Jurgen Klopp has worked wonders to restore Liverpool into a European superpower. But just a year on from winning the league for the first time in three decades, he has to do it all over again.
Their defence of the title last season was feeble, and while they saved some face with a late run into the Champions League spots, it’s obvious there are some real deficiencies within the squad that need to be addressed if they are to sustain their success for the years ahead.
The transfer business is already underway with the arrival of Ibrahima ‘Ibu’ Konate from RB Leipzig, but plenty more work needs done to get the silverware flowing again.
We’ve taken a look at the state of play to identify six key bits of business Liverpool need to do in the foreseeable future.
Sign Houssem Aouar
Klopp is keen to promote from within to replace Georginio Wijnaldum for the most part, so there will be more minutes for the likes of Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita next season.
But with Wijnaldum gone, James Milner winding down and Jordan Henderson’s patchy fitness record, there will be more than enough football to go around even with a new midfielder in the door.
Liverpool need someone who fits their recruitment profile, but is also experienced enough to step in right away. And they should look no further than Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, whose creativity, energy and versatility would go a long way towards helping them scale the Premier League once more.
He’s in demand, however, with reports claiming he could be available for as little as £20m. If someone beats them to it, Youri Tielemans, Renato Sanches and Nicolo Barella are all viable alternatives.
Sign Ryan Gravenberch
This one isn’t as pressing, but Liverpool’s midfield options are ageing, and at some stage, they will have to look to the future.
Curtis Jones is eventually going to lock down a spot, and Fabinho, at 27, will be around for a while yet. But the rest of Liverpool’s midfielders are either 30+ or unreliable fitness-wise, in the cases of Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
They could do with one long-term midfield signing that will set them up for the next decade, and Ajax wonderkid Gravenberch is one player who has been linked. He has all the physical characteristics Liverpool look for in a midfielder and mirrors Wijnaldum’s incredible ball-retention abilities, while also bringing a creative punch to the table.
He’s out of contract in 2023, so could be signed on the cheap in a year if he doesn’t extend his deal at Ajax.
Trim the fat
With the budget tighter than ever due to the financial constraints of the coronavirus pandemic, Liverpool can’t afford passengers. Unfortunately, however, there are a few.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi are just a couple of the high earners who aren’t going to have much of a part to play in the long run. Ben Davies signed in January but hasn’t played a minute, while Harry Wilson and Takumi Minamino have returned from loan, but don’t appear to have much of a future at Anfield.
Move those players on, as well as a couple of others, and the funds raised could be the difference in landing their transfer targets.
Sign Ismaila Sarr
90min recently revealed that Liverpool have rekindled their interest in Watford winger Ismaila Sarr, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s clear that Diogo Jota is eventually going to succeed one of Liverpool’s fabled front three, but beyond him, the lack of cover for Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is sparse – particularly if Shaqiri and Origi are sold.
Harvey Elliott could have a role to play, but at just 18, he’s too young and inexperienced to be relied upon just yet. The Reds need another tried and tested forward, but one with time on his side to settle in and carve out a role for himself.
Sarr ticks all of those boxes. He’s clearly rated by Klopp, who tried to sign him a year ago, and he’s already used to playing alongside Mane with Senegal, so it all makes sense.
Seal a new deal for Mohamed Salah
Each of Salah, Mane and Firmino are out of contract in two years’ time, and while it’s possible one of them may move on before then, it absolutely cannot be Salah.
The Egyptian was in the form of his life despite Liverpool’s struggles last season, scoring 31 goals in all competitions, and he will only be 31 by the time is deal runs out.
If the club play their cards right, they could get another four seasons of consistent goals out of him yet, and his mythical presence would no doubt help the transition into the next phase once the current crop of Liverpool players.
Create depth at full-back
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are two of the best full-backs in the business, but you don’t win titles with starters alone. Klopp needs some reliable cover for his formidable duo.
Kostas Tsimikas was recruited last summer to play second-fiddle to Robertson, but the Greek is yet to win his trust, with just six minutes of Premier League football to his name. On the other side, the lack of depth is even more prominent, with only Neco Williams – who is rumoured to be leaving on a permanent deal – available to cover Alexander-Arnold.
A versatile full-back would undoubtedly ease the burden, and RB Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann could do the job. Versed in playing in a back four or a back three, he’s good on either foot and can motor up and down the pitch all day without stopping for breath.
If Klopp wants a more creative full-back, Atalanta’s Joakim Maehle had a formidable Euros, while Hamburg’s Josha Vagnoman and Norwich’s Max Aarons are younger, cheaper options.
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