Four years is a very long time in football. That holds especially true for managers, most of whom will have been sacked or else pursued a more ambitious move comfortably within this time frame. As such, Jürgen Klopp’s commitment of another four years to Liverpool is a huge deal — but it does not mean that FSG can rest on their laurels, and Sadio Mané might just have given them a helping hand.
Mané, of course, has gone to Bayern Munich. Liverpool will be happy enough with the eventual terms of the sale, making their money back on a 30-year-old with only a year left on his deal, but Klopp will not have been particularly eager to cash in. There can be little doubt that the player had his head turned by the prospect of a ‘new challenge’.
Klopp himself is no stranger to turning the heads of potential new signings. Most famously, Virgil van Dijk was utterly sold on a move to Liverpool, to the point where Southampton ultimately had little choice but to sanction an eventual transfer. Chelsea and Manchester City were powerless to hijack the deal.
A recent survey of Bundesliga players found that Klopp was considered the best manager in the world by more than a third of the league, gathering more votes than any other coach. Plenty of potential transfer targets have spoken of how it would be a dream to play under him. He has major personal allure to add to the pull of playing for Liverpool — a factor especially important in light of FSG’s wage model, which cannot compete financially with the most lucrative offers.
With this in mind, the identity of the man who successfully turned Mané’s head is potentially of interest, not least because Bayern Munich are only offering him a modest increase on his Liverpool salary. It seems that Julian Nagelsmann has something of the Klopp about him.
In some ways, Mané’s comments from his maiden Bayern Munich press conference are little more than the expected stock answers. But given that money is clearly not the primary factor in this transfer, the remarks ring true, and make for interesting reading:
"When they [Nagelsmann and sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić] explained to me what their ideas were, I was fascinated and could see myself as part of the project right away. I didn't have to think twice, I accepted almost immediately."
This could have been lifted from an interview with any number of Klopp signings at Liverpool. The former Borussia Dortmund coach has that interpersonal touch to go with his footballing ideas, and the combination makes him part of the true coaching elite. Nagelsmann, in many ways, seems like the successor to his throne.
A young German coach with gegenpressing at the heart of his vision, his journey has already intertwined with Liverpool’s. Back in 2017/18, having taken Hoffenheim to the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, Nagelsmann lost out to Klopp in the play-off round — when a certain Trent Alexander-Arnold announced himself on the scene.
Since then, Liverpool have not only won the Champions League, but collected every major trophy available. Nagelsmann’s path has not been so trophy-laden, but his personal trajectory has been similarly astronomic.
Proving the rule that four years is a long time for managers, he has made a rapid rise through the ranks. From Hoffenheim, where he was dubbed a ‘mini Mourinho’ by Tim Wiese, he left for RB Leipzig, having spent three years at the helm of the senior side. Two years in East Germany prepared him for a move to Bayern Munich, where he just claimed the league title in his first season.
Obviously, the league title is little more than a formality at Bayern these days, but there can be no doubting Nagelsmann’s credentials. First Hoffenheim and then Leipzig were treated to unprecedented success under his rule. Still just 34, he has years ahead of him to hone his craft. And while the Allianz Arena looks likely to provide a more stable home for him over the next few seasons, a ‘new challenge’ in 2026 sounds like exactly the kind of thing which might appeal.
Like the rest of the Bundesliga, Nagelsmann has grown up watching Klopp as a trailblazer for German coaching. His Bayern side are considered one of the most stylistically similar to Liverpool in the world. But as part of the new wave of innovators, he is leaving his own mark too.
When 2026 rolls around, assuming Klopp cannot be persuaded to stay longer, Liverpool may be looking at the perfect candidate to succeed him. The ideal blend of continuity and progression, Nagelsmann will have had time to develop his own ideas by then, and might just be sick of strolling to the Bundesliga title every season. And with Mané pledging to be his old side’s ‘number one fan forever’, perhaps he could put in a word. A huge contrast in style to José Mourinho, FSG may nonetheless hope they have found another ‘special one’.
Liverpool have not been short in getting deals over the line on both the incoming and outgoing front, here’s the latest.
Another summer transfer window makes for more changes for Jurgen Klopp and co. with new arrivals to welcome and old faces to bid farewell.
Julian Ward, the new sporting director, has plenty on his plate as Liverpool look to get their affairs in order from across the first team and into the academy.
The Reds have splashed some cash and received some in return, namely for the departure of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich in what headlines the list of departures so far this summer.
With the transfer window open until September 1, there is plenty of time for deals to get over the line, and here is how it has unfolded so far for Liverpool.
* This page will continue to be updated as and when any arrivals or departures are confirmed.Who has arrived?
* Figures are total deal, inclusive of add-onsWho has left the club?
Any loan deals?
As dream starts at a club go, Ian Rush enjoyed a particularly exceptional one at Liverpool having seen a winner’s medal adorn his neck after just his second game in 1981.
A player is always eager to make an impression from the off, lay down a marker and settle into the side with a solid foundation under their feet.
Liverpool have seen plenty do just that, Luis Diaz the latest after his barnstorming start to life at Anfield that returned two trophies in 24 appearances.
And while his first, the League Cup, after just six games was impressive, Rush has his number having lifted that very same trophy after what was just his second game for Liverpool.
Rush arrived in 1980 after Bob Paisley agreed to part with £300,000 to Chester for the 19-year-old, a deal that was the start of the forward’s Liverpool legend.
But his first season was a little more understated than what would follow, but in April 1981, Rush would be turned to by Paisley for Liverpool’s League Cup final replay against West Ham, after a 1-1 draw in the initial match.
It was only his second appearance and the second start for the Reds, lining up alongside Sir Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Ray Kennedy, Phil Thompson and Ray Clemence.
He would not etch his name on the scoresheet in the 2-1 win, Dalglish and Hansen had that honour, but that day Rush would lift the first of his 15 major honours for Liverpool.
“I played two games and had a winner’s medal,” Rush recalled with the EFL.
The first trophy from his first of 78 League Cup outings, which would end with a further four triumphs in the competition and a total of 48 goals – a competition record that is yet to be broken.
“To be the record goal-scorer for this Cup, along with Sir Geoff Hurst, is something special. Records are there to be broken but I’m proud that I’ve still got this one so far,” Rush said.
“We won it four times running and that’s how much we wanted to win it.
“We wanted to win that, we wanted to win the European Cup and the FA Cup; we wanted to win everything.”
And that they did, and it continued with Rush going on to also lift the European Cup in his debut season, making up a Liverpool career that spanned 660 games and a jaw-dropping 346 goals.
It's been a positive few weeks away from the football pitch for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, culminating in his engagement to Little Mix star Perrie Edwards.
But in just over a week's time, the Liverpool midfielder will have to shift his focus back on the pitch, as the Reds return to pre-season action ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
Considering Oxlade-Chamberlain has made just one appearance for the club since the end of February, in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest, the fact that he will still be at the AXA Training Centre come the end of July should surprise a few.
But despite his lack of minutes, Liverpool have reportedly decided to keep the midfielder, who has just one year left on his current deal at Anfield.
It's a curious decision. Whether it was motivated by a lack of interest or simply by Liverpool's lack of depth at right-wing and in midfield is anyone's guess.
But regardless of the logic behind the decision, staying at the club gives Oxlade-Chamberlain possibly one last hurrah to fight himself into the reckoning. With the midfielder in and around his his prime years, this could be the perfect opportunity to regain some momentum in pre-season and break into Jürgen Klopp's side.
The 28-year-old averaged 0.35 goal contributions per 90 last season, which is not a bad return for a player still adjusting to the rhythm of the game after two long-term injuries. He was particularly impressive during the month of January, covering adequately in Mohamed Salah's absence with two goals in two Premier League games while the Egyptian was on African Cup of Nations duty.
At times he did look a little rusty, but at his best, Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a player with a lot to offer for Liverpool. During his debut campaign and in the club's 2019/20 season, he showed those qualities with his boisterous energy on the pitch and his venomous long-range ability to strike the ball from distance.
In pre-season, Oxlade-Chamberlain will have an opportunity to get a steady run of games, and prove his worth to Klopp once again.
Given that the World Cup squads for Qatar later this year have now been increased from 23 players to 26, the 28-year-old has also been given an extra window of opportunity to break himself back into the England squad. He will know, as Jesse Lingard proved while on loan at West Ham, that a route back into Gareth Southgate's squad is always a possibility with a good run of games.
The moment is now or never for Liverpool's forgotten star and the added motivation of a possible place in England's World Cup squad should make pre-season his for the taking. Motivations do not come much bigger.
He was aged five and it became quickly apparent to Brian Johnston, his first ever coach, that this young player had something about him.
“He was a special player even then,” Johnston tells The Athletic.
After two years of being Cove’s best player, Ramsay, who played in defence and midfield at the time, was picked up by Aberdeen. He was one of three Cove players who joined the Premiership side, but the only one to be kept on.
“His balance and his skills on the ball were great,” says Johnston, who still works for Cove Youth. “He always had the ball under control and he used both feet, which was unique at that stage. He had amazing awareness of space. His dad Graham was also a decent player in the local junior teams in Aberdeen, so when I saw Calvin I thought, ‘Maybe it is in the genes’.”
Ramsay’s father was on the coaching staff at Cove too, and would record their games. He would watch them back with his son and look for areas to make improvements.
“His work ethic comes from his dad,” Johnston adds. “And even though Calvin was head and shoulders above (others in that age group), he was always working on his game and looking to improve. When he went to Aberdeen, we knew he would get much better coaching and he would go from strength to strength. And he has.
“There’s a lot of natural ability there but a lot of hard work goes into it.”
Despite standing out at Cove, Ramsay always put the team first.
“He was a much better player than any he was playing with, but he never ever just took the ball and ran with it,” Johnston says. “He would never go and be a striker. He wanted to be involved in the game rather than standing at the top end waiting for the ball.
“He always was looking to pass. He was always playing as a team. We had some players who wouldn’t pass to someone who might lose the ball, but not Calvin. He was always looking, always part of the team.
“He was so supportive of his team-mates. He knew he was better, but he didn’t make it a big thing. He helped the other players and talked them through the game. Having a six-year-old talking another six-year-old through a game is unique.”
Johnston remembers setting up one particular quite complicated training drill. He says Ramsay took to it straight away as others struggled.
“I remember shouting over another Cove coach. I said, ‘Come and see this kid’. We just stood there for a few minutes, watching him. The technique and balance, the way he was using both feet. That’s when I knew that Calvin was a player.”
After joining Aberdeen, that work ethic continued to serve him well.
The club’s academy director, Gavin Levey, can recall first meeting Ramsay when he was eight years old.
“He just loved playing games,” Levey says. “He loved unstructured sessions when it was small-sided games. He just loved just playing and he just wanted the ball all the time.”
Levey admits the journey to one of the sport’s iconic clubs has not always been smooth. There were low moments too — including when Ramsay broke a wrist and got bundled into his car to be taken to hospital.Calvin Ramsay in training for Aberdeen (Photo: Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)
“I spoke to his dad for half an hour yesterday when it was all official,” he says. “We talked about those ups and downs.
“His dad said that one of Calvin’s first memories of Aberdeen is coming into our old training ground, Balgownie. He said I stood up in front of them all and said, ‘If you’ve got ambition and you want to be here and want to be the best player you can be — whether that means playing lower league or in the Champions League — then try to do it’. He said it always stuck with with Calvin. His ambition was to compete at the highest level possible, and he had that belief that he could do it.
“He used to come down and watch other teams and he would always have a ball and he was always keeping it up.
“And I remember seeing him when he was an under-10. We were training on public astroturf and he was at the other end of the pitch, because he knew it would be available that night as we had booked it out. He was just doing keep-ups and then volleying off the right foot and then going again and volleying it off his left.
“He just had that real desire to practise. He was competitive. He wanted to be the best. He was very quiet as well, but he’s always had that kind of competitive edge and that little streak. He would kick you in training — and he’s probably still got a bit of that in him.”
Ramsay had a breakout year at Aberdeen last season and while Levey believes the club helped mould him into the player he is, he acknowledges the teenager has always been determined to get there, one way or the other.
“He would play matches having done a 10k run in the morning, or a 5km along Aberdeen beach,” Levey says, laughing. “He’d be going trying to beat his personal best on a Saturday morning along the beach boulevard, and then he would come to play for us.”
It is coach Steven Sweeney who is credited for having transformed then-midfielder Ramsay into a right-back at age 14. It wasn’t a position he enjoyed at first but it enabled him to play more games and with higher age groups, so Ramsay soon understood the benefits.
“There was maybe three boys that were within the older group that were probably deemed slightly ahead of him in in different areas of the pitch,” Levey reveals. “And he hated the fact that he wasn’t at where they were. And he just worked and worked and worked to get there.”
As with Cove, everyone at Aberdeen — not just the club but in the city — is buzzing for Ramsay. The same can be said for the Scotland set-up, too. The 18-year-old has not yet won a senior cap but has featured at under-16, 17 and 21 levels.
“You have to give him credit. He’s made this happen,” Scot Gemmill, Scotland’s under-21s head coach, says. “He’s got this opportunity from what he’s done with with Aberdeen and what he has done with the under-21s.
“These players go through the academies, but it’s getting the opportunity to play for the first teams that is the real crucial thing. So you have to give the managers at Aberdeen credit — Jim Goodwin, who finished the season as manager, and Stephen Glass before him. They’re the guys that have given Calvin a platform to go and put himself in this position of signing for Liverpool.
“He’s got a good mix of attacking qualities and also defensive qualities. He’s still trying to confirm his talent. Everybody thinks he’s going to be a top player, but he has to go and prove it and confirm that. He’s in a very good place to do that.
“Liverpool’s recruitment has been incredible in the last few years, if not longer, so the fact that they’ve identified Calvin is a huge feather in his cap. But he has to keep going and do more.”
(Top photo: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
To celebrate 30 years of the Premier League, The Athletic is paying tribute to the 50 greatest individual performances in its history, as voted for by our writers. You can read Oliver Kay’s introduction to our Golden Games series (and the selection rules) here — as well as the full list of all the articles as they unfold.
Picking 50 from 309,949 options is an impossible task. You might not agree with their choices, you won’t agree with the order. They didn’t. It’s not intended as a definitive list. It’s a bit of fun, but hopefully a bit of fun you’ll enjoy between now and August.
One of Neil Redfearn’s former team-mates says you could always tell which shirt was his in the pile they left for the kit man after training. It was the one that was soaked wet through with sweat.
He was that sort of player: a tenacious, relentless, box-to-box midfielder. He would run through the proverbial brick wall for his team, never shirking a challenge.
The first 15 years of his professional career were spent toiling outside the top flight at Bolton Wanderers, Lincoln City, Doncaster Rovers, Crystal Palace, Watford and Oldham Athletic. By the time he finally made it to the Premier League with Barnsley in 1997, he had almost 700 hundred senior appearances to his name and he was 32, desperate to make up for lost time.
From the moment they won promotion, Barnsley were written off as relegation fodder. Playing an open, attacking style of football under Danny Wilson, they lost 6-0 to Chelsea, 5-0 to Arsenal, 7-0 to Manchester United, 6-0 to West Ham United and spent much of the season rooted to the bottom of the table.
But they never lost heart. Nor did they lose belief in their free-flowing football. For as long as Redfearn kept breaking forward to score goals from midfield, Barnsley retained a glimmer of hope.
“When we got promoted, we were really swashbuckling, really front-foot,” Redfearn says. “Danny Wilson was a manager who encouraged us to take risks, get players forward and try to outnumber the opposition. The fans used to sing, ‘It’s just like watching Brazil’. I had never played in anything like it in my career. Oldham was similar, but not as good as this.
“Maybe when we first came up, we were a bit too loose, a bit too open. We were trying to out-football teams like Chelsea and Arsenal and there were games when we shipped six and seven, but as the season went on, we became a bit more solid while still playing our football.”
As they approached the run-in, things clicked into place. They won three games in a row, beating Wimbledon, Aston Villa and Southampton. With nine games remaining, only goal difference left them in the relegation zone, just behind Tottenham Hotspur. Everton and Newcastle United were another two points ahead, but increasingly anxious.
All of which leads us to Oakwell on Saturday, March 28 1998, and a match that is recalled through gritted teeth in that corner of South Yorkshire almost a quarter of a century on: Barnsley 2-3 Liverpool.
Yes, this is an oddity in our “Golden Games” series for two reasons: 1) it ended in defeat for the player in question and 2) the headlines were claimed by someone else. More on that later.
But it was a day when Barnsley pushed themselves to their limit, driven on by their relentless captain. They had beaten Liverpool at Anfield in November (“but we just defended that day,” Redfearn says). At Oakwell, in front of their fans, they played Liverpool at their own game — and for 52 minutes they played them off the park.
Redfearn was at the heart of everything, relishing the midfield tussle with Paul Ince and Jamie Redknapp and then taking the opportunity to get the ball forward — and get after it.
On 37 minutes, after a typically precise build-up from the back, Martin Bullock cut inside and played a dangerous ball into the Liverpool penalty area. Redfearn, timing his run to perfection, controlled it, turned and shot low past Brad Friedel to put Barnsley firmly on course for a fourth straight win.
“I swivelled and just passed it into the corner,” Redfearn says. “I’d always been a goalscoring midfielder, but when I got into my 30s, that’s when the game really started making sense to me. The penny dropped. You mature as a player. You understand the game and, for me, that moment came just when I reached the highest level in league football. I was at the height of my powers.”
By contrast, Liverpool had fallen some way from the peak of their powers, but they had Ince, Redknapp and Steve McManaman in midfield and they had the experience and know-how of Karl-Heinz Riedle alongside the prodigious Michael Owen in attack. And they were comprehensively outplayed until Barnsley took one risk too many just before half-time and Oyvind Leonhardsen set up Riedle for an equaliser Liverpool scarcely deserved.
Seven minutes into the second half, though, Barnsley’s day took a significant turn for the worse. From McManaman’s through ball, Owen was racing clear, only to be sent sprawling. Gary Willard, the referee, was certain Darren Barnard had tripped the teenager, denying him an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and out came the red card — the first of three for Barnsley in an extraordinary second half.
The television footage, with one camera angle, suggests there was a trip. Redfearn maintains that, if there was a tangle, it was accidental. Either way, Barnsley’s players and supporters were seething. The mood darkened further when Riedle struck a spectacular 30-yard shot to put Liverpool 2-1 up.
As for what happened next, it still infuriates Redfearn to this day. On 64 minutes, Owen sped past Chris Morgan, chasing the ball towards the corner flag. Owen went down again and out came Willard’s red card again.
Morgan was no angel — as many an opposition centre-forward would testify — but on this occasion the contact seemed minimal. A foul? Possibly. A straight red card? Surely not. “Michael Owen went down really easily and it was almost like the ref couldn’t wait to send Morgs off,” Redfearn says.
As tempers frayed, one Barnsley fan ran onto the pitch, making a beeline towards Willard. Who knows what would have happened if Jan Aage Fjortoft, their Norwegian forward, had not intervened and wrestled the fan to the ground?
The growing anger from the stands was enough to prompt the match stewards to escort Willard off the pitch for his safety. For four minutes, the players were left wondering what on earth was going on. By the time Willard re-emerged from the dressing room, the hostility towards him had increased. Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, said the referee’s brief disappearance “only antagonised rather than calmed the situation”.
“And it was all Gary Willard’s doing,” Redfearn says. “He had an absolute shocker. That’s what caused this volatile atmosphere.”
Rather than beaten by a sense of anger and injustice, Redfearn and his team-mates felt overpowered by it. Barnsley had only nine players — players whose status and achievements in the game did not begin to match their opponents’— but they kept fighting and they kept playing the football they believed in.
Redfearn was like a man possessed. Ince, Redknapp and McManaman were good at playing the ball in triangles in midfield, but the Barnsley captain simply would not let them. Even with nine players to Liverpool’s 11, he and Darren Sheridan kept winning the ball back. It did not look possible. They were still taking the game to their more illustrious opponents, threatening an equaliser, refusing to accept their fate.
“I always got the feeling that it was something we felt we were used to,” Redfearn says. “We were used to being open and leaving space behind. I don’t think they (Liverpool) were used to a team playing like we were playing with nine men. We were playing well and the crowd sensed we were onto something. We were still carrying a threat, particularly after Georgi Hristov came on up front.”
With five minutes left, Hristov was brought down by Phil Babb and, when Willard pointed to the penalty spot, the celebrations were as if Barnsley had scored a last-minute winner.
But Redfearn still had to score. Nearly seven years earlier, he had converted a stoppage-time penalty for Oldham against Sheffield Wednesday to secure promotion to the top flight, but this one, in a febrile atmosphere at Oakwell, felt just as pressurised.
“I usually liked to go across myself, i.e. take it with right foot and go back across the keeper’s right-hand side,” he says. “With that one, I had the idea to look to go that way but then I did a little stutter in the run-up and played to the keeper’s left.”
Brad Friedel dived the wrong way and the net bulged. By now the celebrations were off the scale. The crowd were baying for blood — Liverpool’s now, rather than Willard’s. They were urging Barnsley to push for a winner, but Redfearn says the intention at that point was to “hang on because if we could have got a point, it would have been nothing short of a miracle”.
They could not hang on, though. In the final minute, McManaman broke free to put Liverpool 3-2 up. This time there would be no Barnsley fightback — apart from Sheridan prodding a finger in Ince’s face, for which he was sent off as his team were reduced to eight players. A further pitch invasion followed, with Willard once again the target of the Barnsley fans’ fury.Referee Gary Willard sends off a third Barnsley player at Oakwell (Photo: Bob Collier/EMPICS via Getty Images)
At the final whistle, Willard required a police escort off the pitch. It speaks volumes for Redfearn that he helped the referee reach the sanctuary of the dressing room. “Well, the damage had been done,” he explains. “The game had gone and we couldn’t change that. What we didn’t want was any more sanctions or the police getting involved, so I think it was important for me, as captain, to make sure things didn’t get any worse. It was the right thing to do.
“It was a shocking performance by the referee. It looked awful, to be honest with you. But he should still be allowed to leave the pitch safely like everyone else.”
A mob was waiting for Willard when he finally emerged, again with police protection, almost two hours after the final whistle. Sixteen Barnsley fans were arrested that day and Wilson did not hesitate to say that “the one or two idiots who tried to get to the referee deserve to be banned for life because that’s absolute stupidity”. But he did add: “You can understand their frustrations.”
When the dust settled and the anger began to subside, Barnsley’s players were distraught. Many of them, like Redfearn, had spent years trying to get to the Premier League and, having got themselves into a position where they could see a route to survival, they felt as if something had conspired against them.
“So many of my team-mates had put so much effort into getting where we were,” he says. “I think at that point, we could have been forgiven for being irate.”
It wasn’t just that they lost. It was the loss of three players to suspension and a loss of momentum after three straight wins. Of their final nine games, they won one, drew one and lost seven, and ended up relegated along with Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace. That traumatic, turbulent afternoon against Liverpool seemed to take too much out of them.
It’s not even a bittersweet memory for Redfearn. It’s just bitter. Unlike many of his team-mates, he had the opportunity to play in the Premier League after with Charlton Athletic and Bradford City, but, more than anything, he wanted to stay up with that Barnsley team and he feels they deserved to. To this day, he maintains that if they had been allowed to keep 11 players on the pitch against Liverpool, they would have won that game and stayed up.
He was, as he said, at the peak of his powers. He scored 14 goals in all competitions that season, 10 of them in the league, and he suggests that anyone who had performed like that for Liverpool or Manchester United would have been in the England squad. “No doubt about it,” he says. “Because I don’t think there was another midfielder in the league that season doing what I did in that Barnsley team.”
It is the only time in our conversation that Redfearn talks himself up. He is reluctant to take praise for a single performance because he feels — the Roy Keane approach — he was merely doing his job. He spent 15 years striving to get to the Premier League, so he was not going to let it go easily.
That game against Liverpool — when it was 11 against 11, then 10 against 11, then nine against 11, then briefly eight against 11 — demonstrated what Redfearn was about. He never gave up and, on that sunny afternoon in South Yorkshire when everything seemed to go wrong for his team, he produced the performance of a lifetime.
(Photos: Getty Images/Design: Sam Richardson)
It is no secret what Liverpool's top priority will be next summer. With an ageing centre of the pitch, Julian Ward simply has to rejuvenate Jürgen Klopp's midfield options.
The perfect candidate in Jude Bellingham appears to be obvious. Liverpool appear keen to secure his services and are admirers of the England international.
However, FSG will also be aware that Bellingham will be an extremely sought-after player by every major club next summer when he does becomes available on the market — that could see Liverpool being out-priced for the 18-year-old midfielder.
Liverpool.com have decided to explore just who those alternative candidates may be.
Liverpool like Bellingham because he is a typical box-to-box midfielder. The Borussia Dortmund star is capable of contributing in attack in forward transitions but he is adept at winning the ball back, too, in defensive transitions.
At the same time, Bellingham is also renowned for his composure on the ball and his boisterous energy as well as intelligent positioning. All these traits make him a quintessential Klopp midfielder and any alternative option will have to fulfil a multi-faceted role at Liverpool at the engine of the club's midfield.
Bellingham is clearly regarded as the successor to one of Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcântara, so the right profile also has to be young and a player who can be part of Liverpool's midfield plan for the long-term future.
Without further ado, here are the five candidates who could be an alternative solution for Liverpool.
The Croatian international is a midfielder who has attracted plenty of Premier League interest and it comes as no surprise after a promising breakthrough campaign at Red Bull Salzburg where Sučić made 16 goal contributions in 44 games.
A tenacious midfielder, Sučić's similarity to Bellingham is in his box-to-box ability to control games which was evident in the Champions League last season where the 19-year-old was the linchpin for an impressive Salzburg side who made it out of the group-stages of the competition for the first time in the club's history.
Where parallels can be drawn with Bellingham is in the pair's output in terms of energy. Both averaged 21.1 pressures per 90 last season and Sučić's three tackles and interceptions per 90 was only 0.67 away from Bellingham's very own return as per FBref.
While creatively, there is little separating the two either. Sučić averaged 1.40 key passes per 90, more than Bellingham's 1.22, but Bellingham marginally outperformed him on shot-creating-actions per 90 averaging 3.16 as opposed to Sučić's 2.98.
Liverpool have scheduled a pre-season friendly against Salzburg this summer where they will be able to get a closer look at the teenager, but given the friendly relationship between Red Bull and the Reds, bringing Sučić to Anfield could certainly be more of a feasible possibility in terms of the financial aspect of the deal.
Of course, the jump up will be steeper into the Premier League from the Austrian Bundesliga rather than the German, but some have done it in the past with a impressive level of ease such as the Reds' former hero, Sadio Mané.
Another player who successfully made the transition from the Austrian Bundesliga to the Premier League is Enock Mwepu. The Zambian international arrived at Brighton last season but he has quickly endeared himself to the Seagulls with his eye catching displays.
Mwepu is in the Bellingham mould in the sense that he can be the engine at the heart of the midfield and he is capable of going forward and contributing defensively, too.
Last season, Mwepu averaged 0.63 goal contributions for Brighton in all competitions which is higher than Bellingham at 0.48 per 90, though when it comes to expected goals and assists, the divide between them actually favours Bellingham who averaged 0.34 as opposed to Mwepu who averaged just 0.29.
Nonetheless, despite having overperformed his expected goals and assists, Mwepu's first season has been far from a fluke at Brighton. He has delivered some impressive displays including one at Anfield in which he scored a spectacular strike against the Reds.
His best asset is perhaps his reading of the game with the sobriquet 'computer' ascribed to him in his homeland. Last season, Mwepu averaged 3.73 tackles and interceptions, again slightly more than Bellingham's 3.67 but he was also impressive in possession ranking in the 93rd percentile among his positional peers for carries into the penalty area.
His consistency was disrupted by uncharacteristic injuries at times throughout last season, and Mwepu will be looking to kick on even further this time around. If he does, he could just end up on Liverpool's radar and perhaps even fulfil his lifelong dream of playing for the club.
In the past few months, Liverpool have been quite active in the Portuguese market when it comes to reinforcements. Not only have they signed a Portugal U21 international in Fábio Carvalho but Julian Ward has also brought in Luis Díaz and Darwin Núñez from Porto and Benfica respectively.
Vitinha is another player who has been linked with a move and it is easy to see why.
Like Bellingham, Vitinha is a player who can do it all at both ends of the pitch. He has averaged 5.60 tackles and interceptions per 90 for Porto last season and also made 23.4 pressures which is 2.3 more pressures per 90 than Bellingham.
At the same time, Vitinha also has a commendable return creatively. He averages 2.42 shot-creating-action per 90 which is not far off Bellingham's 3.16, while he also recorded 1.20 key passes per 90, just 0.02 away from Bellingham's output.
In terms of goal contributions, his 0.17 per 90 average is certainly the lowest on the list but when it comes to distribution, no one can rival him having completed 52.2 passes per 90 with a completion rate of 83.4 per cent. Not even Bellingham's 42.8 completed passes per 90 with a success rate on average of 84.3 per cent can rival that.
Given he will only have a year left on his contract next summer, that window could be the perfect time for Julian Ward to strike and secure a favourable deal for the 22-year-old.
Another multi-faceted midfielder, Majer has previously earnt comparisons to Luka Modrić due to his eerily similar hair-cut but he is slightly different to the Real Madrid playmaker in terms of his style.
Majer is a technically sublime player and while it may not seem so based on his physical stature, he is a player who has recorded impressive defensive figures last season in his debut campaign for Rennes.
The Croatian averaged a whopping 23.6 pressures per 90 ranking him in the 81st percentile for midfielders in Ligue 1. He also made 3.80 interceptions and tackles per 90 which is higher than Bellingham's 3.67 return.
Majer's ability to regain possession certainly suits Liverpool, but what makes him an attractive candidate is that he is equally creative from midfield.
Last season he averaged 4.27 shot-creating-actions per 90 which is way higher than Bellingham's 3.16. He also contributed to 0.58 goal contributions per 90 and made 2.06 key passes again exceeding Bellingham's output.
One of his best assets is the way he is able to slalom past opposition and progress the ball into dangerous areas. Last season, Majer averaged 8.33 progressive carries per 90 which is much higher than Bellingham's already impressive 5.49 figure.
Elegant in possession and easy on the eye with the tenacity to suit Klopp's gegenpress, at 24 years of age, Majer could easily become another alternative under the radar solution to Liverpool instead of Bellingham next summer.
Another player who Liverpool could have an easier shot at landing due to the club's close ties with Red Bull and who Klopp will be taking a closer look at in pre-season when the Reds take on Leipzig this summer.
Szoboszlai has the work rate to suit Klopp's gegenpress. One only has to look at his long sprint from one end of the pitch to the other to win the ball against Jarrod Bowen in Hungary's 4-0 victory against England as an example. But the stats also back it up with Szoboszlai averaging 20.6 pressures per 90 on average for RB Leipzig last season.
In terms of goal contributions he is by far the most productive player on this list averaging 0.83 goals and assists last season. But he also leads the list for his creativity with 2.50 key passes per 90 and 4.66 shot-creating actions per 90.
Like Majer and Bellingham, Szoboszlai is adept at progressing the ball averaging 5.85 progressive carries per 90 which wedges himself in between the two players. Although his 2.19 tackles and interceptions per 90 is slightly below the other alternative candidates, that could improve under Klopp.
One of the most alluring facts about him is that the 21-year-old has a knack for scoring important goals. Fifteen of his 22 goal contributions for club and country were made when his side were either trailing or drawing the match, and his match-winning mentality is the kind of trait Liverpool have lacked in the midfield since the departure of Steven Gerrard.
Incidentally, Szoboszlai has a Gerrard quote tattooed on his forearm and he has previously described Klopp as the one manager in the world he would love to work with. If he continues to catch the eye at Leipzig, then that could become a possibility next summer.
There are so many factors involved in completing a football transfer that it’s sometimes a wonder that any deals ever get over the finishing line. The buying and the selling clubs have to agree upon a fee, the player has to be happy to join their new side and be recompensed to a level they deem acceptable, and there will always be middlemen looking for a slice of the pie too.
For clubs like Liverpool, there are other aspects of a deal to consider, most pertinently whether the targeted player will perform to their best in their potential new side and if they meet Jürgen Klopp’s demanding requirements. On the financial side, the length remaining on the player’s contract is hugely important too.
The Reds’ director of research, Ian Graham, has previously made clear that it is pointless for the club to approach players with several years left of their current deals as the costs involved would make any such deal a non-starter. Yet the stars could align to put Liverpool in place to sign a highly coveted forward whose contract runs until 2026.
The man in question is RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, who had a phenomenal campaign in 2021/22. Graham and his team of transfer analysts will be taking a deep dive into the 24-year-old’s numbers but even the headline stats provide a powerful portrait of his abilities.
With 19-non penalty goals, only six players in Europe’s biggest five leagues scored more (Nkunku ended up with 35 goals in all competitions and another 19 assists). Just four men topped his league tally of 13 goals provided for a teammate. If you want a footballer who bettered Nkunku in both of the most basic of attacking metrics then you’ve only got his international teammate Kylian Mbappé, and even wealthier clubs than Liverpool can’t afford his signature.
Thanks to their similar records over the last year, the Paris Saint-Germain striker shows up as one of the forwards with whom Nkunku is most similar (at least in the opinion of Statsbomb’s data). Where some people might question where Leipzig’s main man would fit into Klopp’s side, it’s not entirely hyperbolic to describe him as a one-man Liverpool front line.
Top of his list of 10 most similar forwards on FBRef is Diogo Jota. More eye-opening is the dectet listed on the attacking midfielder/winger tab. At number six is Sadio Mané (a now former Red, but I’m not yet ready to talk about it), with Luis Díaz fourth in the standings and Mohamed Salah top of the pile.
Even if Liverpool happen to be seeking a change of style for their attack — and the acquisition of Darwin Núñez suggests that could be a distinct possibility — other players to whom Nkunku is similar include Son Heung-min, Leroy Sané, Phil Foden, Kai Havertz and Karim Benzema. That’s one hell of a five-a-side team, even if it might be a touch too attacking for the purists.
If it wasn’t for the four years remaining on his recently extended contract, one can’t help but wonder if the Reds would’ve made a move for Nkunku this summer. However, you can guarantee they’ll have made a note that the French international now has a release clause of €60m (approximately £51m) which kicks in from next summer.
While Transfermarkt’s player values are never entirely accurate, they currently rate Nkunku at worth £72m, suggesting he’d be a legitimate bargain in 12 months’ time. If he matches his efforts from 2021/22 next season then this feeling will only be accentuated further.
And if Salah chooses not to extend his contract at Liverpool, the Reds will be looking for a new forward in the summer of 2023 too. The Egyptian will be nigh on impossible to replace directly but the numbers suggest Nkunku could take the place of Salah, Jota, Díaz or Mané to a decent extent. The timing could be perfect next year for Liverpool to complete the next in their long line of fabulous forward transfers, and from a club they've dealt with several times before.
Liverpool have a major vacancy available following the departure of Sadio Mané — and not just on the pitch (despite the arrival of Darwin Núñez).
Without Mané, Liverpool do not have a number 10 anymore (in a literal sense rather than a positional, attacking midfielder sense). The highly-valued number is now vacant and plenty will likely have eyes on taking it.
It is a big marketing tool for both the club, who need to sell as many Nike shirts as possible to gain most from that deal, and also any individual, with big players often building their brand around their squad number.
Other than Mané, who was initially number 19 when he signed from Southampton in 2016, six other players have worn the number 10 shirt in the Premier League era: John Barnes, Michael Owen, Luis Garcia, Andriy Voronin, Joe Cole and Philippe Coutinho.
But now, without Mané, that shirt number is missing an accompanying name. Liverpool.com has taken a look at who could take on the mantle of being Liverpool's next number 10.
With Núñez signed (he took Divock Origi's number 27 shirt), it seems unlikely that there will be another forward player added to the squad this summer — or indeed anyone in any position, given that the Reds are now likely to wait until 2023 for more incoming business.
But there are a number of players who could take on the number 10 shirt in future. Jude Bellingham might be the obvious one if he was signed next summer, while there are a number of options in attack being linked who could be tempted by it.
Should Liverpool move for a creative midfielder, with RB Leipzig number 10 Dominik Szoboszlai among those who could fit the bill, then they would have a decent shout of taking the shirt.
Any attacker who might have to replace Mohamed Salah next summer should the forward fail to agree a new deal could also be interested — though in that (hopefully avoidable) outcome, the number 11 would also become available.
Harvey Elliott - currently the number 67 for Liverpool, Elliott will surely move down the shirt number pecking order at some point (though Trent Alexander-Arnold has retained the number 66). The number 10 shirt could be appealing for him. With James Milner at some point moving on, the iconic number seven shirt could also be up for grabs in future, which he might also have his eye on.
Fábio Carvalho - the closest thing to a traditional number 10 that Liverpool have (but with a considerably higher defensive work ethic), Carvalho does not have a number yet at Anfield. Taking the number 10 straight away would be a bold move but it could be returned to in future. He wore 28 at Fulham, but Ben Davies has that at Anfield — at least for now.
Mohamed Salah - Egypt's number 10 has made the number 11 shirt famous at Liverpool, so a move seems unlikely. But if it could tip the balance on a new contract (a big if, admittedly) then it could work nicely. Probably not, but you never know.
Luis Díaz - having taken the number 23 shirt when he arrived, Díaz could switch to the number 10 at some point. Particularly in South America, the shirt holds huge value. Díaz has shown more than enough flair so far in a Reds shirt to prove that he would warrant the switch, and there is no doubt he will be a big part of Jürgen Klopp's side over the next few years.
Is there anyone else you would like to see take the number 10 shirt? Let us know in the comments section below.
Nunez made an indelible impression on Jurgen Klopp during the Champions League quarter-finals against Benfica, to the point that Liverpool made him their priority signing during this summer’s transfer window.
The club reportedly spent nearly £65 million on the initial transfer fee with an additional £20 million in potential bonuses, which would break the previous transfer record for Virgil van Dijk.
However, with big transfers and pressure comes great responsibility.
A key part of that is staying healthy, particularly after the relatively sparkling injury record of the now-departed Sadio Mane, whose impact Nunez will partially hope to replace.
One of the primary indicators of a player’s injury risk is their previous record, as the greatest risk for future injury is a previous injury – especially with soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons) injuries.
With that in mind, let’s go through Nunez’s injury history.Injury history
In 2017, Nunez suffered a left knee injury, and although the injury was never confirmed, it sounds like he suffered a rupture to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and underwent a reconstruction.
Obviously, an ACL requiring surgery is a major injury, and the key risks are downstream effects such as increased wear and tear on the knee, part of which depends on the extent of overall damage to the surrounding cartilage (namely the knee meniscus).
In the following year, 2018, Nunez again injured his left knee requiring surgery.
There are conflicting reports regarding the injury, with some stating it was an ACL re-rupture and others stating it was a patellar tendon injury.
Regardless of the specifics, that’s two injuries to the same knee in back-to-back years, which would have raised some concern at the time.
Following that left knee injury – outside of expected minor knocks and mild muscular issues – his only other significant injury came in late May 2021, when he had surgery on his right knee.
Based on the return timeline of nearly 90 days, this sounds most like a meniscus repair procedure.
How concerning is it?
When looking at Nunez’s injury history in a vacuum without context, two left knee surgeries in back-to-back years and a right knee surgery certainly doesn’t sound great.
However, the key factor of the utmost importance is Nunez hasn’t shown any downstream issues on either knee.
The left knee has been relatively injury-free since 2018 and the right knee held up quite well last season as he went on to score 34 goals in 41 appearances, averaging almost 70 minutes on the pitch per game.
His minutes appear to have been carefully managed, with Nunez only completing the full 90 on 12 occasions and being substituted off 20 times.
But further with the right knee, the research on meniscus repairs shows very good outcomes for footballers because you are keeping the tissue intact.Liverpool medicals – and a key example
Obviously, Liverpool’s medical staff went through a full checkup with Nunez and signed off on his medicals before clearing his transfer.
The higher the fee, the more meticulous the medical staff tend to be and the less risk the club is willing to tolerate.
Look no further than current Real Betis midfielder and at-the-time Lyon star Nabil Fekir’s failed transfer as a prime example of that.
According to his agent, a key reason why his transfer to Liverpool fell through was concern with his knee.
Fekir – like Nunez – had ruptured his ACL and had reconstructive surgery.
From my understanding, Liverpool were not comfortable with the amount of wear and tear in his knee joint and how that would potentially impact him in the medium and long term.
Therefore, they nixed the deal.
The fact that Fekir and Nunez had the same injury – and Nunez also had another surgery on the same knee – but Liverpool’s medical staff signed off in this case (at a higher fee, no less) very likely speaks to how comfortable they were with his medicals.
That’s a very positive indicator of his current and future health.Nunez and Liverpool’s training staff
Last, but certainly not least, is that Nunez according to multiple reports is extremely committed to his health and physical training off the pitch.
“I love how much focus and humility he has,” Klopp himself said as his new No. 27 was unveiled.
That commitment and dedication is always critical for maintaining health, particularly in the case of players with a previous injury history.
To further bolster that, Nunez now has access to one of the best training staffs in elite football.
A case in point is Liverpool’s sustained fitness level last season while competing deep into every tournament and for the league title until the last day.[embedded content]
That combination of Nunez’s work ethic with their level of expertise bodes extremely well – not only for his injury risk, but for his performance as well.
• Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT, (@3cbperformance) is a physiotherapist, movement mechanics coach, fitness trainer, sports scientist and mindfulness coach.
He runs the online and Los Angeles-based wellness and athletic performance clinic 3CB Performance, and you can subscribe to his Youtube channel (which posts a variety of Liverpool-related content) here.
Another Liverpool friendly has been made official and Neco Williams looks to be edging closer to a £15 million exit. Here’s today’s news roundup.Salzburg friendly official
After first being mentioned by the Times‘ Paul Joyce earlier this month, Liverpool have now made their pre-season friendly with Red Bull Salzburg official.
The match will be played in Austria on Wednesday, July 27, with kickoff set for 7pm (BST).
July 4 – First day back at Kirkby
July 12 – Man United (Thailand), 2pm
July 15 – Crystal Palace (Singapore), 1.35pm
July 21 – RB Leipzig (Germany), 6.15pm
July 27 – Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), 7pm
July 30 – Man City (Community Shield), 5pm
July 31 – Strasbourg (Anfield), 7.30pm
August 6 – Premier League starts – Fulham (A), 12.30pm
There may still be more pre-season matches to be confirmed, but that’s starting to look unlikely given what is already a packed schedule for the Reds.3 things today: £15m tug of war for Williams?
Latest transfer chat
Goals set up for each other:
Firmino to Salah: 21
Mane to Salah: 18
Firmino to Mane: 18
Salah to Mane: 18
Salah to Firmino: 11
Mane to Firmino: 6
End of an era ?? pic.twitter.com/3jwR6SQGXq
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) June 23, 2022
Liverpool are looking to make a sizeable profit on exiled defender Ben Davies, who is attracting interest from a number of clubs including Celtic this summer.
Davies was signed from Preston at the end of a chaotic winter transfer window in 2021, when the Reds were facing an injury crisis in defence.
But unlike Kabak, who was thrown in the deep end with 13 outings before departing Anfield that summer, Davies is yet to make a competitive appearance for Liverpool.
He is highly unlikely to do so, either, as having spent last season on loan with Sheffield United, the 26-year-old should be granted a permanent exit.
That would resemble a profit of £3.5 million, given Davies’ lack of game time has seen Liverpool avoid triggering any of the bonus clauses in their agreement with Preston.
It is maintained that neither Celtic or Middlesbrough have made any official bids yet, however, and “a package would have to be incentivised to reach such a potential figure rather than it being guaranteed.”
“A loan exit hasn’t been ruled out at this time,” the report continues, but “a permanent departure is much more likely with the 26-year-old wanting to sort his future out once and for all.”
Liverpool will expect Davies back at the AXA Training Centre for the first day of pre-season training on July 4, with it likely that any deal will be a protracted one.
That is the result of a difficult 18 months for the centre-back, who only played 22 times for Sheffield United last season owing to various injury and personal issues.
His loan move to Bramall Lane did, though, already secure Liverpool a return on their investment, with the Blades paying £500,000 to sign him for the season.
Any further money brought in would constitute a profit, therefore.
But while in an ideal world a permanent exit will be finalised, there is every chance Davies requires another loan to generate enough interest.
Liverpool's business this summer in terms of incomings may be over. But that does not mean that the rest of the Premier League are also sitting idle.
One of the newest members of the league, Nottingham Forest, seem to be plotting an ambitions plan to maintain their status in the Premier League ahead of their return to England's top flight and that involves some savvy recruitment which could also put cash into FSG's pocket this summer.
Former Liverpool forward, Taiwo Awoniyi, may have been an enigmatic figure at Anfield, but since his departure from the club on a permanent basis last summer, the Nigerian international has hit the ground running with an impressive run of form at Union Berlin.
His prolific campaign which saw him make 25 goal contributions in 43 games is now expected to net Union Berlin £17.5m with Nottingham Forest looking to wrap up a deal for Awoniyi. A portion of that will go straight to Liverpool as the club's former sporting director, Michael Edwards, inserted a 10 per cent sell on clause into the deal with Union Berlin last summer.
A sum of £1.75m may seem meagre in today's market (and it might actually be only 10 per cent of the profit that Liverpool take home), but as the common adage goes: every penny counts.
Liverpool, though, may not only benefit from Awoniyi's transfer to Nottingham financially but his arrival could also trigger the club's scouts to take a look at a potential future target in Brennan Johnson. Johnson caught the eye against Liverpool in the FA Cup last season, and he is a player who is of similar profile to Roberto Firmino — whose contract expires at Liverpool next summer.
Awoniyi's arrival could bring the best out of Johnson with the two expected to form a partnership together and Liverpool could get a closer look at how Johnson would fit into the club's system considering according FBref, Awoniyi is one of the top 10 players who is most similar to Darwin Núñez.
Johnson scored 19 goals and registered nine assists in 53 appearances for Nottingham Forest last season and if he can replicate anywhere close to that figure next season considering his versatility and tenacious playing style, Liverpool will struggle to find a better candidate to replace the potentially departing Firmino — especially one who is still so young and has so much room to improve at 21 years of age.
Awoniyi could help Johnson get to another level, and his arrival in the Premier League could end up not only bringing Liverpool further financial reward, but also paving the way for the Reds to find an ideal successor to one of Jürgen Klopp's old guards.
It would be fair to say that Curtis Jones would have expected more from his 2021/22 campaign. After making his breakthrough in the previous season, 2021/22 felt like a golden opportunity for Jones to build on his performances especially after the departure of Gini Wijnaldum seemed to have paved a way for him into more first team action.
Alas, things did not transpire that way. Last season on the whole will be a majorly disappointing period for Jones. From injury niggles to constant disruption, Jones made nine fewer appearances in the league than in his previous campaign and played almost 400 minutes less in all competitions despite there being far more games on Liverpool's calendar than in the previous year.
His nine goal contributions from the previous season also fell down to just five this time around, and while there were some eye-catching performances such as his dazzling display against Porto or his brilliant strike against Brentford, Jones just couldn't hit the ground running and was extremely unfortunate by momentum perpetually being hampered by unprecedented injuries.
At 21 years of age, the Liverpool midfielder is now approaching a pivotal moment in his career. The Reds have decided not to strengthen their midfield this summer, which means Jones still has a chance of breaking into the side next season.
But in a summer's time, speculation is already rife about Jude Bellingham and if Jones has a similar campaign, his chances of regular playing time will dwindle.
With that taken into account, and considering some of his age peers who are already well-established England internationals, Jones knows he needs to have a make breakthrough season at Anfield, and his underlying numbers suggest he is more than capable of that.
Last season in the Champions League, Jones averaged the most shot-creating actions (4.84 per 90) and the most progressive runs (11.4 per 90) as per FBref. His boisterous energy and his ability on the ball meant even in the Premier League he ranked among the 97th percentile for progressive carriers and that is a trait he possesses that is unique in the current Liverpool team.
But that alone is not the only facet of his game he needs to bring to the fore in a Liverpool shirt. At academy level, Jones was a prolific goalscorer capable of scoring from long distance and popping up in the box at the right times. Overall, he scored 41 times and registered 15 assists in 80 appearances at youth level (U18s, U19s and U23s).
So far, he hasn't been able to translate that kind of form into the first team at all. Eight goals and 10 assists in 74 first team appearances is not even a vestige of his track record from his academy days. Granted, his 0.39 goal contributions as opposed 0.75 per 90 when looking at minutes spent on the pitch brings his productivity levels a little closer, but they are still far away from the output he should be aiming towards.
Liverpool could do with a goalscoring midfielder like Jones, and next season the club's academy product should aim to finally replicate his academy form at first team level.
The Reds are due to reconvene at Kirkby at the start of July, with the majority of Jurgen Klopp‘s squad likely to report back for duty in the first week.
But as ever, many players have been sharing their post-season training programme on social media, with some working alongside each other during their time off.
And now, in a photo shared by former Reds physio Matt Konopinski on Wednesday, Henderson was joined by both Phillips and long-time friend Adam Lallana at the Algarve facility.
Konopinski worked for Liverpool for almost a decade, predominantly as a first-team physio before stepping up to the role of head of physiotherapy in his final year with the club.
He went on to take up roles with the FA and supporting Steven Gerrard at Rangers, before going it alone by founding the Rehab 4 Performance clinic alongside current Reds physio Chris Morgan in 2021.
Working closely with a physio of Konopinski’s pedigree can be seen as a major advantage for Henderson and Phillips, as they can train and manage any fitness issues before returning to Kirkby at 100 percent on day one.
They are not the only footballers who have been using the facilities at The Campus this month, with ex-Liverpool academy goalkeeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle among those to also train in Portugal.
James Maddison and Ryan Sessegnon have also been spotted, along with Wigan winger James McClean.
As it stands, Phillips will be expected to return for pre-season training with Liverpool on July 4, though there is interest in his services this summer.
The club are reported to value the defender at around £12 million, with Bournemouth, who he spent the second half of last season on loan with, among the clubs weighing up a move.
Running a football club requires detailed planning, both short-term and long-term. Liverpool have proven countless times in the last few years that they are masters of this process, particularly when it comes to the transfer market.
They set out their stall with the financial packages for incoming and outgoing players, and they stick to them. The club has the ‘known knowns’ covered, as Donald Rumsfeld might have said.
But there are things that can’t be fully prepared for, and injuries are chief among them. Liverpool had a better record in 2021/22 than they did in the preceding season — it would have struggled to be much worse — though the absences still came at a heavy cost.
Tracking the time lost to injuries is not easy, particularly at a club with a squad of deep quality like the one which the Reds possess. Players returning from a fitness issue may be available for selection but not make the matchday squad, purely because the manager has a wealth of options and does not require their services for that particular fixture.
However, one way to monitor injury problems is to count the number of times players missed at least one game thanks to a fitness issue, and this is how Premier Injuries record their data (with a metric they refer to as ‘time-loss injuries’). Their statistics highlight how Liverpool suffered far fewer knocks this season than they had when defending their league title.
Having had to contend with 47 separate injuries in 2020/21, the Reds did well to reduce their total to 33 in their latest, remarkable campaign. Instead of amassing the most absences, they had fewer than Leicester (35), Chelsea (37), Manchester United (38), Leeds (41) and Everton (42). Considering they had to negotiate 63 fixtures — which was 19 more than their Merseyside rivals and 21 more than Jesse Marsch and Marcelo Bielsa’s side — that was no mean feat.
Some of it will have been down to luck. You can’t legislate for Jordan Pickford launching a knee-high challenge on Virgil van Dijk, for instance, as occurred in the derby early in 2020/21. A club can manage the playing time of their squad to the best of their ability and some dumb luck might tear their injury prevention plans asunder.
It’s vital to do whatever is possible though. Liverpool have done this by employing Zone7, an American company that uses artificial intelligence to aid in predicting injuries. The evidence suggests their work has proven effective for the Reds, but player unavailability still came at a significant cost to the club this season.
Further data from Premier Injuries shows that Liverpool had the fourth highest salary expenditure on injured players in 2021/22, at a figure of around £12m — a scary figure for a club run on efficient spending. It’s not clear if they also counted illness or Covid-19 protocol absences — the Reds had 22 such issues across 15 different players — so the true figure may have been even higher. It is the cost of doing business in top-level sport but it carries a heavy toll.
Almost half of Liverpool’s reported total went on two players: Thiago Alcântara and Roberto Firmino. They were unavailable on four and five separate occasions respectively, and only Harvey Elliott missed more matches than they did. This shows the risk of having the fourth oldest team in the division, with veterans’ bodies having likely accumulated more than their share of wear and tear. Such players are inevitably very well paid too though, and any injuries suffered by the top clubs will carry heavier financial penalties than those at the smaller teams.
It is an issue Fenway Sports Group know all too well. Per Spotrac, their Boston Red Sox side has already spent over $26m on injured stars, the second most in Major League Baseball, in 2022, and the season is not yet halfway through.
Injuries will never be eradicated entirely. Professional sportspeople push their bodies to limits mere mortals can not comprehend. It’s plausible that Liverpool could play close to 60 matches again next season, in a compressed timeframe and with a World Cup in the middle of the season.
Their chances of success will be improved if they can lessen the £12m wage drain and keep their best-paid men on the pitch as often as possible. How Jürgen Klopp and his team do that remains to be seen, though they did improve drastically last season after employing new techniques and another similar innovation in future could close the gap further.
Liverpool will enter the EFL Trophy for the fourth consecutive season in 2022/23, and will face off with Gary Neville’s Salford City during the group stage.
Having initially turned down the invitation to take part in the revamped EFL Trophy, Liverpool eventually entered the competition in 2019/20.
The EFL Trophy, currently known as the Papa John’s Trophy, pits under-21s sides from the Premier League and Championship against senior opposition from League One and League Two.
So far, Liverpool are yet to win a single game from nine in the competition, but it is still considered a valuable experience for those young players involved.
Neco Williams is among those to have profited from the exposure to senior football, and three years on from his EFL Trophy bow he is now a regular starter with Wales and touted with a £15 million move to Nottingham Forest.
The club will be hoping for more success this season, having been drawn in Group D alongside Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Salford City.
It will be the second time the Liverpool U21s have met Accrington and Rochdale in the competition, but the first time they will play Salford.
Salford have been settled in League Two since 2019, five years after the investment of Peter Lim and members of Man United‘s ‘Class of 96’, including Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
David Beckham also purchased a 10 percent stake in the club in 2019.
Meanwhile, the young Reds could come up against two familiar faces in their clash with Accrington, with academy graduates Joe Hardy and Liam Coyle currently part of the first-team squad at the Crown Ground.
The pair both joined Accrington upon their release by Liverpool last summer, though Hardy spent the second half of last season on loan with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Liverpool will be away for all three of their EFL Trophy group games, with under-21s coach Barry Lewtas set to manage the side supported by under-18s manager Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.
There is set to be a big shift in the Premier League next season as four of the most high-profile referees all hang up their whistles, with one new face brought in.
Between campaigns in the Premier League, change is inevitable, with three clubs relegated and three promoted every season.
That often extends to those in black, too – but rarely as significant as this summer.
Four of the biggest names in the refereeing stable have vacated their roles, with the latest to do so emerging this week.
According to the Times‘ Martyn Ziegler, Kevin Friend has joined Mike Dean, Jon Moss and Martin Atkinson in retiring from his position as a referee.
Friend, Moss and Atkinson are already confirmed as having taken up roles within PGMOL, while Dean is expected to remain involved with their Elite Referee Development plan.
The quartet stood among the eight-most experienced referees in the English top flight, with Dean having debuted in 2000.
They were all regulars in the Premier League last season, with Anthony Taylor (28) and Paul Tierney (27) the only referees to take charge of more games than Dean and Atkinson (both 26).
Moss (25) refereed the seventh-most, while Friend (18) was just outside the top 10.
A mass retirement leaves Taylor, Tierney, Michael Oliver, Craig Pawson and Stuart Attwell as the core referees for 2022/23, supported by the likes of David Coote, Chris Kavanagh, Andre Marriner and Andrew Madley.
Bramall joins a fresh crop of officials – with Natalie Aspinall, Nick Greenhalgh and Steve Meredith also taking up assistant roles – as the Premier League relies upon less-experienced names.
Jarred Gillet, Michael Salisbury, Tony Harrington and John Brooks were all brought into the main group last summer and could referee more games from next season.
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at Calvin Ramsay's first day as a Liverpool player.
The 18-year-old full-back completed the formalities of his transfer from Aberdeen, subject to international clearance, at the AXA Training Centre.
Our cameras followed Ramsay around the facility as he became Jürgen Klopp's third recruit of the summer transfer window.
Watch what was captured in the video below...