Every summer a club will have its top targets. They’ll have their best-case scenario planned out but will know that things aren’t going to pan out that smoothly, they never do.
The hierarchy at Liverpool will be prepared for that eventuality, won’t they?
That’s the question fans are frantically asking themselves now. Surely the club wouldn’t plan a summer of huge investment into the squad and then ignore those areas of weakness when they can’t recruit the players they’ve identified?
If there really is no contingency plan in this summer transfer window, if the plan really was this one particular player or bust, the club has made a fatal miscalculation. Not only of the current squad’s capacity and capabilities but also of the club’s current position.
The story of the summer has been our pursuit of two players, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Dijk. The absence of any alternatives coupled with the persistence of the club to pursue these deals has led fans to be confident about their eventual arrival. but the reasons for confidence now feel like reasons to be very worried.
It’s been widely acknowledged now that in order for these deals to have any chance of happening, both players need to actively force their way out of the club. This would involve more than merely telling their clubs they want the move, Van Dijk is in the process of doing this but our public apology means we now can’t actively pursue him, for now.
Even that might not be enough, Southampton have had enough of Liverpool raiding their best players every year and RB Leipzig have apparently held the same stance all summer, Keita isn’t going anywhere at any price.
On top of this, neither club are financially obligated to sell, Southampton have the same TV money that’s lining our pockets and Leipzig are backed by a huge multi-national corporation.
This leaves us in a position where both clubs have to dramatically U-turn on the tough stances they’ve held all summer or the players themselves have to completely poison the relationship with their current clubs, which would mean missing out on the millions they stand to gain in bonuses from the big moves they’re destined for.
Fans are now praying that those that have stated these are all coordinated PR stunts to save the selling club’s face are proved right in the end. Particularly given that Paul Joyce has already confirmed that Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan will be the back-ups should a move not materialise for Van Dijk.
All summer long, journalists have stated there is no alternative to Keita, they pointed out his £48 million release clause next year pretty early into the saga.
But this can’t be, can it?
How can the club be prepared to spend up to £140 million on two players and simultaneously be ready to go into the season with the squad as it is? If this is the stance the club is taking, it’s a grave miscalculation on multiple levels.
Let’s examine the first, it’s a serious mistake to believe we can properly compete across all competitions with the squad we have now. This is a pertinent point in the Van Dijk pursuit. Liverpool need to recruit another centre-back this summer.
As it stands, we have two that are prone to spells out and Dejan Lovren has already had his problems in pre-season. That leaves us an injury away from Ragnar Klavan starting regularly in the Champions League. Or Joe Gomez, who was rumoured to be off to Brighton on loan a couple weeks ago, becoming a significant member of our squad.
Liverpool going into the season without a new centre-back would be like carrying a gaping wound and refusing to even place a plaster on it. I admire Klopp’s confidence in his coaching ability but this would just be an act of serious self-harm, willingly leaving himself short going into a new campaign.
We’ve been told that Liverpool are prepared to wait for these players, they’re seen as that crucial to the project, that there’s no urge to compromise with sub-par players.
If this is the case, and the club has the confidence to be able to take this stance, it is not something we should all sit back and admire. This is not an approach we should all applaud because the club won’t throw money at anything that moves.
There are a few clubs in world football that can actually afford to do this, let’s take Real Madrid as an example. Real Madrid can afford for Kylian Mbappé to remain at Monaco for another year if they can’t get him (although it looks like they will). Madrid know that come next summer, they will definitely be in the Champions League, they know that they will be able to offer the financial package that will land the player and they also know that regardless of other clubs that come in for Mbappé, they will get the player if they really want him.
Liverpool are a huge club, but we cannot guarantee Champions League football in the future at this point, we cannot say with any certainty that if a club like Bayern Munich develops an interest in Keita that we’ll still be the front runners.
Until the club consolidates Champions League football, until the club starts winning major silverware again, we cannot take this approach in the transfer window.
By taking the decision to not recruit whilst in this position of strength we currently find ourselves, we risk throwing it away. By taking the position that only Keita and Van Dijk will do, it implies they’re the only players capable of genuinely enhancing the strength of the squad. That logic is utterly delusional, you’d be gambling on the club’s future by refusing to strengthen it in the present.
Last summer, we missed out on Piotr Zieliński and Mario Götze and bought Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum instead. The club identified areas of weakness to address, it seemed like a flexible strategy, not a rigid one that focused on any particular player.
I understand we’re shopping in a different market, but there are players around that could push us on. Currently, we have Champions League football and the momentum is with us, if we don’t capitalise on this opportunity now we risk struggling to just be in this position again next year.
This may be incredibly premature, I genuinely hope that Klopp & Michael Edwards have an extensive list of quality alternatives ready to go or we actually manage to land these players.
However, if there really is no Plan B and the club are content to go into next season with roughly the same squad that just got over the line in a domestic campaign.,I think the club would be making a serious mistake.