Ahead of the 2022-23 season, Liverpool FC is installing a new hybrid carpet pitch at Anfield.
The new hybrid pitch is a high-quality playing surface formed of a network of artificial fibres and open-structured backing – similar to a carpet – to offer reinforcement for the grass plant.
Its patented technology reinforces the natural grass by holding polyethylene fibres at the carpet base to a height of 45mm to be retained in the grass sward. It is then in-filled with sand, which is carefully selected to deliver optimal drainage and playing performance.
Unlike other sports turf, the hybrid carpet is grown off-site on specially prepared turf nursery field plots designed to provide the best possible growing conditions, including improved air flow and natural sunlight.
Composed of 95 per cent grass and five per cent artificial fibres, the carpet is laid over 10,000sqm and is filled with 40mm of sand across the surface. The surface is then seeded using specially selected cultivars, including four different types of perennial ryegrass – 25 per cent Monroe, 30 per cent Eurocordus, 25 per cent Guldara and 20 per cent Europitch. Each cultivar has different characteristics to perform better at different times of year.
From establishment to harvesting, the pitch has been tended to by LFC ground staff off-site. Once the carpet is fully established it is then harvested and transported to Anfield for installation.
To the naked eye, the pitch will not look any different to last season; however, the new hybrid pitch will provide excellent performance, stability and resilience, while significantly reducing the time period for end-of-season renovations to a pitch ready for competitive use. The average in-stadia pitch renovation window is seven to eight weeks growth from seed. By installing a hybrid carpet system, the club is reducing this window to three to four weeks, providing a bigger window of opportunity for close-season activity, including concerts, major events, play-on-pitch opportunities and pre-season friendlies.
In 2017, the Reds installed the UK’s first in-stadia ‘Permavoid’ drainage system, as well as a new undersoil heating system, installed to help aid growth and also prevent the ground from freezing during the winter months. The new hybrid pitch will be laid on top of the system, providing the ultimate playing surface.
The installation of the new turf has already begun with the removal of the old pitch, including 60mm of rootzone and the existing Desso fibres. LFC ground staff will then undertake preparatory field work ready for the laying of the hybrid carpet at the beginning of July, adding 15mm of fresh rootzone and cultivating the surface.
The pitch is expected to take only three days to be laid, allowing three weeks grow-in and establishment period ahead of the new season – one of the key benefits of the hybrid carpet system. Within days, roots will develop through the backing of the carpet and turf to form a reinforced natural playing surface.
Once laid, data tools will be used to regularly monitor pitch conditions to ensure the playing surface feels and reacts the same as the club’s training pitches at the AXA Training Centre, creating the perfect pitch for playing football.
LFC’s senior grounds manager, Warren Scott, said: “It’s a really exciting project – the installation of a hybrid carpet pitch will allow us to host pre-season fixtures as well as concerts at the stadium.
“Each year this gives us the ability to evaluate the playing surface and make any adjustments if needed after the close-season period to ensure the best possible playing surface.
“The fact that we can start to grow the turf in March at the turf farm will give us the assurance that we are in the best possible position to start the season with a strong, healthy pitch each year in a short timeframe.”
On the night of May’s Champions League final in Paris, the Labour Party realised it had a problem because four of its Liverpool-supporting members attended an event where people were crushed and then attacked by riot police. Later, many were dragged across the street by locals, beaten up, robbed and in some cases, molested.
Immediately, texts were sent to each of these politicians, to check on their welfare. Steve Rotheram, the metro mayor for the Liverpool city region, was unable to receive his because the phone in his pocket was stolen along with other belongings including all forms of identification.
Upon telling police of his experience, Rotheram was given the reply: “Welcome to Paris.” Officers only realised who he was when a group of Liverpool fans arbitrated, telling them, “that’s our mayor” and with that, they did a Google search and realised it might be in their professional interest to help.
Rotheram proceeded to the Stade de France where, in one of the executive lounges, he spotted Aleksander Ceferin. Shaken up, he approached UEFA’s president and told him about the carnage outside.
When Ceferin explained that the organisation he leads had “killed” themselves to get the final on in Paris after it was moved at short notice from Saint Petersburg and Rotheram reacted to that by saying he hoped the effort did not come at the expense of safety, Ceferin went cold and scuttled away to discuss his wider response in a huddle of suited men.
To Rotheram, it did not seem that Ceferin wanted to entertain the idea that UEFA might have got something wrong in their preparations. Since returning to Britain, he has been relentless in his public pursuit of letting the truth be known along with another Labour MP from Merseyside, Ian Byrne, who on Tuesday sent a letter to the French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera asking her to prove once and for all with evidence that ticket forgeries on an “industrial scale” caused some of the problems because “the ongoing smearing of innocent people cannot continue…”
Labour figures on Merseyside have received central support from the party they represent. Lucy Powell, the shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sport has been in charge of the response and nine days after the final, she told parliament about how Liverpool fans particularly were “mistreated” and “wronged”.
Labour say it is Powell who speaks for the party on the issue and yesterday she told The Athletic: “From the top down, the Labour party stands with Liverpool fans following the atrocious treatment they’ve received from the French government and UEFA. That’s why we strongly supported Ian Byrne’s urgent question, forcing ministers to come to parliament and demanded the government gets to the truth about the incident and hold those accountable. The government should use every avenue to ensure the French investigate and fully apologise. Labour will continue to support Liverpool fans in their fight for justice.”
Labour’s leader, however, is yet to express any feelings about the night. As of yesterday morning, Sir Keir Starmer had posted on Twitter 57 times since May 28 and not one of those posts related to the scandal of Paris. While it is true that politicians should not be judged by the content of their social media pages, it does seem unusual that the efforts of Powell – one of his most senior appointments – has escaped his attention on such a significant platform.
Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan, who was positioned in the stadium as a Liverpool supporter as the mood turned dark, started Tweeting again two days after the final but there was no mention of where he’d been over the weekend.
Instead, he returned to social media with a comment about the Elizabeth line on London’s tube map and a “huge economic boost for London”. A month and nearly 500 Tweets later, you would not know Khan – the capital’s Labour mayor and a Starmer ally – was in Paris had it not been for photographs placing him there.
Boris Johnson is loathed in Liverpool because of his comments about the causes of the Hillsborough disaster, as well as his political allegiance as a Conservative. The city has been left-leaning since 1979 but even he, albeit through a spokesman, called for UEFA and the French authorities to carry out a full investigation because of “deeply upsetting and concerning footage”.
The French government and UEFA subsequently announced their own separate reviews. While Liverpool supporters appeared in front of the senate last week before an apology of sorts came this week from the country’s under-fire interior minister Gerald Darmanin, there remains huge concern about the direction of UEFA enquiries given it appointed its own man to lead a supposedly “independent” examination.
The process, therefore, already feels like a kid marking his own homework because the governing body’s failings should be at the centre of this story.Liverpool fans stuck outside the Stade de France show their match tickets (Photo: Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)
Will UEFA be empowered by what seems to be a lack of interest from the most influential politicians in Britain? While Johnson has said nothing else about the event since May 30, his sports minister Nigel Huddleston has spoken about the matter in parliament, most recently on June 6. Huddleston met his French counterpart for a virtual conversation the following day where both, according to Conservative sources, agreed that their respective governments will continue to engage in constructive dialogue alongside other relevant authorities on this issue, and that the French Government will set out the findings of its review as soon as possible. The details of this discussion have yet not been relayed to parliament. Labour, in the meantime, insist the party has not forgotten Paris and has agonised over the practical things it can do, insisting Starmer does care despite his silence.
There have also been denials that he took advice from a focus group, as he does with other key decisions, before forming his own conclusion about how to proceed. It has been offered that instead, Labour has assisted with diplomatic aspects including discussions with embassies on how best to prepare for such large-scale events before they happen in the future.
In cold assessment, Labour believes UEFA is not an organisation that will be swayed by the words of any politician yet there is an obvious gamble in any leader who really cares staying out of the conversation here, particularly when UEFA’s interest is aligned with those legislators in France attempting to protect a country’s reputation as well as their own careers.
What would Labour or, indeed, the Conservatives lose (without making any promises), if it called through official channels via their leaders for a full and truly independent enquiry to get to the truth of Saint-Denis and ensure that something like this never happens again whether it involves football or any other sport?
Had hundreds of British theatre-goers in Paris been dragged across the street and attacked for simply being there, it is imaginable the cross-party political noise would have been a lot louder.
Despite the words out of Johnson’s team on May 30, neither he nor Emmanuel Macron, the French president, were willing to express whether the brutal events of Paris formed a part of their discussions following various summits over the last seven days.Police spray tear gas at Liverpool fans outside the stadium as they queue prior to the UEFA Champions League final at the Stade de France (Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, it seems more likely that Starmer believes it is simply safer for him to avoid the issue because it is too controversial, especially when his main political opponent is on the run and losing popularity, as indicated by the results in two by-elections last week.
If that is his approach on Paris, it is not out of character because over the last month he has not signposted his position on the Conservative government’s attempts to dump refugees in Rwanda. While he attacked Johnson for “not lifting a finger” to stop RMT train strikes, he did not support workers for their stance. Instead, Labour politicians were told by whips to stay away from picket lines.
Starmer certainly has not been let down by Labour party members in the north west over Paris. A Labour spokesman reasons Byrne was chosen to speak in parliament ahead of figures senior to him because his experiences in Paris were lived.
Previously, Powell, Labour’s MP for Manchester Central, defended the right of Liverpool supporters to boo the national anthem while speaking at a BBC Question Time event held in the city where she also condemned the actions of some Manchester City supporters who interrupted a minute’s silence at the FA Cup semi-final in memory of the Hillsborough disaster.
Yet by avoiding visibility and the supposed risks now, Starmer is playing a dangerous game with voters in Liverpool, who might begin to feel history is repeating itself because it does not seem to be receiving the level of support required to defend itself and potentially, begin the process of bringing about genuine change that might make it safer for all British visitors to France for sporting events.
Liverpool is already wary of Starmer after he promised at a rally on the banks of the Mersey river that while on the same leadership campaign trail he would not conduct interviews with the Sun, a publication which has disappeared from the shelves of stockists on Merseyside following its lies about the causes of the Hillsborough.
As Labour leader, he later started co-operating with the newspaper, starting with a column where he tried to turn focus back on the government by laying the blame for food and petrol shortages on ministers.
He should heed a warning from the past. In 1997, the new Labour home secretary Jack Straw was under pressure in Liverpool from families of the victims of Hillsborough along with Merseyside MPs to reopen an inquiry into the disaster.
Two months after Labour came to power, Straw appointed Lord Justice Stuart-Smith to lead a review of the evidence but before that review even began he told officials that he had already looked at the case, concluding there was not enough material to proceed.
Straw’s doubts were not expressed in the House of Commons at the time and early in 1998, the case was closed.
Later that year, Liverpool voted in a Liberal Democrat council which prevailed for 12 years.
(Top photo: Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)
Premier League football clubs have been eagerly readying themselves for their first full pre-season since we first heard of COVID-19.
It will give them an opportunity to recoup a portion of the finances they lost because of the global pandemic while appeasing overseas sponsors, supporters and, hopefully, growing their brand in a different market.
With foreign travel disrupted for the past two years, this summer presents the first chance for clubs to start flexing their muscles on summer trips once again.
While some managers prefer to stay closer to home, there has not been a shortage of glitzy foreign tours announced.
Half of the teams competing in the Premier League have chosen to travel beyond Europe to participate in a number of fixtures and continue their preparation for the upcoming season.
Palace will also visit Singapore, with United travelling to Thailand for a game against Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s side will spend time in Singapore, too. Tottenham Hotspur are booked to go to South Korea, while Real Madrid and Barcelona will play only the third Clasico to take place outside of Spain in Las Vegas.Mesut Ozil and Arsenal in Shanghai in 2017 (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
“There is a huge demand to go away now,” says Gary Hobson, who organises pre-season trips for Premier League sides and those further down the pyramid. “This time last year I was scrapping around for UK camps, but this year I have never had such a busy summer in terms of trying to get teams abroad.
“A lot of these guys haven’t travelled for a couple of years, the (travel) restrictions are minimal, and the mood is that the teams want to go away.”
But how much is a summer tour really worth?
The financial impact of travel restrictions on pre-season tours was laid bare in Manchester United’s set of accounts for the year ending June 2021.
United reported almost a £50 million drop in commercial revenue, down from £279 million in 2020 to £232.2 million, and attributed a portion of this loss to their inability to head overseas. A trip to India was pencilled in for the summer of 2020.
“COVID-19 continued to have a significant adverse impact on our reported results for the year ended 30 June 2021,” the club’s accounts read. “The impact is primarily due to a reduction in commercial and match day revenues following the cancellation of the first team’s pre-season tour at the start of fiscal 2021 due to travel restrictions.”
Although this is at the top end, you get a sense of how important clubs view pre-season in terms of generating revenue.
Some teams, however, prefer to remain in Europe and will focus on getting their players in the best shape possible ahead of the campaign. For those outside the established elite, it is not worth the travel, jetlag and disruption for relatively small fees compared to others.
“What I’m finding is the top-tier clubs, your global brands, are getting big enough fees and are commercially big enough so that they are exceeding their costs,” adds Hobson. “They are making money from it. They might pull in £4 million and only spend £1 million to achieve that.
“The issue is that for those outside of that top bracket, they are getting smaller fees yet still incur the same costs to travel. Commercially, it has to be worthwhile — especially for those travelling to Australia.”
Juli Nadal, Barcelona’s former head of global partnerships between 2013 and 2017, was responsible for organising the club’s pre-season tours and details their significance in bolstering finances.
Nadal says the landscape has shifted over time, with teams opting to move away from travelling to Asia and opting for the US instead.
This was largely down to the inception of the International Champions Cup (ICC) in 2013, an annual tournament held predominantly in the US.Jose Mourinho and Chelsea playing in the ICC in New York in 2015 (Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Talking in general terms, Nadal said: “In one good summer tour, let’s say 10 days, you could do as much (financially) as you could do with a global sponsor in one season.
“But that is for Barcelona in the good days. It is not for everybody. It was a bit like bringing the Rolling Stones over.
“We went from the good money being made in Asia when a local promoter wanted to bring the club over there. The introduction of the International Champions Cup (ICC) changed that from around 2014. It made the US very attractive for the clubs again.”
Before the ICC, if a team chose to go on tour to Asia, they were usually reliant on several promoters as opposed to one body to organise everything. Logistically, this attracted them to America as clubs’ training facilities were taken care of and the matches were organised, with people assigned to them to make sure things ran smoothly. Plus the money on offer was not to be sniffed at.
One source suggested that sides such as Manchester United, Real Madrid and other members of Europe’s traditional elite can demand fees of over £2 million per game. It was also pointed out that some Major League Soccer teams will offer close to $500,000 (£410,000) to play against a “mid-range” Premier League club.
“Anything I’ve dealt with has been purely commercial-based,” Hobson says, when asked whether money is the sole factor behind trips to America, Australia and Asia. “Whether it’s (also) that club having a responsibility to their supporters as they are global brands with vast support networks across the world and they have a duty to be seen, I don’t know.
“The new emerging football nations are offering fees to the big teams to expand their own market. There are a whole raft of reasons, but they are mainly based on commercial.”
While the ICC tournaments proved lucrative for some, they did not come without relevant clauses.
Put simply, the organisers knew they had to sell tickets to start recouping the fees they were paying the clubs to make the trip. Accordingly, they would insert penalty clauses into contracts which would activate if certain players did not show up.
“A (Lionel) Messi is difficult to replace,” adds Nadal. “Cristiano (Ronaldo) is difficult to replace — and the value of your team is not that same without them in terms of selling tickets.”
Clubs could be looking at as much as a 25 per cent hit if their biggest stars, which would be agreed during the talks, did not attend.
As clubs began to realise their commercial worth overseas, aided by the explosion of social media which helped pinpoint exactly where their fans were following them from, it prompted some awkward conversations between different departments.
The manager’s priority is to prepare his players for the beginning of the season and travelling over several time zones for 10 days or two weeks is often far from ideal. Some managers have enough influence to put their foot down; others will ultimately have to do whatever the club decides.
As is often the case, however, money talks.
“It is a compromise,” explains Nadal. “By definition, the coach in the summer wants a pre-season where they just train, integrate the new players and get ready for the new season. That is in an ideal world.
“(But) after the last 10 years, everybody understands they need to compromise and go somewhere for 10 days.
“They would want good facilities, a good hotel, a training session in the afternoon and three games.
“You start to put together the schedule from a sports point of view. Then you start working out where you can fit in commercial activities.”
These events could include meet-and-greets between players and supporters, a trip to a kit partner’s store or visiting regional sponsors.
“It is the classic give-and-take that you need to have at a big football club,” continues Nadal. “You are not going to China or the US just to train.”Barcelona in Miami in 2018 (Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
Hobson recalls handling Arsenal’s pre-season camps when Arsene Wenger was in charge.
For many years, the Frenchman had “carte blanche” over what his side did during the summer, which usually resulted in Arsenal going to a base in Austria which Wenger first selected ahead of the 1997-98 season. As the financial pressure of paying for the club’s move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium grew, however, different decisions began to be taken.
“His compromise was that he would always stand his ground and say the commercial aspect should not impact his pre-season,” says Hobson. “We would do the Austria trip and then two quick games in succession on our way back. We could pick up substantial fees for two games in Germany. We’d do another game in Spain towards the end of pre-season.
“As commercial pressure grew, you then saw Arsenal travelling further afield as the commercial gains were bigger.
“I wouldn’t say Arsene lost control, but it came to the point where they would have to take the money if it meant paying the stadium off and so on. He bought into that.”
It is not uncommon for clubs which have global partnerships to have a clause inserted into the contract to visit that sponsor’s territory, or at the very least show a willingness to travel there.
This can lead to increased revenue because once that clause is activated, the team can usually expect to receive additional payments from their partner.
In light of the pandemic, the ICC stopped hosting its annual summer tournament and it is thought a new, streamlined version will replace it. No longer will there be 24 teams taking part.
This will undoubtedly continue to attract clubs to the US, especially as the alternative can often be stepping into the unknown if they decide to head elsewhere.
“It is a moment of big responsibility when you think about it,” says Nadal. “You are taking your first team to another country that you don’t know. You don’t know the stadiums, you don’t know the fans.
“Sometimes you would have offers from people that you would not take because the guarantees were not given in terms of facilities and logistics. A big club cannot afford to have a problem in pre-season.”
Nadal explains how clubs often receive offers from countries that may have questionable human rights records or, at the very least, might lead to uncomfortable questions being asked.
These tend to be the most financially lucrative but are usually not worth taking.
Barcelona’s former head of global partnerships has a golden rule that once a destination for pre-season has been decided, all of the money should be in the club’s account before the players board the flight.
This would normally be 25 per cent on signature, 25 per cent further down the road when the promoter has been able to sell tickets and the final 50 per cent before the aeroplane takes off.
Some clubs have already started working on next summer’s pre-season tours, with one Premier League side heading overseas before the end of the year to scout training facilities, such is the demand to get a good spot.
And after back-to-back summers where they were unable to travel, it is no surprise that they are trying to make up for lost finances this time around.
(Top photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
In terms of the quality of his performances, you could argue that Luis Díaz was Liverpool’s most impressive attacker in the second half of last season.
He was surely the best January signing made by any Premier League side, edging Dejan Kulusevski at Tottenham Hotspur. His arrival seemed like a turning point in the Reds’ season, invigorating their push for glory on four fronts. Now he’s preparing for his first full season on Merseyside, and he may just be about to explode.
In his first 26 appearances for Liverpool, Díaz scored six goals. It was a reasonable return given that he only started 15 of those matches, but in terms of minutes per goal, he still fell short of his teammates. Díaz averaged one every 282 minutes, compared to 129 for Mohamed Salah, 164 for Roberto Firmino, 170 for Diogo Jota and 71 for Sadio Mané.
He had actually been in devastating goalscoring form for Porto, with 14 in 18 Primeira Liga appearances before his January switch. So what can he do differently to push for the 20-goal mark at Liverpool?
Well, perhaps the first adjustment he ought to make is to take higher-quality shots. Díaz was actually second to Salah in terms of attempts per 90 minutes in the Premier League with 3.58, and yet he ranked the lowest among the five players listed above for expected goals per 90 (0.42). That’s because his xG per shot was just 0.12, again placing him fifth. For reference, Jota led the way with 0.18, closely followed by Mané and Firmino on 0.17.
Those numbers may be in pretty much line with supporters’ conceptions. One of the reasons Díaz is an electrifying player is because of his audacity — he doesn’t hesitate to cut inside onto his favoured right foot and whip a shot goalwards in an attempt to catch goalkeepers or defenders out.
Indeed, of the 2021/22 attacking quintet, Díaz recorded the furthest average shooting distance at 16 yards — near the edge of the penalty area — well above Mané (13.3) and Jota (11.8).
To take higher quality shots, and score more goals, he needs to get into better positions. That sounds pretty obvious, but how exactly does he do it?
Well, he needs to make more runs in behind the opposition defence when the opportunity arises, as he did in the 3-1 victory over Norwich City, exploiting the ill-judged starting position of Ben Gibson before dinking the ball beyond Angus Gunn.
He should be on the shoulder of the last defender, like he was against Brighton, when he beat the onrushing Robert Sanchez to Joël Matip’s teasing ball and nodded home, and against Benfica, when he gathered Naby Keïta’s incisive pass, took it round the goalkeeper and scored.
Indeed, what strikes you about Díaz’s goals so far, barring his long-range deflected effort against Tottenham Hotspur, is their simplicity. In addition to those already mentioned, there was his close-range tap-in to open the scoring against Manchester United, and a free header away at Villarreal.
And that’s another area he can target — getting on the end of crosses. Coming from the left, Díaz can be the recipient of deliveries from one of the finest suppliers in the game in Trent Alexander-Arnold, yet he only registered four headed attempts in last season’s Premier League.
That works out as 0.37 per 90, well down on Mané (0.64) and Jota (0.9), who have both shown that movement, anticipation and an impressive leap can compensate for a lack of height.
It’s worth stressing that Díaz should benefit considerably from his first pre-season at Anfield. After a breathless few months when recovery was perhaps deemed just as important as tactical guidance at Kirkby, the next few weeks of training should be far more valuable. Drills centred on positional play could prove especially fruitful for Díaz.
If he can carry his shot volume into more dangerous areas, then there’s frankly nothing stopping him becoming one of the best players in the world at Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp will attempt to coach that into him at the first opportunity during pre-season — the first time the pair can properly work together on how the Colombian will integrate into the team since his arrival.
In the breathless moments after the final whistle in the Premier League, a player is ushered into a makeshift interview suite, told he has been named the man of the match and invited to make grand, sweeping conclusions about the game and its significance.
After a particularly impressive individual display, the player might be asked: “Where does that rank?” — to which the default answer is “Yeah, no, it’s right up there.”
“Right up there” is a safe response because, truly, how can a player be expected to self-analyse so soon?
Players know when they have played well or played badly, but over the course of 90-plus minutes of physical exertion and intense focus, in and out of possession, alternately going on instinct and making split-second decisions under pressure, they are rather unlikely to have considered their performance in any wider context.
The question will always be asked, though, because when watching sport we love to quantify the unquantifiable. It is never enough to say you have witnessed a great performance. There is always the temptation to wonder and debate where it ranks.
All of which brings us to Golden Games, a series in which The Athletic writers will pay tribute to what we consider the 50 greatest individual performances of the Premier League era. (And before anyone says it, yes, we know very well that football existed long before 1992 but, given that this summer brings the 30th anniversary of that particular rebranding exercise, it feels an opportune moment for this.)
So … 30 seasons. Would you like to guess how many individual performances that adds up to? Well, let’s talk you through it.
From the historic opening weekend in August 1992 — when all but 13 of the 242 starters were from the British Isles and when all the hype about “A Whole New Ball Game” seemed terribly misplaced — to that dramatic, climactic Sunday afternoon last month, there have been 11,646 matches. Each match has had 22 players in the starting line-up, so that’s … yes, 256,212. And top of that there have been 53,737 run-outs as a substitute, so that makes…
Yes, that’s right. Well done to all of you who knew that precisely 309,949 appearances have been made in the Premier League by a total of 4,488 players.
No fewer than 653 of those appearances, spanning a 20-year period with Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Bromwich Albion, were made by Gareth Barry. That might sound like an awful lot until you realise that it is just 0.21 per cent of the total. You could throw Ryan Giggs (632 appearances), Frank Lampard (609), James Milner (588) and David James (572) into the mix and you would still be just short of one per cent of the total appearances made.Will any of Gareth Barry’s 653 appearances make the final list? (Getty Images)
And here at The Athletic we’re looking to celebrate the top 50. That isn’t the top one per cent. That isn’t even the top 0.1 per cent. It’s the top 0.01613168618063 per cent. It’s like asking you to name the 50 best days of your life… if you lived to the age of 849.
But without wanting to give away too many spoilers, Ali Dia’s solitary appearance, that infamous cameo for Southampton against Leeds United in November 1996, didn’t make the top 50. Neither did Peter Enckelman’s nightmare for Aston Villa against Birmingham City in September 2002 or Jon Walters’ tough afternoon at the office (two own goals and a missed penalty) for Stoke City against Chelsea in January 2013. See? We’re three down already. We’ll be down to 50 in no time.
I’ll let you in on something. We didn’t actually put all 11,646 matches into consideration. We just spent weeks debating — and not just among ourselves — which performances over the course of the Premier League era stood out in our collective memories.
This isn’t just about the big names and the best players. We did that for our Premier League 60 series two years ago — and some of the arguments are only just beginning to quieten down.
Around half of the players who made that list appear in this one too, but there are some very notable absentees, along with a few others who are best remembered for one extraordinary performance — a day when “Where does that rank?” might actually have elicited a straightforward answer.
Of course, our selections are subjective. Newspapers have run player ratings for decades and in more recent times there have been many more sophisticated attempts to use data to measure individual performance, but, whether it is whoscored.com or the Sky Sports Power rankings (which respectively had Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min as the best performer in the Premier League this season), no system is foolproof.
Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, was narrowly short of a perfect ten (9.7) when he scored a hat-trick for Manchester United against Norwich City in April, but was that really one of the great Premier League performances? Or was, say, his display away to Tottenham last October (one goal, one assist, a mere 8.5 on the whoscored.com scale) more impressive?
So this exercise was not data-driven — not least because data from the first two decades of the Premier League is so disappointingly scarce. Instead, we tapped into our memory banks, scoured the archives, debated endlessly and sought wider expertise to build a very, very long list of performances that was ultimately and arduously whittled down to 50.
As well as the beat reporters at the clubs we cover full-time, we sought the expertise of fans and writers from clubs like Barnsley, Blackpool, Bradford City, Oldham Athletic, Reading, Swindon Town and Wigan Athletic. If we couldn’t find room for, say, the goalkeeping heroics of Matt Clarke or a hat-trick from Jan Aage Fjortoft or Aruna Dindane, we wanted to make sure we did at least give them every consideration.Fjortoft’s performance was among the hundreds (and hundreds (and hundreds))) considered (Getty Images)
We had just one ground rule. No player could feature more than once. So if, let’s say, a brilliant Belgian midfielder at a club in the north-west was already on our list for one spellbinding performance from 2017 and he then produced another in the final weeks of this season, it would have been a question of picking between those two displays. That particular player might end up featuring once (spoiler alert) but neither he nor anyone else is going to make it twice.
Instead, we have produced a list that we feel reflects the great and the good and, crucially, a few performances which proved exceptional in more ways than one.
Inevitably we found more room for feats of goalscoring and creative genius — and goalkeeping — than for understated excellence in other areas. (Seriously, you try persuading your colleagues of the merits of Billy Kenny’s performance in the first Merseyside derby of the Premier League era when it’s almost 30 years since you watched it in a teenage, drunken haze and when, deep down, try as you might, all you can really remember is a couple of crunching tackles.)
But we have insisted on a variety, so that it isn’t just a case of recalling one hat-trick after another. We have also been careful to ensure a sensible spread. Some seasons don’t feature at all, but the early years of the Premier League feature prominently; in fact, at the time of writing (because you can never rule out a last-minute change with these things), I’m delighted to tell you that no season features more frequently than 1993-94.
Some of you might be annoyed or bewildered that a certain performance or a certain player — or even a certain club — doesn’t feature.
Please don’t be. It’s not intended as a definitive list. It’s a bit of fun, designed to give our readers something more to enjoy during the gap between one Premier League season and another. (To give our writers something to write about over the summer, you mean? How dare you. There is always plenty going on. This is just another offering.)
As with the Premier League 60 series, we hope you’ll enjoy the content rather than worry unduly about the rankings or any perceived slights on your favourite player or club.
It is inevitable that some clubs feature more than others (and some not at all), but there is a wide range of players, a wide range of personalities and a wide range of stories behind the performances. And sometimes the context, the circumstances and the backstory will allow us to see a player’s contribution in a very different light.
In some cases, where the facility allows, we will use Wyscout to evaluate the performance and analyse it in painstaking detail. In other cases we might look at it through the eyes of his opponents.
And, where possible, we will get some insight from the players themselves — and perhaps now, decades on in some cases, they will be able to recall through the mists of time that the performance in question really was right up there. Right up in the top 0.01613168618063 per cent.
(Main graphic — photos: Getty Images/design: Sam Richardson)
We will thread every article in this series below, as well as collecting them together here.
If a truly generational talent comes along, FSG and Liverpool are ready to break records.
When the Reds signed Alisson Becker from AS Roma for £66m in 2018, he became the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of football. Around six months earlier, they had made Virgil van Dijk their club-record signing, paying Southampton £75m.
And that benchmark may be surpassed by Darwin Núñez, who will cost £64m initially but potentially up to £85m depending on appearances and individual and team success.
Alisson and Van Dijk have established themselves as arguably the best in the world in their respective positions during their time at Liverpool. The hope will be that Núñez can do the same. In each case, the idea was to splash out on a player who could make the position — goalkeeper, centre-back, striker — his own for the long-term, elevating the rest of the team in the process.
The one area where they’ve yet to make a historic addition is midfield. Naby Keïta remains the most expensive signing in that department at £52m. But that could soon change, and change emphatically.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham is the man Liverpool want. They know that the 19-year-old could offer more than a decade of world-beating service. But they also know that to sign him, they’ll almost certainly have to go bigger than they did for Van Dijk and Núñez.
According to an array of reports, Liverpool’s plan is currently to wait until next summer before they step up their interest. Dortmund don’t envisage a sale until 2023 but German publication Bild (via This Is Anfield) claim that they’ve already placed a price tag on Bellingham’s head: €120m (or £103m).
Signing Bellingham this summer would significantly boost Liverpool’s chances of taking the Premier League title from Manchester City. But even beyond that, there are other compelling reasons to bring the move forward if possible.
With Bellingham under contract until 2025, there’s a strong possibility that his price tag will only increase over the course of the season, especially if he shines at the Qatar World Cup at the end of the year. Bellingham wasn’t a starting option for Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020, but he’s now been selected for five of England’s last seven matches, suggesting he may be given more of a platform this time.
Crucially, there’s also reason to believe that Liverpool already have the money. The scouting team at Anfield operate two to three windows in advance, and so you would imagine funds have long been set aside for this marquee midfield addition. Indeed, finance expert Mo Chatra says that, after generating record turnover in 2021/22, Liverpool should be able to afford two blockbuster new arrivals. Núñez was the first, and the sales of Sadio Mané and Takumi Minamino could cover nearly 80 per cent of the base fee.
Dortmund, who have already lost Erling Haaland to Manchester City and may believe that they can fetch even more money in 2023, may be far from the most willing negotiating partners.
But it’s still so early in the window that they would be able to replace him well in advance of the start of the season. Indeed, you would imagine that they have a list of successors effectively on standby, having long accepted that they were a mere stepping stone for Bellingham.
What’s more, making a firm offer now could potentially unsettle the midfielder and prompt him to submit a transfer request. That would be a true test of Dortmund’s resolve.
They might want to keep hold of Bellingham in order to maintain a degree of stability, but an early bid could upset that and lead to a rethink.
Next summer, virtually every elite side will declare their interest in Bellingham. That includes Liverpool’s Premier League rivals, but also Real Madrid, for whom he is a priority target (according to AS).
As an Englishman, Bellingham might see his future in the Premier League, but Liverpool have already lost Aurélien Tchouaméni to the unique and powerful allure of Los Blancos, and so it shouldn’t be underestimated.
When Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and others inevitably make their approaches, an effective salary auction may well follow.
And at that stage, Liverpool, who try to keep new signings away from the top of their wage bill at first, might wish they’d at least attempted a bid in 2022.
Footballers are generally very private people. They never seem to want people to know what their true thoughts are on any particular subject.
You see it after matches, in more ways than one. In handshakes on the field, once the final whistle has blown, players will often cover their mouths when talking, lest some devious person skilled in the art of lip reading decipher what they are saying.
Then there are the post-match interviews, where media-trained stars frequently say little of genuine originality or interest for fear of slipping up in some way.
Words can be twisted by supporters and media organisations eager for a scoop, so why take a chance by saying something unusual or controversial? It’s easy to see why players don’t take such risks, as trivial as they might seem.
Still, it can be fun to speculate about what footballers discuss in their down time. They enjoy lives mere mortals couldn’t realistically comprehend if they tried, so they can only truly talk about their experiences with their fellow professionals.
Liverpool supporters will have been very intrigued to see a recent social media post from Mohamed Salah, which contained a photo of him with former teammate Gini Wijnaldum. ‘Reminiscing’ read the one-word caption, but what might they have been discussing?
“Ah, Gini, I can’t believe we lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid again,” Salah might have said. “Yeah right, you needed my goals, like when you were injured and we beat Barcelona,” could have been Gini’s retort.
In reality they could easily have been reminiscing about any one of the 182 matches in which they played together. Finals won against Tottenham and Chelsea, with countless other big game victories to look back on too.
But they could have been talking about their time apart, in 2021/22, and what that might mean for their futures. It’s not unreasonable to say that Wijnaldum had a pretty disastrous time of it in his first campaign with Paris Saint-Germain. Being named as the Ligue 1 Flop of the Year by Get French Football News was likely an overreaction, but there’s no smoke without fire either. The Dutchman played for 80+ minutes in just 13 matches, and only four times in 2022.
With rumours of a loan move doing the rounds, it’s little wonder that the idea of a return to Liverpool has been floated. Indeed, perhaps when they met up Salah tried to convince Wijnaldum to make that move and re-join a club where his contribution was valued. But the better advice might have been flowing in the other direction. “Listen, Mo, the grass isn’t always greener.”
Unless he signs an extension to his Liverpool contract, rumours will persist that Salah will be leaving the club on a free transfer next summer. After six years of excellent service, he will owe them nothing, and if FSG are not willing to sanction the salary which he seeks then a parting of the ways would be inevitable.
While a goalscorer’s stock will always be higher than that of a midfielder, this is essentially what happened with Wijnaldum, and Emre Can before him. They moved on, only to find themselves unable to make an immediate impact at their next clubs. Gini’s recent experiences also show the value of remaining in a system for which a footballer is suited, and not jumping ship for a team which plays a different way.
Even if Wijnaldum encouraged Salah to sign for another team next year, he would surely warn him off joining the chaos at PSG. If the Egyptian were to rule out a move to the French capital, the already small list of clubs that could afford his salary would drop in size.
But who knows what they discussed? It’s easy to imagine how they reminisced; their thoughts on their respective futures, though, would be far more interesting to learn.
The pathway to the Liverpool first team comes in a variety of forms, from the academy to the transfer window – but careers may also blossom in the leagues below.
Jurgen Klopp has created an environment that sees the doors to the first team open wide for those ready to make their mark.
But as we’ve all seen before, it does not always go to plan and Liverpool is not always to be the final destination, even if a player wishes it so.
That does not mean their career comes to a halt, but rather a redirection, and for many young talents that means looking to the wider English football pyramid to forge their careers.
Many have thrived and are now back in the English top flight, including Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) and Harry Wilson (Fulham), while a move to America has benefited Tom Brewitt (Hartford) and Brad Smith (DC United).
But how are former Reds now plying their trade in the Football League coming along? Here is a look at who is thriving.Leading the way
There are plenty of ex-Reds currently forging their path in the Championship and below, and for a number of them it has proved successful.Cameron Brannagan – Oxford United
The 26-year-old is a regular for Oxford and has attracted plenty of interest outside of League One after a campaign that saw him named as the club’s Supporters’ Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year.
The midfielder, who made nine appearances for Liverpool, now has 188 to his name for Oxford – and last season made history by scoring four penalties in a single game!
A success story.Jack Robinson – Sheffield United
Once Liverpool’s youngest-ever player, Robinson is now a regular in defence for Sheffield United after making the move from Nottingham Forest in 2020.
At 28, he has established himself as a reliable Championship player but will be eager to help the Blades make their return to the Premier League.
Joe Allen – Stoke
A veteran by the standards of those above when he left Liverpool in 2016, Allen showed his commitment to Stoke despite their relegation and is only now seeking a move after 220 games.
A total of 140 of those came in the Championship, where he has been a mainstay in Stoke’s midfield alongside his international exploits with Wales.Jordan Williams – Bolton
Back to League One and you will find Jordan ‘MJ’ Williams, a former youth player who made a single senior appearance for the Reds and has since found his groove elsewhere.
The defensive midfielder is a regular for Bolton and has promotion experience as a result from League Two to League One, taking his total tally of Football League appearances to 156.
George Johnston – Bolton
Fellow Bolton player and Liverpool academy graduate, Johnston has found his home with the Wanderers and played the most minutes (3,938) of any player at the club in 2021/22.
The 23-year-old featured primarily in his favoured centre-back role but still chipped in with two goals and two assists.
Another consistent season could put other clubs on notice.Lloyd Jones – Cambridge United
Another player who has had his fair share of moves, Jones’ first season with Cambridge in League One was a successful one at centre-back, playing 28 games for his highest season return.
Jones has played the majority of his career in League One and League Two since leaving Liverpool.
Herbie Kane – Oxford United
The former Liverpool youth has bounced around from one club to the next but, despite that, he has taken it in his stride and last season impressed alongside Brannagan at Oxford.
The midfielder, still only 23, made 38 appearances in 2021/22, laying on six assists, for his second-highest career return to date.Lawrence Vigouroux – Leyton Orient
The goalkeeper shifted between leagues following his Liverpool exit in 2016, even heading to Chile, but has now found his place at League Two’s Leyton Orient, becoming an ever-present over the last two seasons.
Shamal George – Colchester United
Fellow ‘keeper George was released by the Reds at the end of 2019/20 and landed at League Two club Colchester United, earning plaudits for his role.
Named Colchester’s Player of the Year for 2021/22, the 24-year-old also earned a contract extension having been handed the chance to show his credentials.Conor Masterson – QPR
The 23-year-old centre-back was on loan at Cambridge and then Gillingham last season, and finally found the consistent game time he’d have been after with a total of 39 appearances across the two League One clubs.
His parent club, QPR, reside in the Championship, and the hope will be that he can now make that step up in the coming season.A mixed bag
Kevin Stewart – Blackpool
Ex-Liverpool academy coach Neil Critchley brought Stewart to Blackpool in 2021, but injuries proved troublesome during a season that saw him earn his first two caps for Jamaica.
It’s not been a huge success, but Stewart’s Football League journey did reap its rewards during his time with Hull – and he faces a decisive summer after Critchley’s move to Aston Villa.Ryan McLaughlin – Morecambe
There’s been plenty of bouncing around for McLaughlin in recent years, featuring for Oldham, Rochdale, Blackpool, Barnsley and most recently Morecambe.
Primarily deployed at right-back, the 27-year-old has been at home in League One but, having been made available for another summer move, there could yet be more highs and lows to come.
Ovie Ejaria – Reading
The playmaker started his Reading career, on loan, with plenty of excitement surrounding his name and while a consistent presence in his side, he hit a dry spell with injury playing its part.
At 24, there is plenty more to come, but Ejaria is currently going through what can best be described as growing pains in the Championship.Daniel Ayala – Blackburn
We’re talking veteran territory now with Ayala, who recently bounced back from an injury-interrupted 2020/21 to become an option at the back once more for Blackburn.
Ayala has been a mainstay in the Championship throughout his career, but a move away from the Football League could now be in the works after a turbulent two years with Rovers.
Two Liverpool stars have been nominated for an award in their homeland and Owen Beck looks set to move overseas. Thursday’s roundup is here!Salah and Keita up for African Men’s Player of the Year
Salah, who won the award in 2017 and 2018, will be one of the favourites to secure it again, having notched 31 goals in 51 matches for Liverpool last season.
He also won the Premier League‘s Golden Boot and Playmaker of the Year awards and was named Professional Footballers’ Association Men’s Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
Guinea midfielder Keita enjoyed one of his best seasons for the Reds and remains one of the best midfielders from his continent.
However, ex-Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, who left for Bayern Munich earlier this month, will be the bookies’ favourite, having scored the winning penalties as Senegal beat Salah’s Egypt to the AFCON trophy and World Cup qualification earlier this year.
Mane won the award in 2019 and who could argue against him winning it again?
The winner will be announced alongside the other CAF Awards on July 21.3 things today: Beck in line for move abroad & Lijnders’ pre-season hint
Latest Liverpool FC news
Remembering a Liverpool legend 21 years after he sadly passed away.
Remembering the great Joe Fagan, who sadly passed away on this day in 2001 ? pic.twitter.com/638AkK7NeJ
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) June 30, 2022
Back in March, Anfield Road End expansion contractors the Buckingham Group told This Is Anfield to expect a ‘wow’ moment in the summer, which is now evident.
At the six-month mark in construction, project director Colin Roddy explained how progress on redeveloping the Anfield Road End will hit a milestone at the end of June.
“You’ll really get a feeling for the height of the structure at about the end of June, start of July,” he said.
“We hope to see the first grandstand steel go up and we can appreciate what we’re building here.”
With June now turning to July, exclusive footage provided for This Is Anfield shows that ‘wow’ moment in effect, as the framework for the new upper tier is put in place.
Two mammoth cranes have now arrived on site, dwarfing the existing machinery, ready to lift the roof truss in place.
At that point, the full height of the new Anfield Road End will be able to be appreciated, but for now, there is a stark indication of how high it will be.
The new stand is being built outside of the current structure, to eventually be joined on, with there having been no disruption to the normal matchday process.
And with the upper tier under construction, new footage starts to outline how the Anfield Road End will look upon its completion.
The site now dominates the surrounding area, with redevelopment work progressing swiftly during an extended break between games.
Liverpool last played at Anfield on May 22 and will not be back until July 31, though there have been three major concerts held at the stadium over the summer, too – the Rolling Stones (June 9), Elton John (June 17) and Eagles (June 20).
That gives contractors an uninterrupted month to work, while the club have also used the opportunity post-season to lay a new pitch ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
The Anfield Road End redevelopment will add around 7,000 extra seats at a cost of £80 million, raising the stand’s capacity to 15,967 and the stadium’s to 61,015.
It is on schedule for completion next summer.
On Monday, the Liverpool squad will reconvene for pre-season training at the AXA Training Centre.
After beginning their summer programme in Kirkby, the Reds will jet off to Southeast Asia for friendlies against Manchester United and Crystal Palace in Bangkok and Singapore respectively.
Then it’s on to Austria, where they spent much of the 2021 off-season, for warm-up matches against RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg before the Community Shield against Manchester City on 30 July. A clash with Strasbourg at Anfield the following day rounds off the schedule.
If you discount the Community Shield — the first opportunity for silverware — then there are five friendly matches for fringe players and youngsters to leave their mark. Of course, they can also make an impression on the training field too.
With the load of first-team stars carefully managed, opportunities open up. Indeed, Jürgen Klopp will often substitute the whole starting XI over the course of a friendly, as he did against Mainz and Hertha Berlin last summer.
For players in the academy, the audition process is already underway. They returned to Kirkby on Monday with assistant manager Pep Lijnders joining them, running the rule over the U21s and U18s, and deciding who will be joining Klopp’s pre-season squad.
Who, then, could significantly change their position and improve their standing at Anfield in the coming weeks?
One candidate is Tyler Morton. The Reds have seemingly decided not to sign another midfielder this summer, meaning they will remain without a natural back-up to Fabinho. Morton has predominantly operated as a central midfielder at academy level but Klopp mostly used him as a no. 6 across his nine first-team outings last season.
In the space of a month, he started Champions League games against FC Porto and AC Milan, and a Premier League game away at Spurs. However, he didn’t feature in either competition after the turn of the year, only making the Premier League matchday squad three times.
Morton’s composure and distribution are impressive, but he perhaps needs to demonstrate improved physicality in order to earn more responsibility next season.
There may also be a vacancy for Kaide Gordon. Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi have both left Liverpool, and the arrival of Fábio Carvalho only fills one of those spots. Gordon played just eight Premier League minutes last season but started domestic cup matches against Norwich City, Shrewsbury and Arsenal.
Minamino and Origi, by contrast, made 22 and 18 appearances respectively. If Liverpool decide not to consider external replacements, then Gordon could conceivably be promoted to a first-team back-up role.
He may only be 17, but he’s regarded as one of England’s outstanding teenage talents (part of his lack of minutes last season was also down to injury), and so his development could be accelerated. If he can be more ruthless in front of goal in pre-season than he was in his appearances last term, he may considerably boost his short-term prospects.
Another of the academy’s most exciting prospects is Oakley Cannonier. His record is sensational: 33 goals in 36 appearances overall for the Under-18s and one every 85 minutes in 2021/22. He was, unsurprisingly, the top scorer in the U18 Premier League.
Cannonier hasn’t established himself at U23 level yet, despite being older than Gordon, and so Lijnders might be hesitant. But if any U18 player is to get the call, it will surely be him. And if he holds his own in elite-level sessions, then he could be in line for his first senior outings in 2022/23.
All three players will hope to generate fresh excitement among the coaching staff and indeed the fanbase by showing that they’ve taken the next step.
And they may all benefit from the move to five substitutes in the Premier League, which should prove to be a blessing for young players.
It’s a distant memory now, but back in the autumn of last season, Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson was coming under pressure.
Robertson, arguably the best left-back in the world when on form, had been struggling for a few weeks, with his deputy Kostas Tsimikas shining at every given opportunity. Many felt that his place was under threat.
"He’s pushing," Jürgen Klopp said of the Greek international at the time. "Kostas is much better than he was." But, without prompting, the manager also threw another player into the mix: "We have Owen Beck coming up, big prospect."
In the medium term, Robertson and Tsimikas will continue to compete for the left-back spot. With the latter thus far showing no sign of discontent, it’s a perfect situation for Liverpool.
But Tsimikas (26) is only two years younger than the Scotsman, and so he can’t really be billed as a long-term successor. Instead, Liverpool might look to 19-year-old Beck to fill that role.
One of the outstanding players in the academy, Beck has registered 10 direct goal contributions (two goals, eight assists) in his first 38 Premier League 2 matches. He’s recording an assist every 4.75 matches on average, not far short of Tsimikas (4.3). Together with Conor Bradley, he formed an excellent full-back duo for the Under-23s.
Beck, the great-nephew of Anfield icon Ian Rush, has already earned seven caps for his country at U21 level.
He signed his first professional contract in June 2020, and just over a year later, he’d been handed a new five-year deal, a striking mark of his progress.
The Wrexham-born gem featured in Carabao Cup games against Preston North End and Leicester City, made the bench for three Premier League fixtures and, perhaps most tellingly, trained with the first team in the days leading up to the Champions League final in Paris.
What about his package of attributes? Well, in the words of talent scout Jacek Kulig, it’s ‘spectacular’. Pace, dribbling, ball control, dynamism, tackling, crossing and bravery are all listed as strengths.
Beck, Kulig says, plays with real ambition, driving with the ball and looking to reach the penalty area. He even compared him to a ‘prime Gareth Bale’ after he surged past three Juventus players on a solo charge in a UEFA Youth League game.
There’s plenty of justifiable excitement around Beck, then, but in the immediate future, he’ll be heading out on loan. According to reports, Liverpool have received offers from Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Primeira Liga.
While there’s interest from the EFL too, the club would rather send him to a top-flight club in Europe and given him the opportunity to face Europa League and Champions League-level opposition.
However, they face a significant dual challenge. First and foremost, he has to play enough games. As a teenager who’s only notched 10 first-team minutes at Anfield, he simply can’t expect to start week-in, week-out. But equally, Liverpool’s plan may not pay off if he’s restricted to cup outings and late league run-outs.
And second, the stylistic fit must be right. It’s important that he has the opportunity to get forward, rather than playing for a side that is often camped in its own final third by design or by necessity.
If Beck is to play regularly in one of Europe’s top six leagues, then the reality is he’ll probably be in the lower reaches of the division. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play under an attack-minded or aggressive coach.
Of the three continental options, the Primeira Liga stands out as the likeliest destination. Julian Ward has an extensive network of contacts in Portugal, having worked as the country’s head of analysis and technical scouting before managing Liverpool’s scouting network in the Iberian peninsula.
Ward then went on to become the Reds’ loan manager as part of his ascent to the role of sporting director. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take an active involvement in this particular decision, in conjunction with loans manager David Woodfine.
Encouragingly, Klopp hailed Ward’s track record in the loan department as ‘incredible’. If he strikes gold again, then Liverpool could be reaping the rewards long-term.
Harvey Elliott has returned to England following his post-season holiday in the US, and reunited with his former QPR youth coach for a finishing session this week.
With Liverpool’s pre-season training due to begin on Monday, Elliott is now back on home soil and ramping up his preparations for the return to Kirkby.
On Thursday morning, that saw the teenager link up with striker coach Scott Chickelday at the 1878 Stadium in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, for a session focused on finishing.
It was not the first time Elliott and Chickelday have worked together, with the coach previously his manager at under-10s level with QPR.
Elliott initially came through the ranks at QPR before his switch to Fulham, and it was Chickelday who prompted him to move from his position at left-back into a more forward role.
Nowadays, Chickelday operates as an elite performance attacking coach under the banner SC9 Striker Coach, which saw him back working with his former protege for a series of drills.
In a post shared on the SC9 Striker Coach Instagram, the pair can be seen posing alongside each other along with a video of Elliott showing quick movement and an outstanding finish with his left foot into the far top-right corner.
“Top session this morning with young Liverpool attacker Harvey Elliott,” Chickelday wrote.
“Seems so long ago I was his manager at U10s at QPR, what a player this boy is becoming!”
Chickelday, who is also in place as Billericay Town Women manager, has been working with Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins this summer as well, along with a number of youngsters from Premier League clubs.
Melissa Lawley has signed a new contract with Liverpool FC Women.
The talented 28-year-old has committed her future to the Reds ahead of their return to the Women’s Super League (WSL) in September.
Lawley joined the club in 2019 and her three seasons on Merseyside have seen her become a firm fans’ favourite.
A skilful winger who loves to challenge defenders one-on-one, she was right at the top of the assists chart in the FA Women’s Championship last season.
LFC Women manager Matt Beard said: “Mel was outstanding last year. A great character, on the ball fantastic.
“I love the way she can just slow the play down, drop the shoulder, beat a player and turn defence into attack on the counter.
“She came up with some goals last year and some really important assists. It’s just great to see Mel play with that smile on her face and with that freedom.
“I think Mel’s coming to the peak of her career now, and I’m excited to see what she can do back in the Super League.”
Lawley herself is delighted to be extending her stay with the Reds ahead of the upcoming campaign.
“It’s a great time to be here and I’m just excited to carry on my journey with this amazing club," she said.
“Last season was an amazing experience and I know there’s more to come from this group of girls.
“Obviously it’s going to be a challenging year, but with the group of players we’ve got and the staff behind we’ll go in as a together team, work hard and the performances will come.”
Lawley has spent most of her career in the WSL with Birmingham City and latterly Manchester City before her switch to Liverpool, and she’s pleased to be taking on the best teams once again.
She added: “I’m looking forward to playing in the top flight again and push on from last season, getting the assists and hopefully scoring more goals, playing with a smile on my face and I know that’s going to happen with this group of girls.
“Beardy has brought the best out of me on the pitch, and I know next season he’s going to push me even more to be even better.”
While all football clubs will have their plans, hopes and dreams mapped out for the transfer window, very few get exactly what they want. The 98 teams in Europe’s top five leagues completed 1,555 deals last summer so that’s a lot of jigsaw pieces to fit together in the picture of ins and outs.
For relegated sides, it can feel more like Jenga than a jigsaw, with key pieces removed by vulturous clubs in the division above until their team collapses. The more interesting parallel for some would be Pop Up Pirate. They put more and more players into their barrel until one is deemed surplus to their requirements and pops out of the top to land elsewhere.
Few teams plan their board games better than Liverpool. Most Kopites would view Michael Edwards’ moves over the last few years as chess-like, and probably of the five-dimensional variety. But that isn’t to say they wouldn’t take advantage of a potential target being forced out elsewhere.
One of the key pieces moving around the Premier League chess board this summer looks set to be Raphinha. The Reds have been linked with the Brazilian for over a year, yet whatever interest they held appears to have cooled.
David Lynch recently provided an insight into their thinking on Blood Red’s Liverpool Transfer Daily show: “My sense, from conversations I’ve had, is that they don’t think he is a ‘game-changer’ level of forward that is worthy of this Liverpool team.”
The 25-year-old could be a game-changer for the Reds in another sense though, depending upon where he decides his future lies. Having been strongly linked with Arsenal, focus then shifted to a potential move to Chelsea. If rumours are to be believed, Barcelona are now ready to enter the fray too.
For Leeds United, his club, this is ideal. Any kind of bidding war can only be a benefit for them, with figures of £55m already being bandied about for a player Transfermarkt rate as being worth closer to £40m. If a deal goes through at the higher mark, then Raphinha would be the third most expensive deal of the summer so far, and the costliest sale made by a Premier League club.
Liverpool may hope he remains in England, for the knock-on effects a deal could have. If Raphinha joins Arsenal, then would that force Bukayo Saka to consider his future? The England international has been frequently linked with Liverpool, and could find himself pushed down the pecking order at club level, particularly if he has Gabriel Jesus to compete with too.
While both he and Raphinha are versatile and can play multiple positions, they both saw more of their starts on the right of the attack than anywhere else. Saka would likely choose to fight for his place in 2022/23 but might be looking for a move next summer when the Reds could be hunting high and low for a Mohamed Salah replacement. The Arsenal number seven would only have a year remaining on his contract at that point too.
Something similar could occur at Stamford Bridge if Raphinha decides to make west London his new home. In this instance, it could be Hakim Ziyech who finds himself pushed towards the exit door. Liverpool’s supposed interest in him dates back further, to 2019 when he was still at Ajax, though the odd story has trickled out since.
The Moroccan made 19 starts in the league and five in Europe in 2021/22, and as with Saka they were more frequently on the right of the front three than anywhere else. He too could face a fight for regular football with both Raphinha and a former Manchester City player, as Chelsea are rumoured to be looking to sign Raheem Sterling.
Clearly there are a lot of ifs, buts and idle speculation in the above. Don’t be surprised if similar thoughts have also floated through the minds of the transfer team at Liverpool though. The fun and games of the window may not be over just yet.
Liverpool Football Club will proudly lend its support to the city’s Pride celebrations throughout July, in support of the LGBT+ community.
The club’s iconic Liver Bird crest will be displayed in full Progress Pride colours across its digital platforms for the whole month, and a new and extended LFC Pride range is also available for Reds to show their colours.
The series of activities, which aim to show support and help raise awareness of the issues affecting the community, are part of the club’s ongoing Red Together campaign, LFC’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
LFC staff and supporters will take part and stand side by side in solidarity together at LCR Pride Foundation’s ‘March with Pride,’ which will take place on Saturday July 30 starting at 12pm BST from St George’s Plateau.
The 2022-23 theme is ‘Come Together’ and has been chosen to represent not only the city region’s LGBT+ community returning to in-person events and much-needed connection to each other, but the need to come together as one united community, now more than ever.
This is the first in-person Pride in Liverpool March since 2019, with the club having taken part in the charity’s flagship event in a virtual capacity for the past two years.
LFC Foundation will be hosting its biggest ever Pride football tournament at Anfield Sports and Community Centre on Saturday July 23. The tournament, which will include both a fun and competitive element, will consist of 20 five-a-side teams with some of the club’s key stakeholders set to take part including LFC’s Kop Outs and Mersey Marauders.
This year there will also be an LBGT+ themed quiz and artwork station that teams can participate in to express their creative flair as well as a fun social event afterwards to celebrate together.
The new and extended LFC Pride range features nine different items available for fans to purchase including three new t-shirts, hoodies and a Pride flag. Proceeds raised from the collection will be donated to an LGBT+ inclusion charity that the club is working with as part of its Red Together campaign. To shop the collection, click here.
Rishi Jain, senior manager ED&I at Liverpool FC, said: “Liverpool Football Club has been involved in the city’s Pride celebrations for 10 years and we are proud to have been the first football club to join the Pride march back in 2012.
“It’s important that we continue to come together, demonstrate our support and help to raise awareness of the many issues that the LGBT+ community continues to face.
“Our support plays an important part of our Red Together work which details our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion as we strive to ensure LFC is a place where everyone can be themselves and feel welcome.”
To find out more about Red Together - LFC’s commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion - please click here.