In the summer of 2020, Liverpool were heavily linked with a move for Timo Werner. In fact, it wasn’t just that the club were linked with a move for the then-Red Bull Leipzig forward, it’s believed that FSG made a concrete effort to bring the German to Anfield.
In the end, Werner decided to opt for a move to Chelsea. How much was down to him and how much was down to RB Leipzig, we may never know for sure: the FSG offer would have come in installments, much in the same way that Liverpool only ended up paying an initial £4m up front for Diogo Jota.
But whether it was a deliberate decision or not, the move backfired on the player spectacularly, as he became just the latest in a long line of strikers to flounder at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea paid around £47m to bring Werner to London, but the goals, which were so bountiful in the Bundesliga, vanished upon arrival at Stamford Bridge. Jota, meanwhile, flourished under the watchful eye of Jürgen Klopp.
In his two years at Chelsea, Werner has netted 23 times and provided 21 assists in 89 games for The Blues. The fact that he’s so nearly provided more assists than scored goals for Chelsea tells its own story: Werner has morphed into a workhorse forward who works hard for the team but rarely scores.
Werner’s failure to light up was the chief reason Chelsea paid £97m to bring Romelu Lukaku back to London, and we all know how that has worked out.
Now it seems that even with Lukaku going back to Inter, Chelsea remain intent on getting rid of Werner too. According to website Football Insider, Liverpool are once again interested in bringing Werner to Anfield, and it’s likely that he won’t spurn them for a second time.
It’s believed that a deal could be done in the region of £30m. With Liverpool flush with cash from the sale of Sadio Mané, not to mention the imminent departure of Takumi Minamino for around £15m, FSG would have little problem offering that kind of money.
But the real question is, do they need Werner now?
Werner is still only 26, and still has time to develop as a player. At Chelsea, he was used more as a willing runner than a centre-forward. A lot of his best work came outside the box rather than inside it.
If Klopp is to remain implementing the 4-3-3 system next season, then it’s difficult to see where Werner would fit in, given the signing of Darwin Núñez. However, should Klopp pivot to a new formation, a 4-2-3-1, for example, then there might just be room for Werner in the new-look Liverpool set up.
Werner could lead the line when Núñez was absent, or else occupy one of the attacking positions behind the Uruguayan. An attacking department containing Werner, Nunez, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Luis Díaz and Mohamed Salah, all interchanging for four positions, would represent a nice headache for Klopp to have.
Even if Chelsea were open to selling Werner to Liverpool, it’s difficult to see a deal happening, considering there are other areas of the squad that need fixing, like midfield.
Yet if a deal could be done at a relatively low cost, it could be worth a shot, and we could finally see Werner in a Liverpool shirt. It would not be the first time FSG have waited for their man, and it tends to end well.
After news of Liverpool's acquisition of Darwin Núñez sparked excitement throughout Merseyside, FSG were quick to follow up with the addition of Calvin Ramsay. But it was soon suggested that the Scot would be the club's last signing of the summer. That left opinions split between fans, with Manchester City's continued business providing reason for concern over June.
Pep Guardiola is now reported to be close to landing Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips, and while that's not a signing that Liverpool would be too concerned about, the £42m move is a reminder of the difference in financial power that the two Premier League title contenders have at their disposal.
But FSG surely wouldn't have made the decision to close the transfer window early without confidence in the resolution of a contract situation that has circled around Jürgen Klopp over the last season.
Clarity over the future of Mohamed Salah is something that Liverpool need more than ever after Sadio Mané's switch to Bayern Munich. Klopp's evolution of the forward line is quickly taking shape, and with no signing planned despite 19-year-old Harvey Elliott being second-in-line to Salah, FSG must be confident of getting a deal over the line for the Egypt international.
It seems as though the Reds had made it clear this summer that if they were going to sign a midfielder, it was only going to be Aurélien Tchouaméni or Jude Bellingham. There is no denying the excitement those prospective signings bring, but there can be no guarantees of Bellingham's future being pre-written in red. Meanwhile, Tchouaméni is bound for Real Madrid. Should Liverpool deliver on securing a midfielder next summer, that would still do little to solve a glaring gap on the right wing for Klopp.
That indicates that FSG aren't looking to replace Salah next season, with talks set to continue over a new deal in the coming weeks. Previously, replacements have typically been signed well in advance: Diogo Jota came in ahead of time with a view to ultimately inheriting a front-three berth, while Ibrahima Konaté is currently serving an apprenticeship of sorts. A scramble for a right-winger next summer would be uncharacteristic.
Salah has been a crucial star in Klopp's side since he arrived, and a deal that would make him the highest-paid player in the squad would be deserved — though a compromise must be reached over a figure that does not impact the wage structure severely. FSG and Liverpool are said to have reached their ceiling in terms of the offer extended to the 30-year-old, but perhaps they are confident of his stance softening.
Salah's value to the club is indispensable, despite some suggesting that a player's importance to a club is only reflected through the size of the salary offer. A new deal what would see him propelled to a status as one of the leaders in the team would remind him of the appreciation which he wouldn't be guaranteed elsewhere.
As potential cover options in Raphinha and Antony continue to be linked with Arsenal and Manchester United respectively, it looks as though FSG are unflustered by other team's moves in the transfer market — a sign that they think Salah will sign renew his terms at Anfield. And with Roberto Firmino also in the final 12 months of his contract, there is no better way to secure the future of the club than by securing a deal for Salah before the season starts, locking in a player who has become one of the most iconic pieces of Klopp's era.
A dynamic Liverpool attack that has evolved through the signing of Darwin Núñez could see Jürgen Klopp deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation more often next season, but the Reds need more long-term solutions if it is going to be a system that becomes the new norm. Roberto Firmino is the strongest candidate to feature in the number 10 role, but with just one year remaining on his contract, Klopp must find a new option next season.
That player could be Diogo Jota. Just 25 years old, there is still time for Jota to adapt his game in a way that would benefit him in terms of his link-up play. That factor has perhaps been his biggest criticism since joining the club from Wolves. For a player that has been unstoppable in front of goal, scoring 20 goals last season, his assist tally has left a glaring area of improvement.
As highlighted by FBref, Jota registered 5.5 expected assists (xA) in 35 Premier League games in the last Premier League campaign. It's not a bad tally at all, particularly considering his game time fell short of the nailed-on starters, but it's less than half as many as Trent Alexander-Arnold, and similarly far off Salah. Coupled with a pass accuracy of just 75 per cent, it is clear why there is a degree of concern.
Away from the numbers, the problem is clearer. Jota's ability to link play can be seen to falter through times where there is slight hesitation on passes that players like Firmino or Thiago Alcântara would find consistently. If the Portugal international is able to make strides in that area of his game during the pre-season, his evolution could see him close in on world class status.
Alexander-Arnold has looked to benefit from maintaining sharpness throughout the off-season in the past, as well as being willing to experiment with new forms of training. The Liverpool right-back worked on his vision last year, and it was clear that his focus eventually paid dividends when looking at some of the passes he was able to produce consistently — most notably with his outside of the foot effort against Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
For Jota, it's clear which area of his game he must improve this summer. The best way for Klopp to allow him to do that could be by giving him regular game time in the number 10 role — even if that is during pre-season friendlies.
The 4-2-3-1 system is likely to be unleashed next month as Liverpool begin to introduce Núñez to heavy-metal football, and it is vital that Klopp ensures there is as much time dedicated to helping players evolve as there is to developing chemistry in different areas of the pitch.
Chemistry will be particularly important for Mohamed Salah and Luis Díaz, who could both see their roles change slightly with the introduction of the Uruguay international. That's particularly true for Salah, who enjoys working shots inside the box on his left foot — though Núñez's presence alone will force full-backs to be isolated against the Liverpool duo, which can only be a good thing. The 4-2-3-1 system is the best way of drilling this new dynamic over pre-season, and Jota's introduction into the number 10 role could provide Klopp with a new weapon.
Jota's more central role for Portugal at Euro 2020 saw his directness craft frequent chances, with the 25-year-old's incisive runs too difficult to mark for defenders. In moments where Jota failed to cut the ball back at the right time, Cristiano Ronaldo's frustration mimicked those of Liverpool fans at times last season.
But given that Jota has always been a player who has solely focused on scoring goals, cutting in from the left flank as well as playing a direct striker role, it is no surprise that it is a matter of a lack of experience rather than potential. With experience in the 10, he could soon develop to Firmino's level. Even if Klopp does not end up going with the 4-2-3-1 on a permanent basis, using the Portugal star in a more withdrawn role now can only make him a more complete striker for the future.
In many ways, Firmino and Jota create the perfect blend of a player that would be considered among the best in the world if they could merge some of their best qualities together. But there is no time like the present for Jota, who must find the missing string to his bow next season.
It is now 10 years since Brendan Rodgers led his first training session as Liverpool manager.
That’s significant, if not a little scary.
Plenty has happened in the proceeding decade, to the extent that the Northern Irishman’s tenure is often forgotten. Indeed, he will forever be known as the man before the man.
Finding consensus on Rodgers’ reign is like finding an honest Conservative minister. From day one he split opinion, with doubters vocal even with his side on the brink of an unlikely title.[embedded content]
Much of that comes down to image. A self-styled ‘modern coach’, the then-39-year-old was unveiled at Anfield amid much talk of ‘philosophy’ and ‘ideology’.
In this respect, he failed to read the room.
Preaching the virtues of possession football to Liverpool supporters is like instructing Paul McCartney on how to write a hit song.
Kopites had revelled in the success of the Shankly and Paisley eras. Last time we checked, neither were the result of route one tactics.
Simply put, Scousers do not suffer fools. There would be no reinvention of the wheel in their eyes.
A famed 180-page dossier, said to have sealed his appointment, only served to heighten the feeling he was a sporting salesman. Rodgers’ penchant for soundbites may have wooed the impressionable, but irritated old-timers.
Add this to the fact he was replacing an icon in Kenny Dalglish, and you can begin to understand some of that early apathy.Being: Liverpool
Admittedly, the incoming boss was hardly helped by a prior commitment to filming a behind-the-scenes documentary across what would be his maiden pre-season.
Another manager, with a trophy-laden CV, might have put a stop to that. Dare we say his successor would have.
Yet Rodgers – at that point – had no real track record to speak of. And having been parachuted into the hot seat of a footballing behemoth, he was in no position to give ultimatums.
Unfortunately, ‘access all areas’ meant exactly that, including footage of some cringeworthy material and team talks; none more so than that based around envelopes…
This earned Rodgers comparisons to David Brent. A likeable figure, but somewhat of a parody.
It was against this backdrop that the Reds entered a transitional season.
Rodgers was true to his word and attempted to implement a passing style that meant playing out from the back.
It’s fair to say this took some time.
Liverpool failed to win any of their first five league games and were trounced 3-0 away to West Brom on the opening day.
Before a long-awaited win at Norwich, meanwhile, came a haphazard end to the transfer window.
It’s since emerged that Rodgers angered his bosses by bemoaning a lack of signings in forward positions, having been offered the chance to retain Andy Carroll.
Looking back, this was perhaps the first evidence of self-preservation, something that would become a regular occurrence.
And this brings Rodgers’ much-talked-of philosophy into sharp focus.
Come the end of that season, the Reds had evolved into a counter-attacking side. The slow, considered buildup was replaced with faster transitions, often launched by the now-deep-lying Steven Gerrard.
It could be argued personnel forced the manager’s hand in that regard.
Indeed, it’s long been speculated he was personally against the Sturridge signing. Yet the old adage says you work with the tools you’re given…
And the ability to adapt is surely the sign of a good manager.
Nonetheless, it made a bit of a mockery of the seminars we’d listened to in every press conference for six months.
Regardless Liverpool ended the campaign strongly. The 3-2 defeat of Spurs at Anfield in March signalled the first significant victory of the Rodgers era. Up to that point the Reds had failed to beat any of the established ‘big six’.
They ended the season unbeaten in eight and full of attacking impetus.2013/14
Heading into the exhilarating but ultimately heartbreaking 2013/14 season, Rodgers had shown his ability to harness momentum. It remains his best trait to this day.
Suddenly the curious and downright bizarre experiments that defined his early months were abandoned.
Rodgers – for a while at least – put aside the ego that would force him to display ingenuity at every turn. There would be no more Stewart Downing at left-back, for example.
Instead, he rode the wave.
Around 15 players were entrusted to go the distance, building on the confidence and energy that stemmed from three consecutive 1-0 wins at the start of the campaign.
Led by the spectacular Luis Suarez and talismanic Gerrard, the Reds found themselves in an unlikely title challenge. They were flawed but relentless, shipping 50 goals but scoring 101.
By this point, Rodgers’ dossier had been set alight, along with the rest of Premier League. There was no philosophy on display – how could there be when you concede so frequently?
The only commitment was to the utter chaos that might just deliver a 19th title.
It so nearly did.
We all know how that run-in concluded and though nobody would admit it, we feared it would never be as good again.
That near-miss also served to heighten expectations. A serious title assault might have been expected in year four or five.
Rodgers now had to repeat the formula – without his best player.The fall
Rodgers’ biggest critics attribute the thrilling 2013/14 season to Suarez alone.
Granted, he was playing football from another planet and drove an imperfect team to the brink of the Holy Grail. But even the best need an environment in which to flourish.
The Uruguayan never hit those heights under Dalglish.
Rodgers also did a good job of reintegrating his star player following a very public exile for attempting to engineer a move away. That’s good management, however you dress it up.
The naysayers point to the following year as proof Suarez made Rodgers. What they forget is he lost not one but two strikers, with Sturridge consigned to the treatment table for pretty much the duration.
Ironically this forced him to revert to type and overthink everything.
We were told (by the man himself, obviously) about late nights at the kitchen table devising a 3-5-2 system. We saw Emre Can at centre-back, Rickie Lambert used as a target man and even Brad Jones between the sticks.
He found that all-important momentum mid-season, leading to a run of 12 games unbeaten.
But as good as Rodgers is at riding a wave, he struggles to arrest a decline. That began with a fatal defeat at home to Man United and culminated in a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Stoke.
In hindsight that really should have marked the end.
For whatever reason, he was allowed to limp on for another five months, in which time his paranoia came to the fore in press conferences.
Admittedly, he wasn’t the first Liverpool manager to suffer that fate. Gerard Houllier also began to distrust everyone with a media badge. The pressures of the job will do that to you.Rodgers’ legacy
So, 10 years on from his first training session, how is Rodgers viewed now by supporters?
Well, the reception he’s afforded whenever he returns with Leicester tells a story. It’s one of polite applause.
He was a decent manager boasting a 51.20 percent win ratio. That puts him above the likes of Roy Hodgson (41.94%) and Graeme Souness (42.04%) but below Roy Evans (51.77%) and Houllier (52.12%).
On reflection, you’d say that’s just about right.
Numbers, however, never tell the whole story. He came within a slip of being immortalised yet in many ways contributed to his own demise.
Did he get the Liverpool job too early? Perhaps. Would he be reconsidered in the future? Unlikely.
His biggest critics point to his decision to walk out on Celtic with a historic treble-treble in sight as proof his priority has been and always will be Brendan Rodgers.
In that respect, he was never right for our club.
June 22nd was a bittersweet day for Liverpool supporters worldwide as legendary Senegalese striker Sadio Mané officially signed with German powerhouse FC Bayern Munich. The 3-year deal is worth a reported £27.5 million base salary, but Mané could earn as much as £35.1 million if he reaches incentives.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp did not mince words when speaking to reporters about the transfer.
“It’s a big moment. There is no point in anyone trying to pretend otherwise,” Klopp said. “One of Liverpool’s greatest-ever players is leaving and we must acknowledge how significant this is.”Photo by SEYLLOU/AFP via Getty Images
There is definitely no denying the impact Mané has made during his 6-year stay at Anfield. Since coming over from Southampton in 2016, he has made 269 appearances for the Reds, scoring 120 goals across all competitions. During those 6 seasons, Mané was a central figure in Liverpool winning several major competitions including a Champions League title, and an EPL Title. He was also vital in Liverpool lifting the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, the Super Cup, and Club World Cup, not to mention his exploits on the international stage for his home nation of Senegal.Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images
“He leaves with our gratitude and our love,” Klopp said. “He leaves with his status among the greats guaranteed. And yes, he leaves in a moment where he is one of the best players in world football. But we must not dwell on what we now lose, instead of celebrating what we were privileged to have. The goals he scored, the trophies he won, a legend for sure, but also a modern-day Liverpool icon.”
After the transfer was announced, Mané shared a message for Reds supporters via social media.
“Hi dear fans,” Mané said via Instagram. “It is difficult to find the right words for this. I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart. I am so pleased to have been a very small part of the incredible success we have had together over the past 6 years. You were always there in the good times and the bad. I will never forget this. Thank you again. You never walk alone.”
Former Liverpool teammate, Mo Salah, expressed well wishes for Mané on Instagram.
“It’s been quite a ride!” he said. “Thank you for all the good times and I wish you the best in your new adventure. You will be missed by all.”
Even though Mané will no longer be taking the pitch for the Reds, it is safe to say he is beloved by supporters and teammates alike and that his status as a Liverpool legend is secure.
As the Premier League season nears amid an early start for the 2022/23 campaign, all eyes will be on whether Jürgen Klopp's squad has evolved enough to secure the Premier League title. It is two years to the day since Liverpool broke their league title drought, with the Reds falling cruelly short on two occasions in recent times.
The approach could be slightly different this year, after Sadio Mané headed off in search of a new challenge with Bayern Munich. Takumi Minamino looks to be on his way too, while Origi will officially depart at the end of the month upon the expiry of his contract.
But FSG have made additions too, with potential record signing Darwin Núñez the headline amid deals for Calvin Ramsay and Fábio Carvalho. Probably the best number nine of Klopp's tenure, he could herald a new tactical setup. When considering the signings made so far across the Premier League, how does Liverpool's squad compare in the league's best XI?
A case could be made that Alisson is the best in the world between the sticks. The Brazilian goalkeeper has won games on his own since joining the club, and his rate of stopping one-versus-one situations has helped Liverpool stay in matches. While Édouard Mendy deserves a mention for his performances last season, Alisson is currently the best in the Premier League.
LB: Andy Robertson
Manchester City's João Cancelo provided strong competition for Robertson last year as a name for the best left-back in England's top flight, but the Scotland captain's consistency and production was unmatched by anyone in that position.
LCB: Virgil van Dijk
The best centre-back in the world. So good that rival fans are willing to wait weeks to celebrate a player finally dribbling by him.
RCB: Joël Matip
Matip is turning out to be one of the best free transfers in Liverpool's history, with the 30-year-old consistently delivering and turning the corner with his match availability last season. Some may argue a case for the likes of Rúben Dias, but the Manchester City man looked exposed at times when playing a high line last season, while Ibrahima Konaté stood out brightest in the clashes between Liverpool and the Citizens.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold
The most productive right-back in the world. Trent Alexander-Arnold sets the standards for players in his position, and he will be crucial to the Reds' success in a season where he will be helping the development of Calvin Ramsay.
Fabinho has cemented vital importance in the spine of Klopp's team with performances that have seen him regarded as one of the best number sixes in football.
Thiago answered every doubter he ever had in the Premier League with his performance at Anfield against Manchester United, and he is Klopp's most important piece, given that he is almost impossible to replace in the midfield three.
RCM: Kevin De Bruyne
The difference-maker in the league title race last season was Kevin De Bruyne. Liverpool's strongest options in this position will continue to be a rotation between Jordan Henderson and Naby Keïta.
LW: Son Heung-min
Luis Díaz looks set to be one of the best wingers in the league next season, and there isn't too much of a gap between him and Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min. Díaz has proven that he can compete against any side — particularly relishing the big games after showing himself to be a star player in Liverpool's cup finals last season. Even so, the Spurs man edges it for now.
ST: Erling Haaland
The race for the Golden Boot next season will likely see Haaland and Harry Kane challenging the Liverpool duo of Darwin Núñez and Mohamed Salah. Haaland's pace and performances in the Bundesliga make him the best number nine in the league, though whether or not he can adapt to Manchester City's style without disrupting them is another question.
Of course, given that Pep Guardiola's side dominate the vast majority of their games, the Norway international will be given plenty of service, but his reputation as the best number nine could fade if Núñez makes a fast start to life at Anfield.
RW: Mohamed Salah
Salah has led the way in world football from the right flank in recent seasons, and it will be a matter of whether he can maintain form amid current contract negotiation distractions. With Núñez a focal point in the box next season, many of Salah's goals could come from his typical cut inside and left-foot finish, though that technique did seem to have faltered last season from the standards witnessed earlier on in his Liverpool career.
The Premier League‘s head of referees Mike Riley has stepped down from his position after reports of a number of top-flight clubs criticising his performance.
This included the introduction and use of VAR in the English top flight, while the overcomplication of rules and a perceived lack of accountability among referees are clear issues, too.
Now, Riley has vacated his role as general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), as confirmed by BBC Sport.
The 53-year-old said: “Now is the right time to plan for the future and allow the new leadership team to build on the strong foundations that we have in place.”
That new-look leadership group is expected to include Howard Webb, the former referee who is currently general manager of the Professional Referee Organization in the United States.
According to the Mail, the PGMOL are now “aiming to appoint a chief refereeing officer, in charge of developing match officials, and a chief operating officer, who will manage the organisation.”
Riley’s exit comes following the retirement of four of the most experienced and high-profile referees in England.
Mike Dean, Martin Atkinson, Jon Moss and, most recently, Kevin Friend, have all confirmed they will be vacating their jobs, though most are in line for positions within the PGMOL.
The departure of Riley could be considered a step forward for refereeing in England, with the state of officials at the highest level certainly questionable in recent years.
Whether it prompts major change, however – at least for the better – remains to be seen.
The way some people are speaking about Liverpool and Jude Bellingham, it would appear to be a matter of fate. There is a consensus that a transfer is highly unlikely this summer, but 2023 is being touted as the date with destiny.
But Liverpool have been here before. Kylian Mbappé was once spoken about in similarly bullish tones: ‘Mbappé 2020’ was perhaps somewhat more tongue-in-cheek than the Bellingham hype, but the same principles apply. And as the PSG star’s stock rose and rose, the logistics of any such deal got more and more implausible.
Bellingham is likely to enjoy a similarly astronomical trajectory. Even now, he is an established star at a top side in Europe. Another season of development and he will be coveted by essentially every big club — if, indeed, that is not the case already. With every passing game on which he stamps his influence, the cost associated with a transfer goes up.
It is not so much the transfer fee that will worry Liverpool. After all, FSG just smashed the club record to land Darwin Núñez, provided certain add-ons are met. Rather, the more desperate that competitors become to land Bellingham, the more the wage race ratchets up. It is here where the structure at Anfield cannot compete with the likes of PSG and Manchester City.
While Liverpool were signing Núñez, for a fee that could rise as high as £85m, Erling Haaland was arriving at the Etihad for £51m. The difference? A salary of £140,000 per week, compared to £375,000 per week for the Norwegian starlet. Even ignoring the added commissions and agent fees forked out by Man City, that means the Haaland deal will become more costly within three years.
Of course, not too many players can command such a wage, but the pool is increasing. Both Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku would be the highest earners at Liverpool by some distance. Grealish, likewise, falls beyond the current scope of the FSG wage bill. Bellingham is not far off the point where he could comfortably pick up a wage north of £200,000 if he so desired.
As such, Liverpool will be delighted with the latest developments at Manchester City. One of the few clubs that would always be able to win a salary battle, they have just agreed a deal for the transfer of Kalvin Phillips, seemingly setting up their midfield for the foreseeable future.
Touted as a Fernandinho replacement, Phillips seems more likely to feature as cover for both the number six and number eight roles. Rodri has already taken over admirably from the Brazilian veteran; if anything, the Leeds man is more like the long-term answer to an eventual İlkay Gündoğan departure.
Only Pep Guardiola will know exactly what he has planned, but the midfield core at Man City looks extremely strong. Crucially, the age profile is relatively young too, with both Phillips and Rodri only 26 years of age. The future of Bernardo Silva is far from certain, but he too has plenty of prime years left.
In other words, one of the most obvious competitors for the 2023 capture of Bellingham may now be less of a threat. The existing attacking depth did not stop Manchester City signing Grealish for £100m last summer, so Liverpool cannot exactly rule out their rivals, but it is hard to dispute that their priorities are now more likely to lie elsewhere.
That leaves a very limited pool of clubs who can simply blow Liverpool out of the water in terms of wages. Chelsea are an unknown quantity under the new owners — and with Declan Rice rumours intensifying, they will hopefully follow Man City in effectively bowing out of the race anyway. PSG do not seem like a natural fit for Bellingham, and in any case are reportedly close to signing Renato Sanches.
As for Manchester United, they have been getting rejected left, right and centre all summer, and it is hard to imagine too much will have changed by 2023. Equally, former teammate Jadon Sancho will be a cautionary tale for Bellingham. That only really leaves Real Madrid as an obvious transfer rival with superior wage power to Liverpool, but their midfield is already notoriously future-proofed, not least since the arrival of Aurélien Tchouaméni.
Nor is it the case that wages are the absolute be all and end all, although they are clearly very significant. Liverpool sold Virgil van Dijk on the project back in 2018, and Manchester City and Chelsea were left with no chance. The hope will be that Bellingham, who has made positive noises in the past, is similarly set on Anfield.
Perhaps, then, the feeling of destiny around Bellingham is warranted. Certainly, the optimism is more legitimate than in the case of Mbappé. Liverpool are still not equipped to beat some of their main competitive rivals in a straight wage shootout, but there is reason to believe it will not come to that. Between the player’s potential wishes and the recent transfer activity at Manchester City and elsewhere, the 2023 dream could yet become reality.
After an extensive fan poll of the greatest goals scored in Liverpool’s 130-year history, the club have now revealed the top 10 – with a surprise at No. 1.
This year marks Liverpool FC’s 130th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, the club have been counting down the 130 greatest goals in their history.
As voted for by the fans, the list includes some spectacular goals along with some less easy on the eye but hugely significant in the Reds’ success.
That is reflected in the top 10, with three European Cup finals, three FA Cup finals, a title-winner and an all-time comeback clincher all making the cut.[embedded content]
There are three from the triumphant 1970s, including Kenny Dalglish‘s winner in the European Cup final in 1978, and three from the 1980s, with Dalglish’s goal against Chelsea in 1986 – to seal the First Division title – in at No. 7.
But the top three is dominated by goals from the last 20 years, with two from Steven Gerrard and one, topping the charts, by none other than Divock Origi.
Perhaps recency bias came into play during the fan vote, but there is no denying the emotional pull and significance of Origi’s comeback goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final win at Anfield as deserving of a place among the very best.
It had everything, from ball boy Oakley Cannonier’s quick thinking, Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s perfect delivery and Origi’s remarkable improvised finish.
That it booked a place in Madrid, on the way to a sixth European Cup, at the expense of a Barcelona side that had gloated their way to Merseyside, made it all the sweeter.Liverpool’s 10 greatest goals of all time
9. Alan Kennedy vs. Real Madrid – European Cup final, 1981
6. David Fairclough vs. St Etienne – European Cup quarter-final, 1977
5. Kenny Dalglish vs. Club Brugge – European Cup final, 1978
4. Terry McDermott vs. Tottenham – First Division, 1978
3. Steven Gerrard vs. AC Milan – Champions League final, 2005
The days keep rolling, the days continue to tick down, and Mohamed Salah and Liverpool seem no closer to agreeing a contract extension.
The Salah issue loomed large over the entirety of Liverpool’s 2021/22 season. Will he or won’t he sign an extension? Despite the victories and the two trophies, that gnawing feeling at the back of the head wouldn’t go away, and it was the Salah contract stalemate.
We have already seen Sadio Mané walk away from the club this summer. Could Liverpool also see Salah leave too?
Mané’s case was different, of course. After six years at Anfield, the Senegal forward believed he needed a new challenge and decided to leave for Bayern Munich. That differs to Salah, whose dilemma, despite his own proclamations, does seem to be money-based.
Salah maintains that the dispute with Liverpool isn’t purely ‘about money’, but if isn’t, then why hasn’t he signed? If sporting ambition is what he’s after, he couldn’t be in a better place than Liverpool, playing for one of the two preeminent coaches of the modern era in a side that routinely challenges for the biggest prizes.
Aside from weather or lifestyle choices, there is no non-monetary reason for him to want to leave Liverpool, and this is what is puzzling Liverpool fans.
Salah already earns around £200k-per-week, and is among the most well-paid players at Liverpool. Given his massive contribution to Liverpool last season, and pretty much since he arrived, he feels he should be compensated in line with what other high-calibre players are earning.
And this is fair enough, but he also needs to remember that he’s on the wrong side of 30 now, and clubs aren’t going to be tripping over themselves attempting to sign a 30-year-old who is demanding massive wages. Football in the post-Covid landscape is completely different to what came before, and most of the top European sides are facing financial ruin. This narrows down Salah’s options.
Real Madrid could be interested after losing out on Kylian Mbappé; Barcelona seem intent on signing Robert Lewandowski; Juventus have Dušan Vlahović and Federico Chiesa; Bayern signed Mané, and Paris Saint-Germain would likely need to sell several players before making a bid.
Of the top European sides, Salah really doesn’t have many alternatives. He could move to a big club within England, but given his affinity for Liverpool, despite the contract stand-off, it’s unlikely that he would swap one Premier League club for another. Leaks from his camp have suggested that he may do just this, but surely that is little more than posturing.
From a Liverpool perspective, perhaps the time is right to sell him this summer, and make a profit on the £34m they spent on him in 2017, rather than lose him for free in a year’s time. The club shouldn’t be held to ransom by Salah, and perhaps it might be best for the club to take a pre-emptive strike and make the decision to offload him now. It would cause some ruffles among fans, but it would be the best move in the long run.
This way, Liverpool could also gain a semblance of control over Salah's destination. The player would obviously need to assent to any move, but if FSG accepted a lucrative offer from abroad, it would most likely avoid the nightmare scenario of a move to Manchester City or Chelsea. The lack of obvious suitors would also need to be overcome, but Real Madrid could be a prime option.
Great players come and go at Liverpool, and that is something Salah needs to remember. It may have been Mané who initiated the Bayern move, but it was nonetheless a reminder that nobody is unsellable: the longer there is no contract compromise this summer, the more tempting a sale becomes.
Ex-Liverpool centre-back and cult hero Ragnar Klavan made his return to Estonia with Paide Linnameeskond last summer, and made history 10 months later.
Klavan was a firm favourite among supporters during his two years at Anfield, proving a capable squad player over 53 appearances and capturing the imagination with his trademark dummy.
Months after the club-record signing of Van Dijk, Klavan departed for Italian side Cagliari in a deal worth £2 million, with Jurgen Klopp reluctantly allowing his No. 17 to leave.
Those within Liverpool were big admirers of the Estonian, and he soon established himself as a key player for Cagliari despite injury problems and the disruption of COVID-19.
But after three seasons and 64 appearances, Klavan left Italy upon the expiry of his contract and, after considering retirement, eventually joined Paide Linnameeskond back in his native country.
“The soul wanted to come back home,” were his words upon sealing the move to Paide, as he set his sights on a return to the national team.
He arrived mid-season and in only his second Meistriliiga start he scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Viljandi Tuleviku, going on to play 10 times that campaign.
And while his league outings have been limited so far this term, Klavan played every minute of every game as Paide made history with their first-ever trophy.
After overcoming FC Tallinn, FC Flora U21, TJK Legion and FC Flora on the road to the final, Paide faced off against Kalju at the Lillekula Stadium in Tallinn to decide the Estonian Cup.
Klavan, who is now 36, made his fifth start of the tournament at centre-back, with the tie going to extra time and only won in the 109th minute as Paide winger Siim Luts struck to clinch victory.[embedded content]
Though the Paide attendance was unsurprisingly small for a town with a population of just under 8,000 – and whose stadium holds 500 – the celebrations at full-time showed how significant a moment it was for the club.
Humble as ever, Klavan took a muted role in the trophy lift, but his contribution cannot be understated as the league campaign continues in Estonia.
Having finished third in Meistriliiga in his first season with the club, Paide are currently fourth in the table with 19 games to play, with its conclusion not until November.
At that point, Klavan’s contract is due to expire, and though it remains to be seen whether he will extend his stay or opt to retire, he can consider his move to Paide a success.
Ten months after joining he lifted a first-ever trophy for the club and, in March, earned a return to the Estonia national team after two-and-a-half years away.
Napoli midfielder Fabián Ruiz has been an integral cog in the Neapolitan machine since his arrival from Real Betis four years ago.
The Spaniard, who isn’t the quickest but possesses a full range of passing, quickly settled into life in Serie A and became pivotal under Carlo Ancelotti, Gennaro Gattuso and Luciano Spalletti.
Over the last four years, he’s played 166 games for Napoli, scoring 22 goals and providing 15 assists. Ruiz helped Napoli beat Juventus to lift the Coppa Italia in 2020, winning his first major piece of silverware.
However, as his contract has been winding down over the last 12 months, speculation has mounted that his days in Italy are numbered. His contract is due to run out next summer, and this has fuelled reports that Napoli are ready to cash in on Ruiz now, with it considered unlikely that he will sign an extension.
Many in the Napoli camp are reportedly disgruntled with how they folded under the pressure when a first league title in 32 years was theirs for the taking. The mentality of the club has been questioned, and many of the experienced players are considering leaving.
Lorenzo Insigne has already departed, having signed for MLS side Toronto FC. Kalidou Koulibaly and Dries Mertens are others said to be unhappy with the club.
Revolution is in the air in Naples, and Ruiz’s departure could help fund new signings.
Reports in England suggest that Arsenal and Newcastle are interested in bringing Ruiz to the Premier League, as well as Man City and Manchester United. The Daily Mail suggests that the midfielder has been effectively transfer listed, with a £26m price tag placed on his head. Could Liverpool be another club to generate interest in the 26-year-old?
Liverpool have experience of Ruiz and his qualities before, having met Napoli in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Champions League group stages. Ruiz sparkled on several occasions against The Reds, and no doubt Jürgen Klopp, will have remembered how Ruiz controlled the away game against Napoli in September 2019, when they won 2-0.
Yet does that mean he’s a good fit for Liverpool?
Ruiz’s languid style of play would be ill-suited to the kind of football Klopp likes Liverpool to play, but there could be room for him as a Thiago Alcântara alternative, or at least a vice-Thiago in case the 31-year-old is unavailable.
Ruiz could help Liverpool control games against the bigger sides, when perhaps they might not see as much of the ball as they would against smaller sides. Ruiz is always very composed and measured on the ball, never in a hurry to get rid of it. This was the primary reason Thiago was signed two summers ago, and seems to be the direction of travel for Klopp's Liverpool midfield.
At 26, Ruiz could ostensibly slowly take over from Thiago in serving that purpose, despite not being as good as the former Bayern Munich man.
Moreover, if Liverpool could sign him for around £20m-£25m, then it would be a low-cost gamble. If it didn’t work out, he could always be sold on, most likely for profit.
But it’s unlikely Liverpool will get involved in the race to sign him, at least this summer. Klopp has even younger pretenders to Thiago's throne in Harvey Elliott and potentially Fábio Carvalho, and even a bargain transfer fee probably won't tempt him into blocking their progress.
Liverpool are about to lose close to 50 goal contributions from last season. With Takumi Minamino on the brink of leaving the club for pastures new, his 11 goal contributions from last season will add to the combined total of 38 that Liverpool have already lost from the confirmed departures of Divock Origi and Sadio Mané.
Replacing such a significant amount of goals will be a huge burden on the young shoulders of Darwin Núñez and Fábio Carvalho, who are both expected to fill the void left behind in Julian Ward's revolution at Anfield. The two of them alone could buckle under such expectations, and while FSG will be reluctant to spend a hefty fee on another back-up attacker, it could be a smart decision to ease the load off of the club's new arrivals.
Of course, Liverpool don't necessarily have to splash the cash for a back-up forward. Instead, they could turn to someone who is already proven in the Premier League and who is well-seasoned at scoring goals for Liverpool.
Luis Suárez is available on a free transfer this summer after his contract at Atlético Madrid expires later this month and the 35-year-old Uruguayan is believed to be considering his options.
Playing in an extremely defensive team, Suárez still managed 16 goal contributions last season, averaging 0.62 goal contributions per 90 minutes for Atlético. Despite his veteran status, Liverpool could easily squeeze out another year or two from the Uruguayan forward, especially as a back-up striker.
The move could be beneficial for FSG in multiple ways, too. While Suárez may ask for slightly higher wages than a traditional back-up, he would be a fan favourite move that would gain the supporters' trust. He would get fans excited about the club, helping to fill the void left behind by a fellow Liverpool legend in Mané.
At the same time, Suárez is a player who is a major admirer of his fellow compatriot and Liverpool's new signing, Darwin Núñez, who he has spoken of highly in the past. So, who better for Núñez to learn from first-hand — when it comes to how to settle into Premier League football — than the last Uruguayan footballer who did that with ease?
At Liverpool, Suárez could teach Núñez his ways and become a father figure for the young forward while instilling the club's culture and ethos into his veins.
Of course, given he still possesses plenty of quality, he would also maintain the competitive edge in the Liverpool attack and give Jürgen Klopp a powerful tool to use off the bench. It would be out of character for FSG, but perhaps it might just make sense.
Transfer silly season is now in full swing, and that means Liverpool are being linked with a whole host of names, some believable, others less so.
Despite feelings from the club that transfer business is finished for the summer with the arrivals of Darwin Núñez, Calvin Ramsay and Fábio Carvalho, that hasn’t stopped the newspapers and websites linking Liverpool with players.
One of the latest names to appear in connection to Jürgen Klopp's side is Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
According to The Telegraph, Rabiot has made it known that his difficult time in Turin is at an end, and that he wants to move to the Premier League, and most specifically, one of Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City or Tottenham.
In short, he wants Champions League football.
While he is currently getting that at Juve, his relationship with the Italian giants has been rocky to say the least, ever since he arrived at the club on a free transfer in the summer of 2019.
Signed by former sporting director Fabio Paratici, now at Tottenham, Rabiot has struggled to win over the Juventus fans after three full seasons in Serie A, with many wondering what exactly Rabiot is good at.
Rabiot is neither fast nor slow; neither skilful nor workmanlike and neither an attacking midfielder nor a defensive midfielder. What he brings to a team has puzzled many.
Yet Rabiot is good on the ball, but he’s not a regista, nor a deep-lying playmaker, in the truest sense. He’s good at recycling the ball and keeping possession of it, but he can’t orchestrate play in the way that Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Toni Kroos could in their pomp.
Rabiot is simply a bit of a mystery. Moreover, he comes with baggage, with his entourage having made the headlines for the wrong reasons in the past.
Should Liverpool be interested in Rabiot?
In a word, no. Rabiot simply doesn’t possess any of the characteristics needed to play for a Klopp side. Rabiot tends to play within himself and forever seems stuck in second or third gear; that wouldn’t be acceptable to Klopp and his high-octane brand of football.
The only conceivable way that Rabiot could work at Liverpool was if he was brought in as cover for Thiago Alcântara when Klopp needed to give the Spaniard a break, as Rabiot does share some similar attributes with him.
Rabiot is in the final year of his contract at Juve, and the Italians would be happy to do a deal to offload him, and a fee likely would cost Liverpool somewhere between £12m to £15m, but even still, Rabiot is not worth that much.
There are plenty of better options on the market, and Liverpool shouldn’t entertain the idea of signing Rabiot, not even for a minute.
Divock Origi's iconic finish against Barcelona has been voted Liverpool's greatest goal in its 130-year history.
The Belgian's second strike in the famous 2019 Champions League night at Anfield claims the honour following a supporter poll on Liverpoolfc.com.
The Trent Alexander-Arnold-assisted goal – widely remembered with its commentary from Steve Hunter, 'Corner taken quickly… Origi!' – sealed a 4-0 victory for Jürgen Klopp's side in the second leg of the semi-final and a spot in the Madrid final, which produced European Cup No.6.
As part of the club's 130th anniversary celebrations, we dug through the broadcast archives to pick out the Reds' 130 greatest strikes.
Entries 130-11 were ranked by a panel based on the goal's quality, importance, iconic status and lasting legacy.
The top 10 were then put to a vote – the results of which were revealed on Friday.
Origi's effort against Barça claimed first place as Steven Gerrard took second and third with his goals in the finals of the 2006 FA Cup and 2005 Champions League respectively.
Enjoy the top 10 of LFC's greatest 130 goals in the video above.
Somewhere in the early months of 1970, a young Phil Thompson is walking away from Melwood, the soon-to-be iconic training base of Liverpool Football Club.
Alongside him is his mother, June, the woman who had introduced him to the team that would eventually consume the rest of his life. They’re on their way into town to meet his aunty, but the youngster only has one thing on his mind – will the club he loves offer him an apprenticeship?
June and her twin sister, May, have been following the Reds from their seats in the Paddock, just behind the dugout, since the 1950s. It had been his mother’s influence, not his father’s, that guided her son to his second trial for Bill Shankly‘s Liverpool. Owen Thompson, Phil’s father, was a merchant seaman and often worked away. He was also an Evertonian.The dream starts here
For Phil, football had been the dominant force in his life for as long as he could remember and he was rarely seen without a football in his hand. Born in the Kensington area of the city on January 21, 1954, Thompson was one of seven children. Despite his father’s allegiances, he had developed a passion for Liverpool FC and had already graduated from the Boys’ Pen and was a regular on the Kop.
In his autobiography, Stand Up Pinnochio, he recalls climbing up a drainpipe to get into the ground and getting chased by stewards. It had been a right of passage shared by many kids in Liverpool, but soon he would step down from the steps of that famous old terrace and take his place on the pitch alongside many of the men he had worshipped as a fan.
In the early ’60s, the Liverpool Corporation began a huge housing improvement scheme, and Phil’s family along with many more moved out of Kensington to places like Kirkby. For the young Thompson, Kirkby had two things going for it. The first was the River Alt (it may have been just four feet wide and probably just as deep) but as far as he and the family were concerned they had moved to the ‘seaside’. The other selling point was the fact that the new family home backed onto a playing field.
He would spend every available hour on it, kicking a football, or playing games of S.P.O.T. against the front wall of his family home. The game was a simple one, you hit the ball against a designated spot, and if you missed you were given the first letter of that word. You were out once you had received all four letters. These thousands of practice hours no doubt helped him on the road to a professional career, which would actually start with an invite to train with Everton, an offer he accepted even though he would later say it felt like “a betrayal.”
It would be while playing for St Joseph’s, a local Sunday League side, that Thompson was brought to the attention of Shankly’s Liverpool. The team’s manager, Jimmy Gamble, was a steward at Anfield and he had invited one of the club’s scouts to come and watch Phil in a game, an invite to train with the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays would soon follow.
At Anfield, Phil was under the tutelage of the likes of Reuben Bennett, legendary club stalwart George Patterson and Tom Bush. His first trial would end in heartbreak when the club didn’t take him on. However, there would be a glimmer of hope and an invite to return for a second trial in pre-season.
He felt the trial had gone well but had been given no indication from Bush that he would be signing papers. With his father away at sea, Phil turned to his mother and pleaded with her to find out if his dream would finally be realised or not.
As they strolled along Melwood Drive toward the bus stop on Mill Road, past a patch of land that would later be named the ‘Bill Shankly Playing Fields’, Thompson’s mother could resist her son’s pleas no more. She turned to him and swore him to secrecy. Bush had told her that an offer of an apprenticeship would be made the following day. The youngster could hardly believe it and immediately began dancing and shouting with excitement.
He would throw himself into life at Anfield, giving everything in training, while off the field he would polish the professionals’ boots and clean up around the ground. This was a dream come true and he wasn’t going to let it slip from his grasp without a fight.Thommo and Shankly
Soon he would be approaching his 17th birthday, a tense time for apprentices. Nerves would start to kick in and sleepless nights would follow. Was the club about to crush his dream by cutting him loose, or was his life about to change forever with the offer of a professional contract? The answer came one afternoon at Melwood when none other than Shankly himself approached him.
The great man would enquire if the youngster had been sleeping and eating well, then simply announced that the club were pleased with his efforts, and he’d be offering Phil a professional contract on his 17th birthday. He would earn £7 a week.
For such a momentous moment to arrive in such a matter-of-fact manner must have felt surreal, but he had, at last, made the step he had always dreamed of. Thompson has often spoken of his deep admiration for Shankly. The man was like a God to him. So much so that he cherished every conversation with the Scot, even the ones where he was the butt of the joke.
Shankly once remarked upon eyeing the youngster’s rather large nose, “Christ son, you must have told a lot of lies as a kid.” In another barb, the legendary manager would quip that Thompson “had a toss-up with a sparrow for a pair of legs and lost.” The latter was a reference to Phil’s gangly frame and the youngster was more than happy to be attracting any kind of attention from the boss, even if it was at his expense.
Thompson would be in the travelling party, on the road to Wembley, as the Reds got set to take on Arsenal in the 1971 FA Cup final. He would watch from the balcony of the old stadium and sobbed his heart out when his beloved Reds lost the game. This was a Kopite playing for the team he adored, and he would suffer that defeat alongside his fellow supporters.
Thompson made his professional debut in a 3-0 win over Man United at Old Trafford in January 1972, almost three weeks before his 18th birthday. With the game heading into the last 10 minutes, and the Reds 2-0 up thanks to second-half goals from Chris Lawler and John Toshack, Shankly decided to take off his Welsh hitman and give a run out to his Scouse protege.
Within three minutes, Emlyn Hughes had made it 3-0. Making your professional debut in a 3-0 win away to United can’t be bad, but for Phil, this was only the beginning.
Thompson never lacked confidence, he was a perfectionist and would be furious with himself if things didn’t go his way.
He would famously walk into Shankly’s office after the manager had dropped him from a game, and asked him, “Why didn’t you pick me, boss?” The manager looked him up and down, no doubt admiring the youngster’s pluck, and said:
“Son, you will play many games for this club, for many years to come. One day you will captain this club. I wouldn’t even be surprised if you captained your country. You should thank me for dropping you on Saturday.”From pitch to backroom
Shankly’s words would prove prophetic. Phil Thompson would indeed captain the club. He would go on to play 477 times for Liverpool, scoring 13 times and collecting seven league titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups, two European Cups and two UEFA Cups. He would also serve the club in assistant and caretaker manager roles.
Thommo would be a key backroom figure in the all-conquering Kenny Dalglish sides of the 1980s and would be controversially sacked by Souness in 1992. He was also one of the architects of the 2001 treble season as Gerard Houllier’s assistant. It was, of course, Thompson who led the team for six months during Frenchman’s illness the following season, helping the Reds to a second-place finish in the process.
Above all he knew exactly what it meant to represent the Kop, he once referred to the terrace as his “pride and joy,” and he never allowed himself to give anything less than his all, in a Reds shirt or as part of the backroom staff. That meant he couldn’t tolerate second-best from any player in a red shirt.
It would make him a tough and sometimes unforgiving coach, a fact that once put him at loggerheads with a young Robbie Fowler. A conflict that resulted in a training ground bust-up, and a very public stand-off between the two.
Fowler would go on to say that a lot of young players despised Thompson for his hard-line attitude to coaching. He would often handle dissent by demanding that the young upstart put their medals on the table, stating “let’s see who knows best.”
Nobody could question Thompson’s career though. After all, none other than Bob Paisley would have this to say of him:
“I regard Phil as one of the best possible examples of a true professional. His greatest asset as a player is his ability to read the game, he showed that gift even as a teenager.
“He is not the biggest man physically for his role in defence but his football brain is outstanding.”A first with ‘Ol Big Ears
‘Super Mac’, as he was called in the North East, and by Fleet Street, had famously boasted about how he would destroy Liverpool at Wembley in the run-up to the game. Hindsight would prove his words to be foolhardy, but when he must have rubbed his hands with glee upon realising that he was up against a spindly 20-year-old in the Reds’ defence.
Thompson finished the game with the Newcastle man in his back pocket and would turn in a display of defensive solidity and composure that earned him many plaudits. His performance would be the cornerstone of Liverpool’s 3-0 demolition of the Geordies and helped to secure the club’s second FA Cup.
Phil’s list of magical moments is almost as long as his trophy haul. He maintains that becoming a Liverpool player is his greatest achievement and, after that, captaining the club. That honour would eventually be bestowed upon him in the 1978/79 season.
That year Emlyn Hughes’ powers were beginning to wane, and he was struggling to hold down a regular starting place. At one point Dalglish would be handed the captaincy in the absence of Hughes, who had succumbed to injury. It was an idea that caused consternation amongst players like Terry McDermott and Phil Neal.[embedded content]
According to his autobiography, Thompson admits he couldn’t understand it and began to doubt himself. It was common for the captain to be a defender, and with Thompson a local lad who had been an almost ever-present, he felt this should have been his time.
Eventually, though, he would get to wear the armband with pride as he had always dreamed. With Liverpool preparing to face Arsenal in a home game in April 1979, Paisley would ask him to lead the team out. He never looked back. With the Reds pursuing the title, this was a great honour and Phil wouldn’t let the team down in the end-of-season run-in.
Reds of a certain vintage will remember how Thompson would drink champagne on the Anfield pitch after Liverpool had secured their 11th league championship, following a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa in 1979. It would be his fourth league winner’s medal since breaking into the team just seven years earlier. He would tell the Liverpool ECHO, on the night:
“For me, a boy from the Kop, to lead Liverpool out, on the night they won the title, at Anfield, was a fabulous feeling.”
Things were destined to get even better though for the lad from the Kop. Under his captaincy, the team would retain the league title in 1980. Then, in 1981, Thompson would do the footballing equivalent of ascending the steps to heaven.
Though his beloved Liverpool had finished a distant fifth in the league and been dumped out of the FA Cup in the fourth round, he had led them to a League Cup win with victory over West Ham. But the best was yet to come.
Liverpool had reached their third European Cup Final in four seasons. The stage would be Paris and the opponents were the mighty Real Madrid. Thompson now had the chance to become the first Scouser to lift the biggest trophy in European football.
In truth, it wasn’t the greatest game in the history of the competition. The Reds laboured to a 1-0 win thanks to an iconic goal from left-back Alan Kennedy. That didn’t matter to Tommo though, as he proudly hoisted ‘old big ears’ aloft in the Parc des Princes on May 27 1981, as captain of the team he grew up supporting.
Others would follow; Dennis Mortimer, a boy from Liverpool, would lift it in 1982 for Aston Villa. In 2005, Huyton-born Steven Gerrard joined the exclusive club by captaining Liverpool to their fifth European Cup in Istanbul.
However, the honour of being the first Scouser to lift the biggest prize as captain will always belong to Kirkby’s Phil Thompson.
A club legend is finally on the verge of signing for a new club and Darwin Nunez has excited fans with his latest social media post. Here’s Friday’s roundup.Origi’s Milan move to be completed next week
It’s been common knowledge for some time, but Divock Origi‘s impending move to AC Milan is to be completed next week, according to reports.
After eight years at Anfield, the Belgian is moving onto pastures new after his Liverpool contract came to an end at the conclusion of the 2021/22 season.
Serie A champions AC Milan quickly positioned themselves for Origi’s signature earlier this year and are now set to announce his arrival next week, according to Fabrizio Romano.
The striker will compete for a starting spot alongside the likes of Olivier Giroud, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao in attack.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 40, is also still at the club, but it remains to be seen whether he will continue his playing career after undergoing knee surgery last month.
Liverpool’s £85m signing Darwin Nunez has already taken the No. 27 shirt that Origi vacated after his departure.
With Sadio Mane‘s move to Bayern Munich now official and Takumi Minamino‘s Monaco transfer imminent, the Reds look set to go into next season with their attacking options consisting of Nunez, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino and Fabio Carvalho.
More reinforcements needed?3 things today: Where’s the Awoniyi money, John?!
Nunez has teased his return to Liverpool with the most dashing of holiday snaps. That’s a 30-goal-a-season striker if I’ve ever seen one.
No day off ?
— Darwin Núñez (@Darwinn99) June 24, 2022
France take on Italy in final round of group matches at the Under-19 European Championships, while Romania are taking on Slovakia.
Stay up late enough and you’ll see FC Cincinnati take on Orlando City in MLS, too.
Where will Renato Sanches end up this summer? That’s a question that many have been asking over the last few months, and it looked for a long time like the answer was AC Milan — a club currently in the throes of a takeover by Red Bird, shareholders in FSG.
The Portuguese midfielder has rebuilt his reputation at Lille following a tumultuous few years, where he went from one of Europe’s most exciting prospects to a forgotten man after his ill-fated move to Bayern Munich following Euro 2016.
Sanches’ move to Bayern arguably arrived too soon for him, considering he’d only one good season at Benfica before signing a mammoth deal to join the German giants. Sanches struggled, and a loan move to Swansea didn’t reverse his fortunes.
Since arriving a Lille in 2019, he’s quietly regained the reputation he’d earned during that one season in Portugal. Sanches played his part in Lille’s improbable Ligue 1 title success in 2020/21, when they somehow pipped league Goliaths Paris Saint-Germain.
Throughout last season, Sanches had been linked with a summer 2022 move away from Lille, with the feeling that the French club had served its purpose for him, and that it was time to make the move back to a bigger club.
Liverpool had been linked with him sporadically, but it’s seemed for months that he would be joining Milan, with the Italian side in negotiations with Lille and Sanches’ representatives for months.
However it seems like the deal to Milan may no longer be happening. Their recent takeover by RedBird, who hold a minority stake in FSG, hasn’t been officially ratified, and so Milan’s reported transfer budget is limited to around £50m.
With the Rossoneri needing another centre-back, plus a midfielder, right-sided attacker and a number 10, the club’s resources are stretched thin. Moreover, recent interest from PSG has resulted in Lille driving up their asking price for Sanches.
Is this the perfect time for Liverpool to get involved in the race for the 24-year-old and make a bid?
Sanches would be a decent option in terms of bolstering the club’s squad depth, especially in midfield, where Jürgen Klopp had some difficulties last season. Sanches can operate across the midfield, and this versatility could prove very useful for Klopp in terms of team rotation in what will be a very tough season, due to the World Cup being played right in the middle of it.
Among midfielders in Europe's top five leagues over the last year, Sanches ranked in the 98th percentile for progressive passes per 90 minutes, according to FBRef. Moreover, he also ranked in the 96th percentile for progressive carries P90, and has been compared by the website to Jordan Henderson. Klopp could secure a natural heir while also getting the ideal creative spark for which he has been looking.
Perhaps the only doubt on Sanches is his injury record. He missed spells of Lille’s season due to knee and muscle injuries, and the last thing Liverpool need is another player who is susceptible to injury.
Yet if Liverpool could keep the transfer fee down, Sanches would be a low-cost gamble. He’s still young enough to develop under Klopp, and while he wouldn’t be an immediate starter for the club, he would add some much-needed depth, and his versatility would be equally as valued.
Should the move to Milan or PSG completely fall through, Liverpool would do well to register interest in him. RedBird's loss could be FSG's gain.
Curtis Jones continues to put in the work throughout the summer ahead of the start of pre-season, with the Los Angeles sun keeping the lungs burning at UCLA.
Jones now has his third senior season under his belt and is preparing for his fourth, one that ought to see his role grow under Jurgen Klopp.
The 21-year-old missed a lot of football last season thanks to a freak eye injury in November, throwing a spanner in the works and disrupting his campaign.
But with plenty of talent and skill in his arsenal, Jones’ continual challenge is to showcase his ability on a consistent basis and he’s putting in all the groundwork to make sure of just that.
Jones has been enjoying his summer break in Los Angeles but has not been far away from a football pitch, either playing in a six-a-side game or getting some training under his belt.
And only days after he was filmed enjoying a kickabout with those in the Tiki Taka Soccer League, he was back on the field, this time at the UCLA campus.
The midfielder also had actor Darrius Marcellin for company and trainer American-based trainer Samuel Philip on hand as he got on with some ball work and cardio.
Naby Keita, meanwhile, made the trip of a lifetime to visit Islam’s holiest site, Mecca.
Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia and the Umrah pilgrimage offers an opportunity for Muslims to ‘refresh their faith, seek forgiveness and pray for their needs’.
The focal point for the pilgrimage is the Kaaba, which is the black cube structure seen in Keita’s photo (below) and is considered the most sacred spot on Earth by Muslims.
It’s an important and sacred journey for Keita and Muslims alike and comes a couple of weeks before Hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca which is a five-day event.
The majority of the Liverpool squad will reunite for the start of pre-season on July 4, in less than 10 days’ time.