With the exception of Real Madrid and Juventus, who are competing in the Champions League final on Saturday, everybody in the major European leagues have finished their seasons and are now immediately looking ahead to the next campaign.That means transfers.
The crazy levels of finances injected into football in recent decades show no sign of slowing down this summer, with record spending once again anticipated, especially in England.
The Premier League now has five representatives in the Champions League for next season – Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. They will want to make an impact in Europe, which has been almost negligible by English clubs since Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2012.
Allied to the unprecedented wealth that exists in the Premier League and you have a summer where all of the big fish are scrapping for the top players, at home and abroad.
For Liverpool, they have rarely dined at the elite financial table, even when they were prominent in the latter stages of competitions under Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez.
The club has focused more on buying gems for low prices and turning them into superstars, such as Sami Hyypia, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina. Liverpool’s current owners, Fenway Sports Group, have specifically targeted younger players who could then potentially be sold on for vast amounts and huge profits.
Having so far made a profit since arriving at the club, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp now has to be backed heavily by FSG simply to maintain a place in the Premier League’s top four on a consistent basis, let alone challenge for the title.
All Liverpool fans are desperate to end the club’s twenty-seven year wait for a nineteenth league title. However, the competition for a place in the top four next season – Arsenal and even Everton could be in the mix alongside the five teams mentioned above – means that clubs could be simultaneously competing to win the title and stay inside the top four.
There were predictions that three or four clubs would challenge for the title last season too, but all of the top clubs are now acutely aware of their main weaknesses.
Chelsea need to keep their best players and improve their depth for the Champions League; Tottenham likewise.
Manchester City have to strengthen their defence; Liverpool likewise.
Finally, Manchester United need more goals and Arsenal simply need more world-class players, whilst holding onto the two they have in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
There are no managerial changes for the top six – all are under the command of a man who has at least a season’s experience in the Premier League, so there cannot be any more excuses.
There is also no time to waste.
Given the number of clubs looking to strengthen and spend to compete for trophies, not just in England but across Europe, the demand for top players will be greater than the supply.
Granted, there are always new stars that emerge at relatively ‘smaller’ clubs than can be picked up by the big boys, alongside the prime stars who will also command huge transfer fees.
Fresh from their first league title in seventeen years, AS Monaco face a battle to hold onto their exciting young talent such as Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko.
Monaco have already sold Bernardo Silva to Manchester City for around £43m, with Pep Guardiola looking to sign his team-mate Mendy and pay a world-record fee for goalkeeper Ederson from Benfica.
City are wasting no time in improving their squad to the demands of their star manager, equipping themselves quickly so they are as well-prepared as possible for pre-season and consequently the season itself.
Klopp and Liverpool have to follow City’s lead or risk missing out on the best talent available to them, alongside preparing properly with the new signings in pre-season, so they can become accustomed to Klopp’s demands.
Recent reports, if accurate, suggesting that Liverpool are competing with City for Mendy would represent a step in the right direction for the Reds – competing with the biggest clubs for the biggest targets of the summer, those who can directly improve Liverpool into a position where they can win trophies again.
For a number of months, Liverpool have been linked heavily with Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk and RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita. Both have now been supposedly slapped with a £50m price tag, which would easily surpass Liverpool’s current club record fee of £35m – paid to Newcastle United for Andy Carroll in January 2011, more than six years ago.
Liverpool have the money – Champions League football will increase the club’s revenues, the new Main Stand has now been in operation for a season and, as mentioned earlier, Klopp has actually brought in money for FSG so far at Anfield.
If these are the prices that have to be paid to land these targets, then they have to be paid. There is little point negotiating for players of this calibre, because if one interested club refuses to pay the requested price, then another will simply come in and pay the fee instead.
Liverpool have suffered this fate far too many times in recent years, missing out on numerous players to other clubs, from Willian to Mohamed Salah and even Dele Alli.
Liverpool are not the only club interested in Van Dijk – almost all of the other top six Premier League clubs are too, especially Chelsea. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich have been previously linked with Keita.
If Liverpool take too long, then both of their priority targets this summer will be out of their reach.
To ensure their summer is a success, the Reds need to effectively complete their business before the transfer window firmly swings into action in July and August, otherwise Klopp may have to deal with second-best signings and a second-best season.