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Jurgen Klopp‘s youth recruitment drive could extend to Ligue 1 this summer, with a trio of young French prospects on Liverpool’s radar.
Shortly after Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside in October, the German stressed that “the door is wide open for youth,” and having given the likes of Sheyi Ojo and Connor Randall debuts this season, that approach is clear.
With 19-year-old Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic set to arrive this summer, Klopp could look to add more young players to his squad for 2016/17.
Reports in France this week suggest that Liverpool are pursuing a crop of French talents in Jonathan Ikone, Thomas Lemar and Ballo Toure Fode.
Seventeen-year-old winger Ikone is a target for the Reds, Juventus and Man United this summer, according to L’Equipe.
The French newspaper claims that Ikone could follow in the footsteps of Kingsley Coman, and leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer at the end of the season.
A fleet-footed midfield option capable of operating on either flank, Ikone has turned out for PSG’s U19s side this season, but may opt for a move elsewhere in search of first-team football in the long term.
Meanwhile, L’Equipe have also named Liverpool among a number of European giants in pursuit of AS Monaco midfielder Lemar.
Bayern Munich are said to be weighing up an offer for the versatile 20-year-old, who has scored five goals and laid on a further three assists in 23 Ligue 1 appearances this season.
This has seen Lemar fielded on the left and right wings, in the centre of midfield and in the No. 10 role, with Klopp likely an admirer of his flexibility.
Liverpool, Bayern, Man City and Atletico Madrid are the clubs linked with Lemar this summer, though Monaco are thought to be demanding a fee close to the £36 million that took Anthony Martial to United last summer.
Finally, French publication FootMercato have suggested that Liverpool are monitoring Fode’s contract situation at PSG, with West Ham United also rumoured to be interested in the left-back.
Fode is yet to sign a professional contract with the Paris club, and at 19, faces a make-or-break decision.
With Martial’s impact at United perhaps serving as a marker for the quality of young players in Ligue 1, Klopp’s interest in Ikone, Lemar and Fode could be well placed.
Сезон для игрока национальной сборной Англии получился скомканным из-за постоянных травм, но теперь он полностью здоров и жаждет играть за команду Клоппа.
"Может быть не всем это ясно, но я тот, кто хочет играть в каждом матче с первой и до последней минуты, - цитирует Старриджа Sky Sports. - Когда меня снимают с игры или вовсе не выпускают на поле - с этим тяжело смириться".
"Разумеется, то, что строит наш менеджер и куда мы движемся, не может не воодушевлять. Я делаю всё, что в моих силах, чтобы быть на поле и прекрасно себя чувствую".
Старридж уверяет, что хотел бы добиться успехов с Ливерпулем, но признает, что однажды ему придётся покинуть "Энфилд".
Сейчас бывший игрок Манчестер Сити и Челси всеми силами старается вернуть время, потерянное из-за травм. Он надеется, что яркая игра в составе мерсисайдцев поспособствует увеличению его шансов стать основным форвардом сборной Англии на грядущем Евро 2016.
"Я хочу добиться с Ливерпулем определённых успехов, - продолжает англичанин. - Но я совру, если скажу, что буду играть за этот клуб всю оставшуюся жизнь".
"Я думаю, что глупо надеяться прийти в команду и остаться там до конца карьеры. Ведь любой клуб каждый год обновляет состав".
"Всё, что я могу сейчас делать - это выходить на поле каждые выходные и показывать всё, на что способен. Летом я надеюсь поехать на чемпионат Европы. А дальше - новый сезон".
"Сейчас я чувствую себя хорошо, как никогда. Сейчас мой организм готов играть столько, сколько потребуется, и не давать при этом сбои".
"Я очень амбициозен и голоден до побед. Не могу выразить словами - насколько".
"Чувствую себя готовым играть каждый матч".
Фото: Daily Star
Главный тренер "Ливерпуля" Юрген Клоппом заявил, что его приоритетом в преддверии следующего сезона станет улучшение игры в обороне.
Клопп доволен тем, какого прогресса добилась его команда в нынешнем сезоне, но все еще хочет улучшить многие вещи. И делать это Юрген собирается не только с помощью трансферов.
"Нам уже удалось решить многие проблемы. Хуже всего мы действовали при стандартах. Нам требовалось улучшить это, и мы это сделали".
"Когда строишь команду, то начинаешь с обороны. Но просто разговаривать с защитниками мало. Я никогда не бываю рад пропущенным голам. Придать обороне стабильность - большая цель для нас на следующий сезон", - цитирует Клоппа Sky Sports.
Daniel Sturridge had provided a pragmatic assessment of his long-term future, saying that “I would never say I am Liverpool until I die.”
Sturridge’s absence in Thursday night’s Europa League defeat away to Villarreal prompted ripples of concern throughout the Liverpool support, but Jurgen Klopp has since explained he is managing the striker’s fitness.
“It does not work. The Premier League, Europa League, everything is too intense,” he told reporters, abating fears of a rift between the manager and his star player.
But speaking at an event before the trip to Villarreal, Sturridge gave no assurances over his future on Merseyside, insisting that he wanted to play every game.
“Maybe people don’t see this, but I am someone who wants to play every minute of every match, so maybe when I’m not starting or when I’m taken off, it’s hard to take,” he said.
“You want to be on the pitch every single match, every single minute.
“It’s exciting, of course, what the manager is bringing and where we are heading.
“I am doing everything in my power to be out there on the pitch, and I am feeling good as well.
“There are things I want to achieve with Liverpool. [But] I would never say I am Liverpool until I die, because I would be lying.
“I think any player who says, ‘Oh yeah, this is the only team I will play for, for the rest of my life’, they are deluded.
“In football, every team looks for replacements every single year.”
This could serve as a call to arms from Sturridge, providing Klopp with an ultimatum of ‘play me or lose me’, but as he went on to explain, this is merely the standpoint of an “ambitious” striker.
“All I can do every weekend is go out there, perform as well as I can, perform to the best of my abilities,” he continued.
“Then come the end of the season hopefully have the European Championship to look forward to…and to next year.
“I’m feeling so good right now, feeling great, and my body is at a level where I’m able to play however many games a week repeatedly and not break down.
“I am so ambitious, so hungry, right now for success that it is hard to put it into words.
“Now I’m in a place where I feel amazing, and I feel ready.
“My body feels great, I’m ready to play every game for the team.”
Sturridge is likely to start in Liverpool’s Premier League clash away to Swansea City on Sunday afternoon, and with Klopp promising to “try everything” at Villarreal in their second-leg clash at Anfield next week, can expect to feature in the Reds’ crucial Europa League decider.
After sitting out of the loss in Villarreal, Sturridge should be refreshed—and ready to fire Liverpool to success.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no regrets about leaving Daniel Sturridge on the bench for their Europa League semi-final defeat in Villarreal and even with hindsight would make the same decision again.
The England striker, who has scored four in his last five matches, was an unused substitute in Spain on Thursday night despite the Reds lacking a cutting edge up front and thousands of fans on social media were left bemused.
Klopp insists he has to make difficult decisions in the best interests of the team and even if he was given the chance he would still not change what he planned for the Primera Division side.
“It is about finding a stability. With decisions like this it is always two questions,” he said.
“Was it the right decision to choose this line-up? With a 1-0 defeat you cannot be sure it is 100 per cent right.
“The next question is: Would I do it again? Yes. Then it is finished and I don’t have to think about it again.
“That is my life – making decisions and in the end accepting the result.
“With Daniel in particular it is not about how it is always, it was a decision for this line-up. That is very important. It was not against Daniel.
“My job is not to do what you the media want, what the player wants, it is to try to help the player and help the team in this moment.
“I always try to do my best and because I am not perfect maybe it sometimes does not work. But next time I will try it again.”
The 26-year-old is likely to return to the team for Sunday’s trip to Swansea and Klopp has no doubts the striker will be at the top of his game.
“The mentality of Daniel is really good, very confident, because he has all these qualities and he knows about these qualities,” added the German.
“Daniel came back from injury and now he is fit for the longest period [for a long time]. That is very important.
“We could have let him play in the first few weeks, hoping he could do something special, but that would not have been the right decision for him because then he would have been injured again.
“It does not work. The Premier League, Europa League, everything is too intense.
“It is about balance absolutely always. I’ve said a few times that I always think more about the strengths of a player than the weaknesses.”
Martin Skrtel has polarised opinion throughout his Liverpool career, but he deserves to leave Anfield with his reputation intact.
There is suddenly a gaping void at the heart of the Reds’ defence, as the Reds’ hopes turn to Europa League glory, despite a 1-0 defeat to Villarreal in the first leg of the semi-finals.
With the Slovakian seemingly not a part of Klopp’s long-term plans, and heavily linked with a move to Besiktas, it provides him with a chance to finish his Liverpool career on a high.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Skrtel was actually rated highly by the majority Liverpool supporters, much as some may hate to admit it.
He won the Reds’ Player of the Year award in 2011/12, forging a formidable centre-back partnership alongside Daniel Agger and scoring in the League Cup final triumph against Cardiff City.
Admittedly, there may not have been great competition for the award, but the 31-year-old still produced some very influential performances.
To have played over 300 times for a club of Liverpool’s stature is an impressive achievement, regardless of what you think of him, and that should not be forgotten when he moves on.
Despite this, Skrtel’s career will always be one of frustration, and he has lost admirers at an alarming rate in the last few years.
For too long, he has been the one constant in an increasingly leaky Reds defence, with own goals, rash tackles and poor positional play all depressingly frequent.
Many will point to the 2013/14 season and say that Skrtel’s seven goals proved he had a good campaign, but he was erratic in his primary job for the team, as Liverpool conceded 50 goals in the Premier League.
He got worse last season, as Brendan Rodgers‘ empire came crashing down around him, and supporters were losing patience at a rapid rate.
For much of his career, Skrtel has been one of those players who seems to escape criticism, but that has changed in 2015/16.
It has become more and more clear that he is past his peak, and the way in which Sakho and Lovren have thrived has only further highlighted the Slovakia international’s deficiencies.
His shambolic second-half showing away to Southampton last month, in which he almost single-handedly allowed a 2-0 lead to dissolve, felt like the final nail in his coffin.
There is still time for Skrtel to end on a high, however, with a handful of matches still remaining this season.
With Klopp’s squad suddenly looking a little depleted – Sakho, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi all look likely to miss the rest of the campaign – there is a chance for fringe players to step up to the plate.
Skrtel very much falls into this category now, and he will no doubt be desperate to earn some playing time in what may be his final few weeks on Merseyside.
The upcoming Premier League games against Swansea City and Watford will surely see him start, with those playing against Villarreal likely to be rested.
Putting in a few decent displays would be a good way to bow out in a Liverpool shirt, and may go some way to reminding the fans that it has not been all bad for him during his eight years at Anfield.
Toure’s creeping age at 35 suggest that the Ivorian will be one of those to sit out in the league, with the focus very much on reaching the Europa League final, though Skrtel would be as desperate as anyone to get the Reds over the finish line.
He clearly loves the club, with his manic celebrations from the sidelines, following Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final against Stoke City in January serving as proof of that.
Divisive, but Deserving of a Send-Off
As the years have passed since he joined from Zenit St Petersburg in early 2008, Skrtel has divided opinion like few other players.
He has always had a sizeable chunk of devotees – rival supporters and pundits have endlessly labelled him Liverpool’s best centre-back in recent years – but plenty have seen through this facade.
Those last-ditch tackles and flying headers have been lauded by some, while others have been left pulling their hair out by his recklessness and lack of leadership.
When the dust settles, Skrtel will likely be remembered as someone who epitomised what has been a disappointing era for Liverpool, with inconsistent showings forever being his downfall.
For someone who has given some good service to the club over many years, however, it would be a shame for him to end as a figure of complete ridicule in the eyes of some.
He may not be the most popular player around, and he certainly has his faults, but he has the chance to enjoy a happy ending at Liverpool.
His opportunity will no doubt come in the league, starting with Sunday’s clash away to Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.
It would be nice to see a long-serving player play out his final weeks in positive fashion, rather than leave us with that dreadful memory of Southampton away.
We take a look at how Jurgen Klopp could line his side up as the Liverpool manager makes his first trip to the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City.
The Reds head to Swansea looking to return to winning ways on the Premier League stage, just 57 hours after arriving home from an ill-timed first European loss this season.
Liverpool have little to play for on the domestic front, but the trip to south Wales at least gives Klopp and his squad the chance to move on swiftly from Thursday’s defeat to Villarreal, and to restore belief to the group ahead of the crucial second leg.
Klopp has made a habit of ringing the changes after European exploits and with recovery time extremely limited before the midday kick-off, the Reds boss has confirmed he will do so again with “fresh legs” and “fresh minds” needed at the Liberty.
The Team News
Liverpool’s XI vs. The Swans
Klopp has made no secret that changes will be made on Sunday and a youthful side is set to be named.
There are a whole host of lineups available to Klopp, but one that could tempt the manager is the possibility of deploying fresh duo Sturridge and Benteke as a strike partnership in a 4-4-2 formation.
Alternatively, Klopp may want to stick to a more familiar setup that he has turned to recent games, with a 4-3-3 lineup a possibility.
In that, Flanagan could play instead of Randall, and if Klopp wants to completely change his back four, he could hand a surprise outing to forgotten man, Steven Caulker, alongside Skrtel.
Stewart and Milner could be joined by Brannagan or Chirivella for a three-man centre – with the young duo part of the squad that travelled to Spain – which would allow Ibe, Ojo and Sturridge to start in attack – keeping Benteke for a second-half appearance.
That would see Liverpool look like this come 12pm kick-off time on Sunday afternoon:
Sunday’s game is little more than a distraction sandwiched between vital European affairs, but victory would be welcome to provide a confidence boost ahead of Thursday’s crucial return leg.
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