It is, of course, possible to look across to the other big city in the North-West with jealousy in your eyes, should you be so inclined. We’ve grown accustomed to Manchester City buying their way to success since the arrival of Sheikh Mansour, but it’s been fun watching United flounder since the departure of Ferguson. Now they seem to have gotten their act together and it isn’t nice to be watching from a distance.
It’s easy enough to cast glances at Old Trafford with worry and fear of what they might be able to achieve next season. José Mourinho’s final season at Chelsea might have been a good laugh for everyone who hates him, but I’m not convinced that it wasn’t a deliberate capitulation in order to get himself installed in the job he’s always craved slightly less than the Anfield hot-seat.
I’m more than aware that this might well come back to bite me in the backside, but I’m not quite as worried as everyone else about the business they’ve achieved thus far. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has obviously been a world-class talent and is only one run below Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez. But he’s also 35 this year and unquestionably on the wane. Is he worth the money they’re going to be paying him in wages?
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been signed up for £26 million and more than a few people have wondered why we weren’t in for the 27-year-old. Somehow they’ve forgotten that Klopp worked with him for some time and things didn’t really work out between them, with the former Dortmund man having a few choice words to say about Klopp after his departure. What’s to say things will definitely go well for him under the tutelage of The Miserable One?
Eric Bailly is a bit of an unknown quantity, though United’s defence certainly needs some work done to it. Admittedly the prospect of the Mancs re-signing Paul Pogba doesn’t fill me with joy and excitement, but at the same time not every major signing works out, so maybe Pogba will struggle to settle and we’ll all be the better off for it.
The trouble with United isn’t so much how they actually play, it’s how they’re perceived to be playing. The club has long been the darlings of the press, with Fleet Street consistently looking upon them with a more favourable eye than anyone else in the top-flight. Zlatan will score goals, so really it’s a question of everyone not getting too carried away when he does. The press and United fans will claim they’ve got the best player in the world, but if he finishes the season with 10-15 goals is that good enough? I’m not sure.
The problem with casting jealous glances at our neighbours along the M62 is that we don’t have the sort of manager who does what Mourinho does. For all of the talk of the Portuguese being one of the best managers in the world, it’s important to remember that he has spent more money than any other manager in the history of the game. There’s a reason he goes to the richest clubs on the planet and that reason is he needs to spend vast sums of money to succeed. It’s also the reason he would never have worked at Anfield (though his ego is another part of that) and why it was so laughable that some Evertonians actually thought he might rock up at Goodison Park. He can’t spend billions there, so there’s no point.
What we have is a manager who doesn’t buy into the ‘English way’ of solving things by buying new players all of the time. He thinks there’s far more that you can do on the training pitch than you can do in the transfer market. That’s not to suggest that he doesn’t think the Liverpool squad has flaws in it, of course, but he perhaps doesn’t think it’s in need of such dire surgery as everyone seems to.
It’s more than likely, then, that the club have made the best signing of the summer by getting Klopp and his assistants tied to a long-term deal. He is now contracted to the club until 2022, Liverpool confirmed today. Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz, ‘the eyes and the brain’ as they’re known to Klopp, have also signed new contracts. It means that, all being well, they could be at the club for a total of seven years. The same amount of time that they spent at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund. If Liverpool can achieve the same success as Dortmund did then I think we’ll all be pleased with that.
Fans of other clubs have, somewhat ridiculously, suggested that it’s a ‘reward for mediocrity’. That’s the mediocrity of taking over from another manager after the season was well underway, with no time to to work with the players on the training pitch and the club being enveloped in a real sense of depression, and taking us to two cup finals. No other club achieved that last season, so it’s laughable that some would suggest he’s done poorly.
Liverpool Football Club needs some stability. Rafa Benitez was in charge of the club for six years, but since then we’ve had Hodgson in for six months, Kenny back for a year and a half and Brendan Rodgers for about three and a half years. The constant chopping and changing of managers hasn’t achieved anything worthwhile (apart from getting rid of Hodgson), so it’s only going to benefit the club to have a manager in place for a significant period of time, especially if that manager knows what he’s doing.
There’s no way that Klopp signs a contract extension if he isn’t happy with the direction that Fenway Sports Group are taking the club. He believes in the same philosophy as them; the notion of developing young players and working together towards a common goal. He doesn’t want to buy success and it hasn’t suited him in the past when he’s tried to. He wants players that will run through brick walls for him and he’ll get them.
There’s no doubt that United have found a short-term fix in Mourinho and they’ll probably win the title within the next two seasons. But what happens when the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ throws petrol around the place before throwing a match over his shoulder and walking away, like he has from everywhere else? Liverpool have, at last, got a long-term solution in place and we should all be feeling happier for it.
There has finally been some movement as far as players leaving Liverpool are concerned. It has long been a worry that we have a bloated squad and are unable to shift people from our books when we no longer have a need for them, but it appears that that could be changing under the management of Klopp and his team. I’ve mentioned most of these before, though, so I’ll keep it brief as I update you:
The champagne corks are ready to be released, the party poppers are primed, the celebrations are so close to getting underway. The Slovakian, who I believe has long been a part of our defensive problems, is reportedly speaking to Fenerbahce about a move there. We’re likely to pick up about £5 million in exchange, which is probably about £4 million more than he’s worth. Great stuff.
The youngster promised so much but delivered so little. A shame that he couldn’t make the breakthrough to the first-team but he just isn’t good enough and his career has stalled somewhat at Anfield. Now it looks as though he’ll be making a move to either Bristol City or Norwich this summer. The Reds have reportedly added buy-back and sell-on clauses, so if he finally does fulfil his promise then we’ll still be able to benefit from it. That’ll do me.
Speaking of youngsters who haven’t fulfilled their promise. Ibe was, ridiculously, billed as the ‘new Raheem Sterling’ when the former Red made a move to Manchester City. It was a nonsense statement at time and it’s proven to be just as nonsensical as time has gone on.
Now he’s having discussions with Bournemouth after Liverpool accepted a £15 million fee for his services from the Cherries. Again, buy-back and sell-on clauses appear to be in place, so if he learns how to be consistent we can always bring him back. It won’t happen, though.
Remember him? He’s still on our books, the crazy Italian loon. Despite recent quotes suggesting he wants to get his career back on track – again – and win the Ballon D’or, he’s not wanted by Jürgen Klopp so it will only be a matter of time until he disappears from Liverpool for good. The boss of Sampdoria has this week declared that he would be ‘the perfect fit’ for the Italian club. The naive fool.
As I said in the above bit about Klopp’s new contract, he’s not a ‘buy them in’ type manager. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the same names keep being mentioned regarding Liverpool’s transfer activity. Until and unless something changes it’s likely that new names will be few and far between. Here are two of the names plucked out of thin air by the press this week:
The names may change from week to week, but the positions the club feels it needs to strengthen will pretty much stay the same. Attacking midfielder appears to be one such area, so links to 19-year-old Dinamo Zagreb player Ante Coric may not be too wide of the mark. Klopp has been keeping tabs on the Croatian since his Dortmund days (how many players did Klopp monitor back then? Maybe that’s why they lost their way in his seventh year) and Liverpool are hoping to beat Manchester City and Chelsea to his signature with a £12.5 million deal.
Alongside midfield, the other position that pretty much everyone except for Simon Brundish thinks needs to be strengthened is left-back. Aaron Cresswell was one of our rumoured targets, but he’s signed a new contract with West Ham. Ben Chilwell is the main player we want, but Leicester won’t sell him for the price we’re willing to pay so that’s reached a deadlock.
No surprise, then that other left-backs are being linked with the club and Lucas Digne is a name we’ve heard before. Reports are suggesting that Liverpool and Barcelona are both chasing the signature of the Paris St. Germain defender. Why would he choose Barcelona over us? It’s anyone’s guess.
Until next week…