In many ways, this has been one of the oddest transfer windows in some time. On the one hand, not much has happened. On the other, Liverpool have been involved in two of the weirdest transfer sagas in recent memory. From the club feeling as though it was prudent to make a public apology over our pursuit of Virgil van Dijk through to Ralf Rangnick’s mildly racist comment about Naby Keita, it’s entirely fair to suggest there’s been plenty to talk about. The fact that actual transfers isn’t one of those things is quietly irrelevant.
Yet it’s also true that some fans are impatient for some action. There is a belief in some quarters that failing to bring in a new centre-back will mean this window has been a disaster, regardless of what else is achieved. I wrote last week about how there are no alternatives to Keita or VvD because both players are unique and offer something specific. That’s why I don’t think we’ve heard many other names linked to the club and it’s also why I’m still fairly confident that they’ll both get done before the window shuts. Not that that is stopping heads from falling off every time there’s a new story…
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?
One of the other reasons why I think there isn’t much going on from us is that we’re waiting to offload the deadwood before we splash the cash. Now that pre-season has got underway, there are some links being made with players heading out of the club:
The Serbian was left out of our squad for the trip to Germany last week. In principle this was apparently because he was in talks with Fiorentina about a possible move to Serie A, but his exclusion from the squad was probably more like a statement from the manager that he is surplus to requirements. It’s a shame, really. The youngster’s arrival at Anfield was much heralded, with the club hierarchy apparently celebrating the ability to clinch his signature. He completely failed to deliver on his promise, however, and now he’ll be allowed to leave.
He won’t be the first talented winger to leave the club having failed to make an impressive. Stewart Downing might not be a name that many Liverpool supporters remember fondly, but he was not a poor player when we brought him in under Kenny Dalglish. Just as with Markovic, it seemed as though the ‘weight of the shirt’ was too much for him to handle and he went missing when it mattered. We moved him on easily enough, but whether we get rid of the Serbian will depend entirely on whether Fiorentina will meet our £16 million asking price. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Likelihood Rating: 6/10
Another player who looks as though he could be on his way to Serie A is Mamadou Sakho. The French centre-back burnt his bridges with Jürgen Klopp last season and will definitely move on to pastures new this summer. Some Liverpool fans are inexplicably annoyed about this, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t actually that good a defender. He wasn’t bad, just nowhere near the defensive saviour that some people seem to have him down as. It looks as though Roma might be sniffing around him, though the £30 million we want might be too rich for them.
Likelihood Rating: 5/10
The rumours linking Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona appear to show no signs of abating, regardless of the fact that the player himself seems to be happy at Liverpool. He’s reportedly thrown himself into training during the club’s time in Germany and was even given the captain’s armband when we played Hertha Berlin over the weekend. Most of the links appear to be nothing more than complete guesswork by newspapers, suggesting he’s ‘agreed terms with Barcelona’, despite that fact that his camp are saying he’s happy at Anfield.
The belief is that neither FSG nor Klopp are willing to let Coutinho leave this summer, so it just won’t happen. Certainly his performance against Hertha, where he clicked with Mohamed Salah to devastating effect, gave the impressed that he was a player happy in his work. Even Jamie Carragher thinks we’ll get another year from him. Our former vice-captain admits that most South American players want to play for either Barcelona or Real Madrid at some point and that he doesn’t expect Coutinho to see out all five years of his new contract, but that he won’t leave this summer. I agree with him.
Likelihood Rating: 3/10
I genuinely think that we won’t see any more major moves in the market until we’ve been able to sell some players, simply because Klopp and the owners will want to balance the squad as best as possible before the new season starts. Not that that makes any difference to the tabloids, who remain as happy as ever to link us with players willy nilly.
Where else could I possible start than with the RB Leipzig midfielder? This week has seen another couple of crazy twists in our attempts to bring him to the club, with Ralf Rangnick once again taking centre stage. The Leipzig sporting director make a comment towards the end of last week about Naby Keita having his head turned by ‘a whole village in Guinea’. This in spite of the fact that Keita’s home ‘village’ is significantly larger than the one that the German was born in. Rangnick attempted to clarify his comment, but the clarification didn’t work out too well either.
The Director of Sport for Leipzig said, “Behind many players with an African background, and I’ve met a lot of them, there is a clan and sometimes a whole village, that lives from the help of one football player. And it’s the case that there are people behind Naby, that demand his transfer”. Still talking of a village. Still referencing Keita’s African heritage. Surely not helping his cause even remotely. That said, Leipzig are as adamant that they’re not going to sell him as Liverpool are over Coutinho, with the club’s manager saying the chances of Keita leaving are ‘nil’.
Speaking in the wake of our 3-0 win over Berlin, Jürgen Klopp joked that we’d bid €300 million for Keita next. It was very clearly a tongue-in-cheek comment from the German, but it also gave the impression that he’s not yet ready to abandon all hope of bringing the Guinean in before the window closes. As I said earlier, there don’t appear to be many alternatives to him and whether we see any emerge over the next couple of days will help to clarify how seriously we’re taking Leipzig’s statement that he’s 100% not for sale.
Likelihood Rating: 4/10
Virgil van Dijk
No mention of Naby Keita this summer can go by without also mentioning Virgil van Dijk. Despite playing for totally different clubs and in entirely different positions, it seems as though the two players’s futures are inextricably linked. We might well end up getting neither or we could get one without the other, yet it certainly feels as though the two go hand-in-hand at this stage. There’s also an immense amount of confusion over both transfers, with different camps telling different stories.
Never has that been more in evidence than this weekend, when one story emerged of any move for the defender being dead at the same time as another tale came out about the deal seemingly being done. The reason it’s ‘dead’ is that the new Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino is ready to bring him in from the cold (he’s been training on his own, you’ll remember) and re-integrate him into the first-team squad this week. That combined with the player’s apparent acceptance that a move isn’t going to happen is enough to leave plenty of people to conclude that we aren’t going to sign him this summer.
Meanwhile the other story suggesting that a deal is as good as done appears to be based around the fact that bookmakers have slashed the odds of him playing for Liverpool next season. Paddy Power received a flurry of bets on his arriving at Anfield ahead of the first of September in their Liverpool stores and consequently reduced the odds of him doing so to 1/8. Now bookies often get things wrong and make moves in the market to protect themselves, but that’s still an interesting reason for making the change. Can we read into it, or is it just some Scousers getting carried away and a bookie making assumptions accordingly? We’ll see over the next few days, I reckon.
Likelihood Rating: 7/10
Last summer and last winter Liverpool showed a willingness to bring in Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund. In the end the move didn’t happen and the teenager signed a new contract, but that isn’t stopping the press from suggesting that we’re looking at testing the resolve of Klopp’s former club with a £30 million bid. The problem that the tabloids have got in being convincing on this front is that they’re not quite sure whether or not the eighteen-year-old is coming in as a replacement for Coutinho or an alternative to Naby Keita.
From my point of view, it seems like a convenient bit of guesswork from the media. We’ve been interesting in Pulisic in the past, we’ve received bids for our best player and may need to replace him, so surely going back for someone we’ve tried to get previously is an easy story? As for the player himself, he’s been chatting this weekend about how Dortmund have ‘a big chance to win the league’, suggesting that he’s not that bothered about leaving for Liverpool anytime soon. Not that that sort of thing ever stops the gutter press from writing whatever the hell they want, of course…
Likelihood Rating: 2/10
The last name I’ll chuck out is that of Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez. It’s an interesting link, primarily coming from the Daily Express and the Daily Mail; two papers predominantly only useful if you’re looking for information on the EDL. Rumours are that Liverpool and Arsenal are both interested in him, with the player favouring a move to North London. Roma are the only team actually making efforts to sign him, offering £30 million. That’s £20 million short of the Foxes’s valuation of the player, however, leading to the links to other clubs. I wouldn’t mind him, actually, with his performances in his debut season being really impressive. Only ten goals last time out, though, so was he just another player hitting the heights for Leicester when it mattered in improbably circumstances?
Silly season rumbles on. A couple of weeks ago I was full of confidence that the Reds would be able to get at least the van Dijk deal over the line. Now it feels as though we’re destined to suffer rumours, lies and ITKs right up until the end of September. What joy.
Until next week…