Liverpool’s transfer strategy lies in tatters. Jürgen Klopp went into the summer hoping to sign six or seven players, but we’ve only signed three. Fenway Sports Group deserve to be hounded out of Anfield, such is the disgrace of their handling of the transfer window. Our season is a disaster before a ball has even been kicked, with the squad so weak we’ll be lucky to scrape into the top four. Champions League qualification is already out of the question, such is the strength of Hoffenheim as a team compared to us. Losing to Atletico Madrid in the final of the Audi Cup was proof positive that we’re nowhere near ready for the coming campaign.
This transfer window has been pathetic. Even by our standards. 🔴 #LFC
— James Sutton (@thejamessutton) August 5, 2017
Only things aren’t quite like that. It’s probably true that Klopp wanted more players than we’ve currently signed, though I’m not entirely convinced that Dominic Solanke was on his list. Solanke strikes me as an opportunistic signing, with a new left-back, central defender, winger and midfielder the players he was genuinely keen on. Still, the arrivals of Robertson and Salah take care of two of those requirements. There’s also the best part of a month left before the transfer window shuts and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Virgil van Dijk was a Liverpool player before negotiations are over. Many supporters have the pitchforks out for the owners because there are seemingly no alternatives to the Southampton captain, but surely that’s on Klopp’s head?
I don’t want to suggest that we don’t need any more signings. I firmly believe that we’ll be able to negotiate Germany’s fourth best team and get into the Champions League. You can’t hope to get into a competition that features the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid but then fear a side that didn’t get into it automatically in a two-horse league. Given the addition of European football, therefore, a stronger squad is vital. Even so, the toys out of the pram approach of some supporters is just plain odd. We could well end up signing Salah, Solanke, Robertson and van Dijk this summer, which wouldn’t be a bad piece of business at all. In fact, it would mean that Keita would be the only one we’d lose out on.
I also think that some supporters are under-estimating the amount of faith Klopp has got in our young players. People are complaining about the lack of depth in the squad, forgetting that the manager will be using Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria, Ben Woodburn and Joe Gomez on a regular basis. Some supporters might think they’re not good enough but the only opinion that matters is the manager’s and he rates them. Little wonder, then, that the players we’re being linked with are few and far between. Still, I’ve done my best to rake through the tabloids to see what the stories have been over the last week.
The Runners And Riders Of The Rumour Mill
The question is, then, what rumours have been in the papers this week? Is it all about those two players or have other names come to the fore?
Only two particularly noteworthy rumours of outgoing players that are worth mentioning this week, but given one of them is arguably our best player his name being linked with a move away won’t please many people…
The Spaniard has played well during pre-season, lulling some people into a false sense of security over his ability. The former Sevilla defender has always shown patches of ability, but lacks the concentration to be our left-back in the long-term. His speed is an asset that James Milner lacks, but Andrew Robertson seems to have pace combined with a brain. Moreno’s performances have been a boon for the club’s hopes of getting some decent money for him, with Watford the latest club to come in for him.
It’s a move that makes some sort of sense. The Hornets are a big side but as a consequence the lack pace, which the Spaniard would give them in abundance. The issue is that the Reds reportedly turned down a £15 million bid from Napoli for him, but that’s the same amount that we’re meant to be turning down this time around. Given Moreno’s improved form and the fact that we’d be strengthening a rival, I’m not sure this particular rumour has legs. Jürgen Klopp has suggested that Moreno might well have a stay of execution at Anfield, but I’d be amazed if that actually turned out to be the case given Robertson’s arrival.
Likelihood Rating: 4/10
You have to hope that both the manager and the owners are telling the truth when they’re letting it be known that Philippe Coutinho will not be sold this summer. Flush with £198 million from the sale of Neymar, Barcelona appear to have made the Brazilian their number one target to replace his countryman. He is far too important a player for us to allow him to leave, even before we take into account the fact that any move for Naby Keita seems to be dead. The injury to Adam Lallana that has ruled him out for at least two months means we’ll be light in the middle as it is. Lose Coutinho and we’ll be without our most creative player and have no one to replace him, meaning there might well be protests.
It’s complete guesswork from me, but I think that the Spanish giants are laying the groundwork in order to take the Little Magician to the Nou Camp next summer. That’s based mostly on stories that he would like to move there but has no intention of forcing through a transfer. The combination of Klopp’s desire to keep him, Coutinho’s happiness at remaining in Anfield and the fact that the owners don’t need the money all means that I just don’t see him going anywhere just yet. If an arrangement can be made to let him move next summer then perhaps he’ll be settled enough for this campaign and it will suit all parties.
Likelihood Rating: 2/10
For what might well be the first time this summer, I’m not going to talk about Naby Keita. The Guinean doesn’t seem to want to force a move away from RB Leipzig, meaning that any attempts we make to sign him will be pointless. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t been linked with anyone at all, however…
Virgil van Dijk
How on earth is this one going to end? It really is up in the air at the moment. Unlike both Philippe Coutinho and Naby Keita, Virgil van Dijk seems very happy indeed to try to force through a move. Not only has the Southampton captain not been training with the rest of the team, he’s also been refusing to even play for them in pre-season friendlies. The likelihood of him still being at St. Mary’s come the end of the transfer window is, in my opinion, zero. Yet will he be at Anfield? My confidence on that front is draining away a little, I have to admit.
My loss of confidence is nothing to do with Jürgen Klopp’s recent comments about being happy with his defence, which strike me as being little more than a clever comment to the press dropped in to let Saints know that if they want the £70+ million we’re offering they better get a move on in accepting it. Instead I’m concerned that Chelsea appear to have become involved from nowhere and Southampton’s fans are desperate for the club to sell him to anyone but us. They’ve invented a fun little rivalry between the two clubs that Liverpool supporters clearly don’t care about, but that they’re really bothered by. You can’t blame them, I suppose. We’ve taken Adam Lallana, Nathanial Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mané from them, to say nothing of crowd favourite Rickie Lambert.
The fact that van Dijk has today handed in a transfer request might mean that Saints have no choice. Mauricio Pellegrino wants the situation resolved as soon as possible now and £70 million or so is a decent kitty that he can use to replace the central defender. Will one of the longest transfer sagas of the summer finally come to an end in the coming days? I hope so. Crucially, though, I hope he ends up at Anfield rather than Stamford Bridge. I can only imagine the fume from certain sections of the Liverpool fan base if he signs for someone else, given how long we’ve been wooing him for and how desperately we need to improve our defence…
Likelihood Rating: 9/10
Not a name I’m particularly familiar with, though I’m sure there’ll be a host of Liverpool fans who declare themselves to be experts in him within a day or so, having watched hundreds of YouTube videos of him playing for Ajax. Those same fans will then be furious if we don’t sign him, hash tagging ‘FSGOUT’ all over the place, regardless of the fact that it’s probably a made up link in the first place. Whether the interest is true or not isn’t really the point, of course, as all what I’m doing here is keeping you abreast of the different rumours doing the rounds.
For clarification, then, Hakim Ziyech is a twenty-four year old striker for Ajax who likes to play through the middle or out wide. He’s a dead ball specialist who managed to rack up twenty assists and twelve goals for his club in all competitions last season. The rumours are linking him with us as a Coutinho replacement, but I don’t think that’s likely for the reasons I mentioned above. He could easily be brought in as an understudy to Salah and Mané, however, and his profile certainly seems to fit in with the FSG/Klopp philosophy.
Likelihood Rating: 1/10
A story I think does have a bit more likelihood to it is the one linking us to Benjamin Andre. The twenty-seven-year-old currently plays for Rennes in France and the rumours suggest that we’ve been scouting him for some time. We’re apparently readying a bid of over £15 million for the Frenchman, having earmarked him as a replacement for Lucas Leiva. I would suggest that it’s more likely that we’ve introduced his name to the mix in order to give RB Leipzig a polite reminder that Naby Keita isn’t the only midfielder in the world, just in case they’re only posturing over their refusal to sell.
The reason that I think this rumour might have legs is that we definitely need another body in the middle of the park, with Lucas’s sale to Lazio and Kevin Stewart’s departure to Hull City both meaning the squad is light in that area before we even talk of Lallana’s injury. The reason I’m sceptical, however, is that he signed a new deal in June that will keep at the French club for another five years. He also seems to be happy enough at the club, declaring that he’s ’happy to be part of a project’. I still think we might see another midfielder arrive at some point, but I’m not sure he’ll be the one.
The van Dijk transfer request is the most interesting move of the week, without question. I’m hoping that it comes to an end one way or another in the next few days, but will it be to the benefit of the Reds?
Until next week…