“When I sit here in four years’ time, I think we want at least one (Premier League) title.”
Jurgen Klopp gave a statement of intent if ever there was one in his first ever press conference as Liverpool boss when he slipped this solemn promise in between all the witty one-liners. This was back in October 2015, when he was announced as Brendan Rodgers’s replacement at Anfield. By this time next year, we will know if he came good on his word.
Although Klopp has guided the Reds to consecutive 4th placed finishes, no mean feat in today’s hyper-competitive Premier League, he has the glaring black mark of his record in major finals. Defeats in the League Cup, Europa League and most recently, the Champions League finals mean that for all the memorable football and thrilling wins, he remains without a trophy to his name.
Every one of those defeats exposed glaring shortcomings in the team Klopp inherited, and to his credit and the club’s, they are slowly being addressed. Michael Edwards was plucked from the backroom and announced as the club’s first-ever Sporting Director to work with Klopp the same way Michael Zorc did back in his Borussia Dortmund days, to great success.
But simply replicating the ‘wheeler-dealer’ model wasn’t going to cut it. The rising inflation in transfer market fees has been triggered by Neymar and Kylian Mbappé’s eye-watering €400 million moves to Paris Saint-Germain and handed all the power to the selling clubs. With lucrative sponsorship and broadcasting deals, clubs don’t have to sell their best players anymore, driving a hard bargain to squeeze every penny out of the big spenders. Klopp realised the market had changed, and he must too.
Jurgen Klopp in 2016: “Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players. I want to do it differently.”
Jurgen Klopp now: pic.twitter.com/OP2pqLEgH0
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 22, 2018
That change has been more pronounced than ever in 2017. The deal for Virgil van Dijk from Southampton at the start of the year was finalised at a mammoth £75 million fee, shattering the record for a defender. It became clear where the money had come from a week later when Philippe Coutinho’s £146 million transfer to Barcelona rolled around. Fans feared that it was one step forward, two steps back as once again the owners showed a tendency to sell first and spend second. But that hasn’t proved to be the case this summer.
Money has been splashed at key areas of weakness across the pitch. The transfer of Naby Keita was agreed to at the start of last season, and he will be joined in midfield by Fabinho. The Bazilian joined from Monaco in a deal that was signed, sealed and delivered in the blink of an eye. Following the end of the World Cup finals, deals for Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson Becker were also announced.
While Shaqiri’s move was a snip at £13 million, the others have joined for big money. Another world record fee, this time for goalkeeper Alisson, have pushed the spending for the year above £250 million. But there may be more to come.
Klopp on Nabil Fékir: "If something doesn't happen in 2 weeks it is fine, if something does happen you have to be ready to react."
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) July 27, 2018
Liverpool’s pursuit of Lyon playmaker Nabil Fekir was sensationally called off after the Reds seemingly pulled out of the deal over the player’s medical results. Since the end of the World Cup which Fekir and France won, things have reignited and both camps have remained coy over the possibility of reopening talks. As was seen in the cases of Keita and van Dijk, Klopp isn’t excited by the prospect of going after alternatives and is prepared to play the waiting game to get his man.
Signing an attacking midfielder, Fekir or otherwise, will likely be the last of Liverpool’s summer spending. The focus in these last few weeks before the season starts will be on a clearout of the deadwood. While Daniel Sturridge may have earned a last chance with bright displays in the preseason, others will be up on the shopping window as Klopp looks to trim down his squad. The likes of Lazar Marković, Divock Origi and Simon Mignolet are headed for the exits, with the club looking to raise as much as £100 million from departures to balance the books.
— Kristof Terreur 📰 (@HLNinEngeland) July 24, 2018
For the first time in a very long time, the transfer window has been an emphatic success for Liverpool, so much so, that in the eyes of some they have become Manchester City’s biggest threat to the title. Always that one or two signings away from completing the puzzle, everything has come together nicely for them this time around. Jürgen Klopp is the first to acknowledge the increased pressure on his shoulders, whether he can be the man to finally deliver the Premier League at Anfield, only time will tell.
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Feature Image via GhanaWeb