With both Manchester clubs and Chelsea flexing their financial muscle this summer, dethroned former Premier League champions Liverpool have been somewhat overlooked in the annual flurry of pre-season predictions regarding a title challenge.
Indeed, while Jurgen Klopp has spent money, the early summer £36m addition of Ibrahima Konate has gone somewhat under the radar and Virgil van Dijk’s return to action naturally overshadows it further.
Such is the insatiable appetite for new signings, Liverpool are largely seen as third favourites for a title challenge behind the monied elite and, interestingly, the kind of teams Klopp has recently publicly questioned for their spending amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic. Frankly, if Klopp can win the title – or even launch a genuine challenge – it will be amongst the greatest achievements of his career.
While not to attempt to portray a club involved in the grotesque plans to form a European Super League as plucky dark horses, it’s clear that Liverpool cannot spend like their rivals at the top of the game.
The moves for van Dijk and Alisson Becker were, of course, huge but those funds were largely generated following the £142m sale of Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona.
Aside from those two players, the club’s record signing stands at the £52m purchase of Naby Keita, significantly lower than City, United and Chelsea’s marquee signings.
Klopp simply cannot bring in the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho, essentially meaning he will have to generate a significant improvement on last season by getting the most of his returning players.
Another thing going against the Merseyside giants is the state of the transfer market. In times gone by, they may well have been able to sell one of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane to one of the big La Liga clubs, banking a hefty fee as the players approach 30 and duly reinvesting that into refreshing the squad. Now, that is no longer an option with both Barca and Real Madrid in differing states of financial disarray.
Although that kind of talent would be the envy of most coaches around the world, instilling the desire to go again and carry out Klopp’s demanding tactical system all while leaving what is generally the decline of their physical prowess is a gargantuan task, especially considering the level of competition in the Premier League.
At Borussia Dortmund, Klopp did manage to win consecutive league titles as well as reach a Champions League final after losing some of his best players. Still, he was at least able to sell most of the more prominent names under his watch to bring in more reinforcements.
Given where the market currently is, that doesn’t look like for Liverpool, which could be detrimental to their title challenge. Perhaps they want to go. Perhaps he wants them to go. All of that is unclear. What is painstakingly obvious, though, is that there just isn’t a buyer for a soon-to-be 30-year-old on big wages at the moment.
It’s also worth considering how often Salah and Mane have flirted with the idea of moving to Spain. To completely turn that situation around and have them write another chapter in their storied Liverpool careers would quite the show of man-management.
It was Dortmund, too, where Klopp eventually ran out of steam, leading to the worst season in his management career. Clearly, the situation at Liverpool is not as dire as it was in Germany then but to right those wrongs would be yet another triumph.
Klopp is at his best as the underdog, although Liverpool aren’t exactly paupers. Still, their wage bill is only around 74% of Manchester United’s and they are not as free-spending as City or Chelsea. A reprise of the heavy-metal football he’s so associated with to launch a title challenge for Liverpool would be one of the finest songs of Jurgen Klopp’s career.
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