipated to follow suit, maybe returning to Germany, while Alex Oxlade-limited Chamberlain’s appearances for Liverpool suggest that his nearly six-year career will come to an end. Another person whose services won’t be needed past the upcoming season is loanee Arthur Melo.
Jude Bellingham has been the beginning and finish of the answer to this question for a very long time. Even before he joined the German’s old team, Borussia Dortmund, the England international was seen as a Klopp player in the making. He would provide them with everything they most sorely need, including defensive rigidity, third man runs into the penalty area, and ball progression through midfield, to name just a few of his absurdly vast advantages.
But, even though the Reds have long been thought of as favorites to get him, a player who is wanted by Real Madrid and Manchester City may choose another team. Even with his talent, Bellingham would undoubtedly fall short on his own, as Jamie Carragher pointed out on the UEFA Champions League Post-Game broadcast following the first leg defeat.
The more you see this Liverpool team, you start to think that there should be four more players added to the team, not just the squad, he said. “Liverpool at times before the World Cup felt they needed a midfield player or two midfield players,” he said. Even Klopp has admitted that he should have bolstered the midfield in the summer, so it is reasonable to think that there may be more than one new arrival in the Anfield engine room. Nevertheless, such a radical revamp might not be achievable in one window. Ronaldo alone won’t be enough to win games for a team with so much skill elsewhere; you also need someone to stand behind him who can convincingly shelter the defense like Fabinho used to.
Leaving that aside, it is time to consider a center back who can be developed to succeed Van Dijk, as well as maybe a left back who fits a similar mold. Alexander-Arnold might benefit with competition on the other wing or even an additional pure defender, an improved version of the flexibility Erik ten Hag has at Manchester United between Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Digo Dalot.
In addition, if you take a close look at this team, you will see that it does not require the “open heart surgery” that Ralf Rangnick demanded at Old Trafford last season. The lows this season have not been indicative of a squad that ranks somewhere between third and fourth in England, as outgoing head of research Ian Graham highlighted earlier this month. Investing hundreds of millions of dollars on half a dozen starters this summer would return them to title contention, but so might anything resembling a comeback from Salah, Robertson, and Van Dijk, a season of comparable quality, and a little luckier injury luck. This great Liverpool team didn’t develop over the course of one summer, and it won’t be dismantled and swiftly replaced by another team of equal or greater caliber.