Liverpool have agreed a deal with Monaco for the sale of Takumi Minamino, with the forward to leave after two-and-a-half years at Anfield.
The 27-year-old has been on the fringes of Jurgen Klopp’s side since arriving in January 2020 but has played a crucial squad role in that time.
But with game time not forthcoming at Liverpool, a transfer had long been expected for Minamino and he was not short on suitors for this summer.
There was interest from the Premier League and Ligue 1 and it is Monaco who have reached an agreement with Liverpool in a deal worth up to £15.4 million.
According to the Athletic‘s David Ornstein, Liverpool are to receive a guaranteed fee of £12.87m (€15m), with a further £2.57m (€3m) in add-ons.
It’s a fee that sees a return on the Reds’ initial outlay for Minamino, with £7.5m having been enough to take the Japan international from Salzburg.
The 27-year-old has agreed personal terms with Monaco but must still pass his medical, which is yet to take place as he currently remains in Japan following the end of his season.
Minamino has featured 55 times for Liverpool since his move, scoring 14 goals in that time but recently voiced his desire to play a meaningful role for his team on a consistent basis.
“I want to do my best to be a player who can produce results in important games,” he said.
Liverpool tend to get things right in the transfer market. Not always — they got away with not replacing Dejan Lovren and leaving themselves light at the heart of their defence far more by luck than judgement — but generally, they are excellent buyers and sellers.
As this summer progress, and with no more incomings expected after the deal to sign Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen was officially unveiled, it is probably worth remembering that.
Last summer, with Gini Wijnaldum having departed on a free transfer, the question was posed — understandably — of whether Liverpool had failed to learn their lesson of the previous year.
Having endured a tough patch without any senior centre-halves, Liverpool did not want to put themselves in a position where they found similar in midfield a season later — leaving many to believe not 'replacing' Wijnaldum was a risk.
Liverpool, of course, had faith in Harvey Elliott, among others. Even a four-month absence for him with a freak injury did not leave the Reds light of options and their squad will be trimmed down further before the new campaign.
That is why suggestions of a loan move for Wijnaldum this year to bolster their midfield ranks for a season were swiftly rejected. The Dutchman could leave PSG but it won't be for a return to Anfield, even as a stop-gap before the possible arrival of Jude Bellingham.
The links with Wijnaldum were indicative of the same feeling at Liverpool re-emerging as was present last pre-season: that another midfielder could make or break the upcoming campaign.
Thiago Alcântara and Naby Keïta might break down with injuries again, of course, and James Milner might finally run out of steam, but Liverpool are in a far better position than anyone else to judge the likelihood of those outcomes.
They were last season, too, when Atlético Madrid midfielder Saúl Ñíguez was available, initially thought to be on a permanent deal before no tempting enough offers were tabled and he was allowed to leave on loan.
Liverpool were linked and a transfer move appeared to make sense: £35m was the supposed asking price, and the 26-year-old seemed to be a decent fit for Klopp as a younger version of Wijnaldum who would add depth.
When he ended up moving to Chelsea on a season-long loan, it seemed to some to be an even bigger no-brainer that Liverpool had missed out on.
And yet, most would now probably admit to having forgotten that Ñíguez was strongly touted with a move to Liverpool — while his performances at Chelsea were forgettable at best.
Ñíguez started only six times across the Premier League and the Champions League and netted only one goal — against Luton Town in the FA Cup.
It is safe to say that Liverpool did not miss out on him in any way. Jürgen Klopp, it turns out, was right, after fielding questions about the midfield throughout pre-season, and he ultimately got the last laugh.
If Liverpool wait another year before signing a midfielder this summer, he will back himself to be proven right once again.
Monaco have agreed a deal worth £15.5m (€18m) with Liverpool to sign Takumi Minamino.
The fee is an initial £12.9m (€15m) plus a further £2.6m (€3m) in add ons.
Minamino, 27, signed from Red Bull Salzburg in 2020, and has played 55 times for Liverpool, scoring 14 times.
More to follow....
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Visit skysports.com or the Sky Sports App for all the breaking sports news headlines. You can receive push notifications from the Sky Sports app for the latest news from your favourite sports and you can also follow @SkySportsNews on Twitter to get the latest updates.Liverpool fixtures: Reds begin at Fulham
Liverpool begin the 2022/23 Premier League campaign with a lunchtime trip to newly-promoted Fulham on Saturday August 6.
It will be the fourth season in a row in which Liverpool have started a new campaign against a Premier League newcomer.
But after then facing Crystal Palace, Jurgen Klopp's side will take on Man Utd at Old Trafford on August 20.
September will feature away trips to both Everton and Chelsea in September and Liverpool will also face back-to-back clashes against Arsenal and champions Man City on October 8 and 15 respectively.
Liverpool's final game before the season stops temporarily for the winter World Cup will be against Southampton at Anfield on November 12 before returning to action at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
The Reds then host arch-rivals United on March 4, before tricky-looking clashes in consecutive weekends at City (April 1) and against Arsenal at Anfield (April 8), before finishing the season at Southampton.Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports
Who will be on the move this summer before the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?
Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.
If reports are to be believed, Liverpool were not even planning to bring Diaz in during the winter transfer window.
Despite the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane due to the Africa Cup of Nations and an awfully timed injury for Divock Origi, Jurgen Klopp was set to plough on with the options already at his disposal.
But an approach from Tottenham forced the Reds’ hand, and able to stump up a financial care package for Porto, they quickly snapped up a target they had pencilled in for a summer arrival.
Five months on and Liverpool’s No. 23 is already a key player; a game-changing signing at a crucial stage in the club’s evolution.Luis Diaz, 2020/21
Started: 18 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 8
Unused sub: 3
Overall Season Rating: 9The perfect start
There are understandable reasons for Liverpool typically avoiding mid-season signings, not least due to the lack of value in the winter market.
It would be no stretch, either, to suggest even those within the club’s recruitment staff would have anticipated a slower adjustment period for the £50 million signing from Porto.
Liverpool have only made seven January signings during Klopp’s reign. Three of those – Steven Caulker, Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies – were emergency deals and another – Marko Grujic – was one for the future, loaned out again immediately.
For Diaz, any contribution between day one and the end of the season should have been considered a bonus; the second half of the campaign an extended bedding-in process for a player who could eventually settle during pre-season.
That was certainly the case for Takumi Minamino, albeit the Japanese arrived during a turbulent time as lockdown life struck as he moved from Austria to England, unable to speak the language.
But while Diaz also headed to Merseyside with a flimsy grasp on English, he defied expectations and hit the ground running.
He teed up a goal for Minamino on his debut and scored his first goal in only his second start, adding to that smart finish in the 3-1 win over Norwich with a brave header against Brighton less than a month later.
Diaz swiftly established himself as a key player who could thrive in the big games, with his mid-season impact only rivalled by Virgil van Dijk when it comes to Klopp’s January signings.“Fits like a glove”
“We thought we saw that at Porto, but that it really is like this, I feel lucky as well to be honest.
“He fits like a glove to our football, and that’s really, really special.”
The manager’s praise sums up so much about the winger’s immediate impact and the triumph felt among Liverpool’s hierarchy.
Diaz was not only identified for his end product on the ball – though 16 goals and six assists in 28 games in the first half of the season at Porto were certainly persuasive – but equally his infectious work rate off it.
It is a rare blend, and particularly for a player who has worked within Klopp’s setup for such a short time, which makes him ideal for Liverpool.
Beyond the rabona touches in mid air, the no-look passes on the wing and the devastating shots from distance, the Reds have unearthed a player whose flair is counterbalanced by sheer humility.
It has not all been smooth sailing, with Diaz fading throughout the Champions League final as he struggled up against Dani Carvajal, but he quickly put the disappointment behind him.
The off-season has seen him return to his native Colombia, reconnecting with old friends and locals in Barrancas and even playing in an exhibition game for the reopening of the Estadio Federico Serrano Soto in Riohacha.
He is a special character who, as Klopp rightly declared, “fits like a glove,” and it is incredible that this is only the start.What comes next?
It is safe to say this is a seismic summer for Liverpool in terms of the makeup of their attack, with Mane joining Bayern Munich and Darwin Nunez arriving as a club-record signing from Benfica.
That it comes during the official handover of sporting director duties from Michael Edwards to Julian Ward may not be seen as ideal.
But the impact Diaz has made at Anfield has certainly helped expedite an evolution in the final third; were it not for his emergence as a key player already, the concern over Mane’s exit would have been magnified.
Much is up in the air heading into the new campaign, of course, not least who will start as Klopp’s new first-choice forward line.
But there is no doubting that, like Salah, Diaz will be one of the first names on the teamsheet from opening day at Fulham – especially as he benefits from a summer off and a mid-season break after Colombia failed to qualify for the World Cup.
It would be wrong to heap the pressure on Liverpool’s No. 23 despite his emphatic start.
But there is every confidence that Diaz will only go from strength to strength in his first full season.
Best moment: Man of the Match in the FA Cup final
Worst moment: A quiet night in the Champions League final
Role next season: First-choice starter and the spark from the left
Liverpool have reportedly decided to ‘pass’ on the opportunity to sign three Premier League midfielders who would all have been attainable this summer.Liverpool passed on midfield trio
Jude Bellingham continues to be linked with a move to Anfield but won’t be leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer, while reported target Aurelien Tchouameni is said to have opted for Real Madrid in favour of a more generous wage package.
There has been a clamour among some fans to see a new midfield signing before the end of the transfer window, but writing for The National News, David Lynch claims the Reds have, in fact, rejected the chance to sign three particular Premier League midfielders.
Liverpool, however, are said to have no interest in short-term solutions and would rather wait for “game-changing” additions, a policy that has brought them great success in recent years.
Sadio Mané wearing a Bayern Munich top for the first time. ?? pic.twitter.com/n4v87x2nIp
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) June 21, 2022
We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of loyal supporter Rachel Ellis.
Our sincere condolences go out to her family and friends during this sad time. pic.twitter.com/9SjXZFyIKe
— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) June 21, 2022
Mohamed Salah has posted some heartwarming images showing him and his family celebrating his 30th birthday on holiday. Is right, Mo.
The second round of group fixtures at the Under-19 European Championship get started today, with hosts Slovakia taking on Italy at 16.30pm and Romania facing France at 19.30pm (both BST).
June 19th was a big day for Scottish U-21 International Calvin Ramsay. The 18-year-old defender signed a 5-year, £4.5 million deal, with Liverpool with the possibility of an extra £3 million in incentives. Ramsay comes to the Reds after spending 1 season with Scottish side Aberdeen F.C. in the Scottish Premiership.
Ramsay is thankful for his time at Aberdeen, but he is ready to join Liverpool in hopes of helping them reach an EPL title.
“It was a dream come true to play for Aberdeen, and now to be at one of the biggest, if not the biggest club in the world,” Ramsey told Liverpool’s official website after inking the deal with the Reds. “It’s a massive achievement and I’m looking forward to trying to show the fans what I’ve got.”
Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp is certainly looking forward to having Ramsay showcase his talents at Anfield. In 39 games with Aberdeen last season, Ramsay only scored 1 goal, but he dished out an impressive total of 9 assists. His exploits led Ramsay to be named the Scottish Football Writers Association’s Young Player of the Year for the 2021-’22 season.
Ramsay also has experience with Scotland’s U-21 National Team, earning 3 caps, while also playing for Aberdeen in the Europa Conference League.Photo by Andrew Milligan/Pool via Getty Images
Ramsay, who will sport the #22 kit, is looking forward to joining the other young talent Liverpool boasts on its roster.
Ramsay has lofty goals for his inaugural season at Anfield, including breaking in with the first team.
“If I can come in the pre-season, put my mark down, then there’s no reason why I can’t push to get in the first-team squad,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay’s signing comes shortly after those of Darwin Núñez and Fabio Carvalho, during the transfer window. While Nunez and Carvalho are more offensive-minded players, the signing of Ramsay, a defender with a knack for finding open teammates, shows that Klopp wants someone who can deliver the ball to his strikers up front.
While that seems to be a solid strategy, supporters wonder if that will be enough to climb to the top of the table next season? Time will tell.
Not many of the records set by Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool come from 2016. Having only joined in October the previous season, the manager’s team was still in a fledgling stage, yet to become the all-conquering behemoth we know today. But one particular feat from that era is yet to be topped; Ibrahima Konaté and Harvey Elliott could help change that.
The pair will have their eyes on much more involvement this season. By the end of the last campaign, Konaté had seemingly just edged ahead of Joël Matip in the Liverpool pecking order, and will now expect to be involved more often than not.
Elliott might not quite be at the stage where he features in the majority of games, but a good pre-season should at least elevate him back to pre-injury status. It must be remembered that Klopp entrusted him with a start against Chelsea early last season — the teenager will be targeting a major breakthrough campaign.
It seems almost certain that the pair will line up together in the Premier League in 2022/23, most likely on multiple occasions. Aged 23 and 19 respectively, both qualify in the bid to break Klopp’s record.
Specifically, in May 2016, Klopp fielded the youngest ever Liverpool XI in the Premier League, with an average age of 23.6. Sandwiched between the two legs of the Europa League semi-final against Villarreal, the fixture saw major changes, with Liverpool playing the likes of Danny Ward, Brad Smith, Sheyi Ojo, Pedro Chirivella, Kevin Stewart and Jordon Ibe. They lost 3-1.
It would be remarkable if Klopp beat this record in the normal course of a season, rather than as part of a mass rotation to deal with congestion. But the possibility is becoming ever more real, with a multitude of promising youngsters now knocking on the door of the first team. Equally, with Sadio Mané almost out the door, a guaranteed older starter is now gone.
After all, Klopp is on the cusp of another rebuild. The task is far less daunting than in 2016, and the crop of youngsters far more gifted, but an exciting period of planning for the future is once again underway. Konaté and Elliott are two of the major puzzle pieces in the next great Liverpool side, but they are far from the only ones.
It is easy to forget that Trent Alexander-Arnold is still only 23. Darwin Núñez is just shy of his 23rd birthday. Fellow new signing Calvin Ramsay, 18, may well get some involvement this season. Even the likes of Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota are within two years of the magic 23.6 mark.
Let’s start with an immensely plausible XI, one it takes no stretch of the imagination to see Klopp naming: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Elliott, Carvalho; Díaz, Núñez, Jota. It’s not likely to be a week-in, week-out side, with Mohamed Salah the obvious absentee, but the Egyptian started from the bench five times last season. Likewise, Andy Robertson will need a rest at times. The average age comes out at just a shade over 25 — only Arsenal had a lower average last season.
The easiest reduction comes by switching out Van Dijk for Gomez. This would probably have to be as a result of niggling injuries at centre-back, but at the same time Klopp will surely be eager to try out the pairing of the future at some point.
Beyond that, the age record will probably only fall if injuries mount up, but it’s still hardly beyond the realms of possibility. There is a severe lack of cover for Fabinho in defensive midfield; Klopp trusted Tyler Morton there at times last season, and could do so again.
Once that change has been made, it is a simple matter of subbing out Jota for Jones, and the average is all the way down at 23.2. That’s without having to use Caoimhin Kelleher in place of Alisson — the Irish stopper twice started in the Premier League last season, so it would hardly have been an outrageous inclusion either.
To recap, this is the team that would break the Liverpool record for the youngest team ever fielded in the Premier League: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Gomez, Tsimikas; Morton, Elliott, Carvalho; Díaz, Núñez, Jones. It perhaps has the feel of a mid-rounds domestic cup team more than a league side, but it is not absurdly audacious to suggest these players could all feature together. That’s without shoehorning in Ramsay, Kaide Gordon or any number of other promising youngsters.
Of course, whether or not the record falls is little more than an interesting sub-plot: the main point is that Klopp has a young and talented team at his disposal. FSG have not had a single massive summer rebuild, but almost by stealth have built a Liverpool team ready to challenge for another cycle. One thing’s for sure: if a record-breaking team does get fielded in 2022/23, it will have a good chance of faring rather better than the existing holders.
Liverpool’s plans for 2022/23 continue to take shape with incomings and outgoings, and there will also be a number of loan deals agreed for the club’s rising stars.
It makes for another summer of change for Jurgen Klopp‘s squad, and new experiences are also to befall a host of the club’s academy players in the coming season.
The club will be aiming to identify the best fit for each player having seen a number of loan stints come to a premature end last season, with a productive experience paramount.
And Goal’s Neil Jones anticipates at least eight young Reds to agree to a loan switch for 2022/23.Conor Bradley
Previous loan experience: None
The 18-year-old made his debut for Liverpool last season and is anticipated to make a temporary move to Bolton in League One.
Bradley is more than capable of a move to the Championship but regular senior game time with Bolton will not be blinked at by the player or the Reds.Sepp van den Berg
Previous loan experience: Preston (2020/21 – half season, 2021/22)
Enjoying one of the most successful loan experiences in recent years, Van den Berg can diversify his experiences beyond Preston in the coming season.
He is likely to be involved in some aspects of Liverpool’s pre-season but with a handful of centre-backs at Klopp’s disposal, his development looks set for another temporary switch.Owen Beck
Previous loan experience: None
The left-back was a top performer at under-23s level last season and was rewarded with first-team experiences, and now has attracted suitors from the Premier League, Championship and across Europe.
Previous loan experience: Blackburn (2021/22 – half season)
The 20-year-old is one of the more mature names in the list and after his time with Blackburn came to a premature end to result in a return to the academy, getting his destination right is key.
The midfielder is hugely talented and Liverpool will need assurances of his game time in any agreement they make, as they do with all loanees, and another Championship club could suit.Paul Glatzel
Previous loan experience: Tranmere (2021/22)
The striker joined League Two’s Tranmere last season in what was a mixed bag as injury again wreaked havoc on his year, but he was still able to establish himself at the club.
With a contract until 2023, it’s a big year ahead for the 21-year-old.Billy Koumetio
Previous loan experience: None
The centre-back was largely unsighted in Klopp’s first-team compared to the 2020/21 season and after a campaign at academy level, his time to take a step up to regular senior action awaits.Rhys Williams
Previous loan experience: Kidderminster Harriers (2019/20), Swansea (2021/22 – half season)
To build on his breakthrough season, Williams set off to Swansea at the start of last season but remained on the periphery before making an early Liverpool return.
He is eager to make sure a similar experience does not happen again and to show what he is “capable of.” The Championship could come calling once more.Vitezslav Jaros
Previous loan experience: St. Patrick’s Athletic (2021), Notts County (2021/22 – half season)
Jaros enjoyed two productive loan spells last year and after time in the National League and Ireland Premier Division, a move up the leagues could certainly be in order for the talented ‘keeper.
If there were any doubts as to the importance of the No. 3’s role at the base of the midfield, they had surely been put to bed a season earlier, when injuries meant Fabinho doubled up as a makeshift centre-back in the dark days of a cruel injury crisis.
Thankfully, this latest chapter in the Reds’ history was a more fruitful one and, as such, the former AS Monaco man was able to spend the entire campaign playing in his favoured position.
All told, Fabinho ended the season having made 48 appearances across all competitions for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, scoring an impressive eight goals in the process – cruising past a previous two-goal season-high since arriving on Merseyside.
Only five players – all forwards – found the back of the net more often.Fabinho, 2021/22
Started: 41 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 7
Unused sub: 1
Overall Season Rating: 8.87Goals & Grins
Despite his obvious importance to Klopp’s plans, Fabinho made a slow start to the campaign having returned back from international duty late due to the Copa America.
Ill-placed internationals continued to truncate his run in August, September and October, but Fabinho opened his goalscoring account and was named Man of the Match in the resounding 3-0 success at Leeds before truly coming into his own after Christmas.
With Liverpool shorn of Africa Cup of Nations stars Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, the smiling midfield assassin, never one to shirk a challenge, played every minute in the Premier League throughout January as Klopp’s side began to move into fifth gear.
Between January 16 and April 4, Liverpool won 10 consecutive league games, during which time Fabinho scored on four occasions – including the only goal of the game against Burnley, on perhaps the most ‘Burnley away’ day in the history of the fixture.
It wasn’t all goals and glory, however.
So often the man who interrupts a potentially threatening counter-attack, should the monster tackler ever fall foul of the referee – nine yellow cards would suggest that happens frequently – the ensuing grin of disbelief at the decision is almost as honourable as the act itself.
Albeit another superb season in the main, it would be remiss to not disclose the entire picture and admit that his half-hour cameo display against Aston Villa in May was reminiscent of Space Jam, when the NBA stars have been stripped of their ability.
That momentarily apparent lapse of talent aside, this was yet another sensational season for Fabinho that included goalscoring, tough-tackling and rekindling a perfect record as a penalty-taking extraordinaire that followed him from Monaco.A match made in heaven
Thankfully, this season the duo were paired together on more than enough occasions to see Liverpool dominate a vast majority of matches.
So much so that their record when starting together in the Premier League reads as 21 games, 18 wins and three draws – a tally that would see Liverpool end the season unbeaten and with a surely unassailable 104 points were it extrapolated over an entire 38-game campaign.
Seemingly blending the perfect mix of rugged defence with culture, plus the leadership, energy and dynamism of a third midfield cog in Keita or Jordan Henderson, Thiago and Fabinho will almost certainly remain a key duo going into next season.What’s to come
Although it’s perhaps too simplistic to say ‘more silverware’, such is the level of what Fabinho offers to this Liverpool side, it’s almost impossible to see anything but more tilts at titles with the Brazilian – and others – still in situ.
Having said that, Klopp would be well served to unearth an understudy in order to rest and rotate in the No. 6 role more frequently.
The one criticism that perhaps can justifiably be laid at Fabinho‘s door is that too much football can bring about wholly forgettable performances when off the pace, not to mention the threat of an occasional injury.
Tyler Morton may prove to be that stand-in, with the 19-year-old highly regarded within the first-team setup.
Recognised by the manager for his “incredibly important” performances, finding a way to continue to get the most out of his lighthouse will be key for Klopp next season.
Criminally underrated, Fabinho is never spoken about for the very top honours despite being vitally important to one of the greatest sides on the planet right now.
Best moment: That crucial goal against Villarreal in the second leg
Worst moment: A torrid evening before being replaced at Villa Park
Role next season: Key player, pivotal to any success
For those of a particularly online persuasion, the phrase ‘I’ve won… but at what cost?’ will ring a bell. Jürgen Klopp is the embodiment of that meme for next season. The Premier League have returned to allowing five substitutions on a permanent basis, but only because the schedule is getting so out of hand. There is a winter break of sorts, but only because that’s when the World Cup is taking place. It’s hard to work out whether Liverpool stand to benefit or not.
But there is one man who will certainly be a beneficiary of the changes — and he, too, is very familiar with internet humour. Liverpool recently confirmed that 'boring' James Milner had signed a one-year extension, and the intricacies of the calendar give him a very good chance of surpassing Frank Lampard in the all-time Premier League appearances stakes.
It is now a full 20 years since Milner made his Premier League debut for Leeds United as a 16-year-old. Considering this longevity, it is frankly remarkable that he remains a full 65 appearances off the all-time record. How did Gareth Barry do it? At 36, it looks a long shot for the Liverpool vice-captain to accumulate the required appearances to move to the top of the list, but Lampard is firmly in his sights.
Milner has played 588 games in the Premier League. Lampard sits ahead of him in third place, on 609 appearances. Put simply, 22 appearances in the coming season will see him surpass the former Chelsea and Manchester City man.
This seems like a fairly high number. Milner is certainly no longer a part of the first-choice Liverpool midfield. Among the supporting cast, Klopp will no doubt be keen to look to the future, with Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho all potentially vying for a central berth. Part of the reason for keeping the veteran around is to mentor these up-and-coming stars, and it would be counterproductive to block their route to the first team.
However, with five substitutions to play with, there are enough opportunities to go around. While Milner is likely to find starting berths more and more restricted, Klopp has shown a great proclivity for bringing him on to help see games out. Introducing one of the young players to the fray would have a completely different effect in this regard, meaning there is still a clear role for the 36-year-old.
Last season, Milner made it to 24 Premier League appearances: nine from the start, 15 from the bench. A repeat of these numbers would move him ahead of Lampard, and within 20 appearances of Ryan Giggs in second. Given the added changes allowed, it would be no surprise to see him not only match but eclipse his game time from 2021/22.
It helps that Milner has long since retired from international duty. He had already hung up his England boots by the time he was Jordan Henderson’s age; the current Liverpool captain will be off to Qatar in November. Fabinho will also almost certainly be at the World Cup, even if his minutes are doubtful, while Thiago will hope to break back into the Spain squad. With potentially the whole first-choice midfield away at an intense tournament, Klopp will surely turn to those who have benefited from a break in the fixtures when the Premier League returns at the end of December.
Especially with FSG apparently content to hold off on the midfield refresh until 2023, one more year of Milner in his now-patented role off the bench seems like a shrewd decision. Nobody can match his experience and know-how, and his fitness levels are by all accounts still up there with the best. A veteran of the entire Klopp era, his significance should not be underplayed, and a place in the top three Premier League appearance-makers of all time would be a fitting tribute.
Unfortunately, Liverpool play Everton for the second time in just their 23rd game of the season, so it looks nigh-on impossible that Milner will take the record from Lampard while playing against the side he now manages. But if and when the record does fall, it will be testament to a player who has kept himself in Klopp’s plans at the best club in the world for a remarkably long time. There’s certainly nothing boring about that.
It’s where Williams has been vocal about plying his trade on a regular basis and that Fulham can offer him that will add to the appeal of the move, no doubt.
Liverpool are eyeing a deal worth up to £15 million, which you will expect to include realistic add-ons, a fee that is sizeable for a young full-back and a newly promoted side.
Williams does come with vast senior experience for club and country, with 68 combined appearances since he made his Liverpool debut in the dramatic League Cup penalty shootout win over Arsenal in October 2019.
And it is this experience he is eager to add to, especially in a World Cup year that saw Wales qualify for the first time since 1958.
The 21-year-old has been with the club since he was six and their desire for up to £15m is another nod to the talent that has come out of the academy.
And he is not to be the only young face set for a new environment next season, although the likes of Conor Bradley, Owen Beck, Paul Glatzel, Leighton Clarkson, Rhys Williams and Sepp van den Berg are to all make a loan switch rather than have a permanent farewell.
As Liverpool hurtled towards a possible quadruple last season, there was only one reason why Jürgen Klopp's team were in the position that they were: they finally had a squad capable of fighting on all fronts.
Claims of the Liverpool boss 'disrespecting' the domestic cups were gone, purely because the Reds were progressing despite making wholesale changes to their starting XI rather than having a change of approach.
But Klopp knew that in some ways, this was going to be a one-off. Come the summer, certain squad players were going to move on and he would have to find a way to compete for those trophies without them.
Liverpool have always had a relatively small squad under Klopp, mainly because of the amount of work that the team needed when he arrived. The first XI was the first priority in terms of transfers, and then bulking the back-up positions came later.
But Klopp has always insisted that he prefers a smaller squad and that having the numbers he had last season is not sustainable in the long-term, even with meticulous planning.
"The solution cannot be to have a much bigger squad for the specific moment and then realise you cannot use all the players," Klopp said in July 2020, with concerns over Liverpool's squad depth a topic of conversation in pre-season most years since the German arrived at the club.
"These players can only play the football they play because they know they are needed. They are all human beings and nobody can be held back for a year and then on the last day of the year be told, ‘Now we need you.’
"In between now and then there must be a lot of training and support and challenges stuff like this. We cannot keep someone in the backyard and bring them up in the decisive moment. That will not help. We will have solutions for that; we have young players.
"The size of the squad is not that important to me, the quality of the squad is very much so."
That stance, partly by design and partly by, for example, Luis Díaz becoming available in January, was altered in the previous season, with Liverpool rewarded by nearly completing the quadruple.
The two trophies they ended the season with — the Carabao Cup and FA Cup — would not have been possible had their squad not been so large. Young players got them so far in those tournaments, but it was Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and others who scored the decisive goals to get them to progress.
Minamino, who scored 10 goals in all competitions but only made one Premier League start and four Champions League appearances (all in the group phase in minimally meaningful games), has been speaking about the situation he found himself in.
"Many of the games I played weren't of interest to anyone," Minamino told Sanspo. "Even if I left the results, there wasn't much response. I was trying to inspire myself to prove my worth. I was doing personal training other than team training.
"I was thinking that I would leave something behind when I went to the match mentally. I felt motivated by regret and anger every day. I've never had this much time as a player. It was difficult to maintain the condition and connect with my feelings.
"But it was a season that seemed to have grown. It was disappointing but fulfilling. At the same time, it makes sense to play an important game and leave a result, so it is said that I got out and got a result, but I do not think it was a big deal.
"I want to do my best to be a player who can produce results in important games."
Those comments are perfectly understandable. The Japan international, for his part, was always professional. Whenever he came in, he played well and often scored. In training, he kept his focus and gave his all.
That, in some ways, will only add to the frustration that he did not get more minutes on the field in more significant moments — but the reality is that he is nowhere near the level of player that Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and others are. There was simply too much competition ahead of him, and so his position in the squad was effectively as a 'luxury domestic cup starter' — at least until the semi-final stage, where others would take over.
Next season, there is a need to balance squad depth and squad harmony. Minamino, valued at £17m and with AS Monaco leading the chase but with several others interested too, is expected to leave, while Origi has already departed on a free transfer. Neither of those players will be available to play in the domestic cups and so others will have to instead — be that senior stars or young talents like Kaide Gordon.
When Klopp spoke of having 'Ferraris in the garage' earlier this year, he did so knowing that it would probably not last. At some point, those Ferraris want to be driven — or to find a new owner that values them as they should.
Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association Chair Ted Morris will give his account on what happened on the day of the Champions League final to the French Senate on Tuesday.
There were chaotic scenes ahead of the European showpiece between Liverpool and Real Madrid on May 28, with long queues to enter the Stade de France, people seen breaching fences, reports of robbery and pickpocketing by locals and police using tear gas on supporters.
French senators last week demanded the state recognise responsibility and identify guilty parties behind the chaos outside the national stadium that marred the event.Sky Sports' Melissa Reddy explains the scale of distress suffered by disabled Liverpool supporters at the Champions League final that was heard by the French senate on Tuesday.
They also questioned why government officials allowed surveillance video of the scene, in which police pepper-sprayed fans and families, to be deleted instead of ordering it to be handed over to investigators.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of his appearance in Paris, Morris gave his account of the issues he faced that day in the French capital.
"We arrived at the station at 3pm and it was surprising that there wasn't a single police officer," he said.
"We headed up towards the stadium and went to a McDonald's for three hours. In those three hours, I've never seen so many fans pickpocketed in my life - it was one after the other. It was absolutely bizarre. That gave us an insight into how this day was going.Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol explains how the Champions League final delay occurred, with thousands of Liverpool fans being held up outside the Stade de France
"Then we made our way round to the soft ticket check area, which just wasn't fit for purpose at all. There were local people just walking in. I had a conversation with one of our police officers from Merseyside Police at around 6.15pm and he was extremely worried by events.
"It was just chaotic. There was no organisation, no police presence on the turnstiles to help or even act as a deterrent.
"I had no interest in the game because, for two hours, I was getting text messages from people at the club and our disabled supporters about the distress that was going on outside, so the game just became irrelevant. We could have won 6-0 and I still wouldn't have cared.
"I was going to leave at half-time and I got a message saying don't leave at half-time, it's not safe. So we stayed until the 86th minute, left the ground and the steward wouldn't open the gate. We had a heated discussion and he opened the gate because there were still loads of locals trying to get in.
"We headed off towards the underground station called La Plaine. We went under the underpass and there were lots of policemen there. As we left the underpass, literally within a minute, there were hundreds of locals to our right-hand side just attacking us. I'm in a wheelchair and I was terrified.French police used tear gas against Liverpool fans, stewards tried to hold back crowds with wheelie bins. Sky News has combed through footage from the Champions League final to find out what actually happened on that night
"There were bottles raining in, there were knives; they were running in, assaulting people and running out. And when we eventually got to the train station, the police tear-gassed us. I'll never understand that, no matter how they try and explain it.
"We went up in the accessible lift to the platform and there was a little girl about six years old in a Liverpool kit with her dad. Her eyes were streaming, red raw and she was completely and utterly traumatised. All she'd done was go to Paris to watch a festival of football and how she'll ever be able to go to a football match or even trust the authorities is beyond me. It was unnecessary and absolutely horrific."'We are going to Paris to expose the myths, lies and mistruths'
Joining Morris in front of the senate is Joe Blott - chair of Liverpool Supporters' Union Spirit of Shankly - who has told Sky Sports of his intention to "explain the horrors" of that evening in the French capital.
"Since I have been chair, it's probably the most important meeting that I have attended on behalf of Spirit of Shankly, Liverpool fans and football fans across the world," he said.Sky Sports News' chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol says the events outside the Stade de France do not tally with what French interior minister Gerald Darmanin considered fraud
"What we are hoping for is an opportunity to expose the myths, the lies and the mistruths that have been put forward by certain members of the French authorities. But also to explain the horrors of that evening, particularly for some fans with disabilities, and share some testimonials of people's experiences that night which will hopefully bring to life the problems that we had.
"First of all, it was Liverpool fans arriving late - and your footage alone dispelled that myth. We then heard that fans were scaling the walls to get in and they weren't Liverpool fans, as we know, because they were still outside. We know that Liverpool fans behaved absolutely impeccably during that time and, quite clearly, it was through their heroics that nobody was seriously injured or worse actually suffered loss of life as a consequence of that.
"The French authorities wanted to hold the game in Paris to show they could host an event such as this, but they quite literally have proven that they cannot do that, so they have got a lot of learning to do if they want to hold the Olympics [in 2024] and the Rugby League World Cup [in 2025]."'Hillsborough survivors and families horrified by similarities'
Blott added the events were glaringly similar to those that unfolded during the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, where 97 Liverpool fans were killed at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
He added: "It became a narrative that we have heard before as football fans - and particularly as Liverpool fans that, first of all, you don't look at yourself for blame; you look to point the finger at others and then when that myth gets dispelled, you pick another one and another one.Image: Liverpool supporters show their tickets as they struggle to get into the Champions League final
"We are happy to go through each of those myths and expose them for what they are - people just not taking responsibility for the actions they took on the night.
"We have been horrified, as have survivors and families of Hillsborough, by the similarities. We know what the truth is; it is legally watertight that no fans were involved in any kind of disorder at Hillsborough in 1989, so any slur from the French authorities put forward, we'll certainly be dispelling. Clearly they were trying to manage and control this on the basis that they didn't want fans in there; they wanted the event, but not the fans.
"They also disregarded the police intelligence that had been put to them by police authorities over here that, in the last 10 years, Liverpool fans have behaved impeccably abroad. Yet they chose to use a narrative that would suggest there were a whole host of hooligans coming. The problem then was that when those hooligans didn't arrive - because they don't exist - they still went to their own brutal tactics of treating us that way."'This is not just about Liverpool fans, it's about all football supporters'
Speaking on Sky Sports News on Tuesday morning, The Anfield Wrap's John Gibbons explained how the campaigning against the treatment is on behalf of the wider football community.
"You hope to hear of more accountability," he said. "The quotes we've been getting through from UEFA is a disgrace to be honest with you so it looks like they're not taking any responsibility.
"The blame has been placed on the fans in the same way the French government ministers. I want accountability and I also want no football fans to have to put up with what we went through.
"It's not about Liverpool fans, it's about all football supporters feeling they can go and celebrate the game. That's what it was in Madrid, it was in Kiev and it should've been in Paris.
"You want guarantees from UEFA that in the future they'll make sure it's much smoother and that supporters who have spent a lot of money to be there are treated much better and are safer.
"After what we'd been through, we couldn't really care about the result, and it was a Champions League final."
Philippe Coutinho was close to securing the ultimate redemption. Any lingering bitterness among Liverpool fans looked on the verge of being emphatically dispelled when the Brazilian doubled Aston Villa’s lead against Manchester City on the final day of the season, bringing the Premier League within touching distance.
Villa were ultimately unable to hold out, and Coutinho’s hopes of reingratiating himself at Anfield disappeared along with Liverpool’s title dreams. But with Sadio Mané set to move to Bayern Munich with the blessing and goodwill of fans, it would be understandable if the diminutive playmaker felt a little aggrieved.
There are certainly differences in the manners of departure. There have been no mysterious ‘injuries’ in Mané’s case. Coutinho, at best, was poorly advised. But the transfer realities are not so different as to explain the huge contrast in fan response.
After all, the sale of Mané is certainly driven by player power. There is no reason why Liverpool would be especially keen to get rid of one of their best players, especially at the relatively low price agreed with Bayern Munich. Indeed, the cost is the main difference: Coutinho never let his contract run into its final year, and therefore secured the club a huge payday when he decided it was time to go.
Nor can the difference be a matter of longevity. Coutinho was one of the club stalwarts at the time of his departure, having been at Liverpool for five years. Mané has been at Anfield one year longer, but surely this single season cannot make all the difference.
Mané gets credit in the bank for being professional to the last, and his performance as a false nine during the second half of last season was certainly impressive. But it should not be forgotten that Coutinho produced his best ever Liverpool form in the final six months. And while the infamous back injury was an unfortunate stain on his last half-season with the club, it should not erase all that went before.
There were certainly plenty of exquisite moments. Mané gets the benefit of being associated with far more success, having had the good fortune of being at the club during a trophy-laden period. But were his individual contributions significantly superior to those of Coutinho? The Brazilian will finish on more assists from 68 fewer games, having played in a worse side.
None of this is meant to denigrate Mané, who will rightly go down as a Liverpool icon. As part of a triumvirate with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, he changed the modern history of the club. Coutinho will certainly regret not staying to be a part of that. But what made him more obligated to stay than the man now seeking a move?
Ultimately, the most convincing conclusion is that the backlash against Coutinho came primarily from a place of insecurity. Liverpool, still trophyless under Jürgen Klopp but moving in the right direction, did not want to believe that their best players could still be lured away by ‘bigger’ sides. With the club now firmly established as among the best in the world, the altogether less loaded idea that Mané simply wants a ‘new challenge’ is far more palatable.
These players are all people, with real hopes and emotions. Whatever the legitimacy of Coutinho’s back injury, his dream of playing for Barcelona was genuine, just as it is for many South Americans. With Mané now set to have his wishes honoured with minimal fuss, it is increasingly hard to justify the visceral response to the last big Liverpool departure.
Whether it is in pursuit of a dream or a new challenge, players sometimes want to leave Liverpool. It is an increasingly rare ambition, and that is testament to the wonderful progress the club has made — Mané takes a fair amount of credit for that transformation. But while the Coutinho move was a bitter disappointment, perhaps it is time he takes his place among the fondly-remembered players to have graced Anfield.
In November 2019, Darwin Núñez was only just getting to grips with life in Europe when his new Almería coach, Real Madrid legend, Guti, pulled him aside for a chat at the club’s training ground.
“I remember the coach [Guti] said to him you remind me of when I was playing with Ronaldo Nazário. I’d take the ball, put it deep and I knew Ronaldo was there to run deep because he would beat everyone to those kind of balls. Darwin was the same,” Javier Agenjo Duran, Almería’s fitness coach at the time, recalls to Liverpool.com.
That was some comparison for a young forward who had not yet hit the ground running in his first venture at European football. During the first few months, Núñez struggled at Almería and faced an uphill battle to fight himself into the starting XI.
But the arrival of Guti and his new coaching staff, including Duran and David Badia, changed all of that. Within just a month of their arrival, Núñez was not just exhibiting Ronaldo-esque moves on the training ground, but on the pitch too.
“I mean, I cannot say he is exactly the same player because, for me, Ronaldo Nazário is one of the best strikers in the world of all time, but there are similarities. Of course, to become like Ronaldo, he still needs to show even more,” Duran says.
Before his move to Almería, Núñez’s career could have taken a completely different path. He was scouted by Uruguayan giants, Club Atlético Peñarol, at 14 but decided to stay with his family in his hometown of Artigas before taking up the club’s offer a year later and moving 700km away from his family home — all the way to the other side of Uruguay in Montevideo.
Gonzalo de los Santos was the club’s sporting director during Núñez’s formative years at Peñarol, and he looks back at his former protégé with a great sense of pride when speaking to Liverpool.com.
“My first contact with Darwin Nuñez was in 2017 when I was the sporting director of Peñarol,” De Los Santos explains.
“At first when I met him, his physical appearance already stood out. During his time in the academy, he was a footballer, adored by his teammates and with incredible talent. We said that in a short time he should be with us in the first team.”
An untimely anterior cruciate ligament injury curtailed that with Núñez suffering the blow in an academy game before his 18th birthday. He would have to undergo surgery to correct the problem and was subsequently ruled out for several months.
But despite the ordeal, Núñez came back strong and in the end, he made his debut at senior level in November 2017, replacing former Liverpool winger, Maxi Rodríguez, against Club Atlético River Plate.
His next appearance would be impeded by his ACL flaring up and his recovery being prolonged by another surgery, but despite the setbacks, Núñez was never fazed by the challenge of coming back.
“His attitude was always exceptional. He was always positive, a true leader and he always wanted to train more to improve. I have to say his mental level was always top. In the classic matches of Uruguay, he always stood out for his conviction and desire to improve himself,” De Los Santos explains.
Núñez’s setbacks were eased by the support of his family around him. His older brother gave-up football to support Darwin’s career, and family has always been an important bond for the young Uruguayan forward.
“His family is his support. He always remembers the work and sacrifice that his parents did. His brother was also a great player, but perhaps not of Darwin’s physical potential. His hometown is the farthest from Montevideo. They are 700 km away and he went to see them whenever he could.”
In the end, Núñez bounced back from his injury blows and during the course of 2018, he established himself in Peñarol’s first team, scoring his first senior goal and regularly coming off the bench to make an impact. The club’s philosophy and track record of developing young talent helped Núñez flourish, according to De Los Santos.
“Peñarol has always been a good place to develop young players. We taught players to grow not just when it comes to football but also on a personal level. From the players we have produced, you can see it is a giant and great club in South America and the world.”
Núñez is just one name among an impressive list in the club’s production line, including Federico Valverde, who have all gone on to achieve greater things since leaving the Uruguayan outfit. For Núñez, it was only a matter of time until he followed suit and, after an impressive showing in the 2019 U20 World Cup in Poland, the then 20-year-old forward would finally get his big move to Europe just three years after his first ACL setback.
His rise since leaving the club has not surprised De Los Santos.
“I always saw Darwin as a potential world-class player. I knew that his career in Europe would be very good and very fast,” De Los Santos concludes.
The first step
Moving to Almería was not just an exciting challenge for Núñez, it was also a relief in the sense that he could finally bring his family out of poverty and repay the faith they had placed in his career. One of the first things Núñez did after his move to Spain was to buy his mother a house in Uruguay.
On the pitch, the challenge of moving to a new environment was eased by the fact that he could speak the language and make himself understood among a team made up of largely South American and Spanish players.
“Almería is a really quiet city. It’s not a big city in Spain, the population is quite small,” the club’s assistant manager at the time, David Badia, tells Liverpool.com. “His character is very quiet, and he adapted very well. I think for him because the language is the same, it was easy to adapt.”
Despite the lavish move to Europe, Badia remembers that Núñez always remained humble on and off the pitch and was never materialistic about his spending.
“Me and my wife were in a shop once. He was buying a phone, but it was just a normal one, not the top, most expensive one he could find. I asked why he wasn’t buying a better phone. He said, ‘This is enough.’ In the end we were in the same position — he was buying for his mother, I was buying for my wife, but the model of the phone was different and his was more humble.”
On the pitch, Núñez’s positional rivals were enjoying a prolific spell in front of goals, and initially, he had to bide his time on the bench at Almería. But towards the end of the year, with the new coaching staff’s help and Guti’s arrival, Núñez exploded.
In his last 12 games before COVID-19 disrupted the Spanish footballing calendar, Núñez had scored 10 times, as opposed to just two goals in his previous eight matches.
COVID-19 came at the worst time for Núñez, putting a halt on his most prolific form to date at senior level. But while the rest of Spain were embroiled under harsh lockdown measures, Núñez used the three-month disruption to travel back home to Uruguay and continue working on improving his game.
“He moved to Uruguay during Covid time, and he worked there training on the pitch he bought by his house. He even got a personal trainer to keep himself fit during the period,” the club’s fitness coach, Duran explains.
“In that moment, that was good for him because most of us in Spain could not leave our houses and most of our other players were just running on treadmills and so on. So I think training on football pitches then helped him to improve.”
After coming back from lockdown Almería struggled for form, winning just four of their last 10 matches but Núñez still made five goal contributions to finish the season with 16 goals and two assists in 30 appearances — an output enough to convince Benfica to make him the most expensive transfer in the Portugal league’s history.
Mentality and work ethic
The rest is well documented. Núñez established himself within two seasons at Benfica as one of the best young forwards in the world and leaves the club having scored 47 goals and registered 16 assists in 84 games.
David Badia credits the 22-year-old’s rise to Núñez’s work ethic and mentality to improve.
“He is a very friendly, and very positive guy. He’s open to listen, he’s open to work and the coaches love players like that. Ones that you know are listening when you are speaking and they are not thinking that they know everything,” Badia explains.
Coming to Liverpool will be a new challenge for the Uruguayan. He will not only have to adapt to a new environment and a new language, but also to a high-intensity playing style under Jürgen Klopp’s gegenpress system at Liverpool.
The latter should be no problem, though. Since his early days at Peñarol, Núñez has stood out for his voracious appetite for the ball and willingness to hunt the opposition down.
“His most outstanding qualities were his athletic physique, winning mentality, exceptional ability in the air and, of course, he is a natural goalscorer. But one thing that stood out to me the most was that he always lent a hand in defensive transitions and chased back to help his teammates out,” Gonzalo de los Santos explains.
His former fitness coach, Javier Agenjo Duran, agrees.
“Physically, of course, he is ready. Obviously, it’s a big step ahead in his career, and he will know that he will have to work hard and run, but I think of course he is prepared for that.”
At just 23 years of age, Núñez still has the world at his feet, and should he succeed, he could be Liverpool’s number nine for the next decade to come.
There will be big expectations heaped on his shoulders because of the hefty fee Liverpool paid for his services, but he had faced the same situation at Benfica and with his hunger to improve and confidence in himself, Badia believes he can go far.
“He’s such a personality that he believes in himself. Because it’s true, you know, it’s easy for him to believe in himself when you are as good as him. With the quality of his teammates [at Liverpool] it is going to be much more easy for him to find positions to score than before.
“At the same time, he is also a player that is always trying to improve himself. At Almería, he was asking what is the best way to do something better in training every day, and then, of course, when he was missing in some actions in the training, he didn’t like it, and he tried to improve, and he tried to be better every day.”
I think this is the reason that he became so, so good and why he has a huge potential."
That desire, Badia believes, will make him a success at Liverpool, too.
“He is really clever. He’s really young, and he has a big motivation, and big hunger to improve on the pitch. I’m sure that he will not lose this opportunity, and he’s going to show the enormous potential that he has.”
Liverpool love to take the opportunity to bed in a young player during pre-season, and while the short summer thanks to the winter World Cup in Qatar means this off-season is not as long as would be ideal, Jürgen Klopp will still hope to continue to implement that pathway.
Last season, it was Kaide Gordon who stood out among the young talents, while Tyler Morton went on to play a role at senior level throughout the campaign. Pre-season was also used to develop Harvey Elliott in a new role.
This summer, even though there is only a month in which to prepare for another tightly-packed fixture schedule, there are already eyes on who the next emerging player might be.
"I think a coach should be judged much more on the young players he brings through," Klopp's assistant, Pep Lijnders, said in January. "For example, I spent yesterday morning at the Academy to speak with the coaches and [Academy director] Alex Inglethorpe.
"I really believe in our project looking at our Academy. We look all the time at the Academy. Our U18s played against Burnley in the FA Youth Cup; we had Bobby Clark, Luke Chambers, Stefan Bajcetic. They all stand out.
"I hope they come with us during the pre-season because it is important for them to have a proper pre-season to know exactly how we want to do things."
Not 18 until February, Bobby Clark, the first name on Lijnders' lips, has already spent time in first-team training in 2022 and is one of the stand-out names to watch out for at youth level. He could well, as the Dutch coach eluded to, be one to make a splash in pre-season games and, just as, if not more importantly, in training.
Signed from Newcastle United last summer, Clark scored 12 goals and provided five assists in 28 appearances in his debut season, playing largely for Liverpool's U18s, and he also scored the winning penalty in the UEFA Youth League shoot-out with highly-rated Belgian side Genk.
Liverpool beat off a host of teams including Manchester City and Bayern Munich to sign him in 2021 after a one-to-one with Klopp helped convince him to put pen to paper. Newcastle United were devastated to lose one of the most highly-rated players in the England youth system, and not least because he is the son of a Magpies legend in Lee Clark.
Capable of playing any of the attacking positions or in midfield, as the likes of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho can, Clark junior has already shown himself to be hugely exciting — a skilful dribbler with a keen eye for a final pass. That Jones, Elliott and others have been trusted with minutes in pre-season and beyond in recent times was pivotal to convincing him on the switch — and it could now be his time to follow in their footsteps before perhaps stepping up to play U23s football regularly next season.
"He is a really exciting player with bags of skill and talent. He could have lit up the stage at St James' Park but now he has gone to Liverpool and that is a real kick in the teeth," the Newcastle Chronicle's chief Newcastle United reporter Lee Ryder told Liverpool.com last summer.
"Bobby was Newcastle's most promising youngster. Tottenham were in for him, Bayern Munich were at one point, and I heard a host of other top clubs around the continent knew about him — but he decided to go to Liverpool.
"You have always go to be very careful with comparisons but for me — and I don't talk about this lightly — but at the same sort of age, you had a young Paul Gascoigne at Newcastle. The reality is that sort of raw skill reminds me a little bit of Gazza at the same age."
Comparisons with former players are not always helpful, but the early signs are that Liverpool have a gifted attacking player with plenty of quality. In Clark, they have their archetypal youngster: someone who can fill a variety of roles in midfield and attack, who works incredibly hard off the ball, and, crucially, who regularly clocks goals and assists.
The talent is there and Lijnders, among others, are big fans. Whether in this pre-season or some time beyond, Liverpool might just have another teenage gem on their hands for Klopp and his staff to polish.
A look into Darwin Nunez‘s statistics alongside these players goes some way to explaining why Liverpool’s transfer gurus were willing to break the club’s transfer record to get their man.
When Liverpool loosen their purse strings, they do so with a great deal of caution.
The very fact they were willing to put together a deal that is likely to make Nunez the most expensive player in the club’s history tells you everything you need to know about how highly they rate him.
When it became clear that Sadio Mane would be ending his six-year affiliation with Liverpool this summer, eyes turned to the player the Reds would choose as his replacement.Recruitment shines
With Mane playing the majority of the second half of the season as the central player in Liverpool’s attack, many assumed a striker would be targeted. Those assumptions were correct.
In typical Liverpool fashion, within a week of the links to Nunez having gained any credibility, he was through the door at the AXA Training Centre.
“To play alongside these ‘monsters’ is going to be something really special for me, because as a kid you dream of going far." ? pic.twitter.com/ZVkmS7LGmt
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) June 14, 2022
In many ways, this was exactly the sort of transfer Liverpool have steered away from in recent years. A player being touted on the market for €100 million, numerous interested parties, a recent change in agent and a potential bidding war.
That didn’t put them off. Newly appointed sporting director Julian Ward ensured the Reds were positioned at the front of the queue for the Uruguayan’s signature. An £85m package was agreed, with Nunez penning a six-year contract.
We know that Ward, his predecessor Michael Edwards and the rest of the Reds’ transfer committee have used statistics and player data to great success in their excellent player recruitment strategy.Numbers speak for themselves
Nunez’s numbers will have been put up against other possible targets, as well as Liverpool’s current forwards and similar players in the Premier League.
A dive into some of that data shows why they have deemed him the perfect addition to their attack at the perfect time.
This Is Anfield have put Nunez’s domestic numbers from last season up against Erling Haaland, Man City‘s much-coveted new striker, Son Heung-min, 2021/22 joint-Golden Boot winner with Mohamed Salah, as well as the Egyptian, Mane and Diogo Jota, the Liverpool forwards with the most appearances last season:
And it’s easy to see why Liverpool were prepared to go big for Nunez.
The comparisons to Man City‘s Erling Haaland are well underway, with the league’s two standout teams both announcing the signings of new star strikers within the space of 48 hours. Indeed, the race for the 2022/23 Premier League Golden Boot may well be the battle of the top knots!
Liverpool, like every other top team in Europe, will have liked what they saw from Haaland at Borussia Dortmund. A player who has been widely regarded as the game’s next best No. 9 for some time.
Unsurprisingly, they were priced out a deal for the Norwegian, with some reports claiming City’s deal could end up costing them around £300m when you factor in bonuses, agent fees and wages.
Interesting, then, that Nunez can boast a better goal conversion rate, a better shot success rate and more goals per 90 than Haaland, who played five league games fewer than the Reds’ new No. 27 last season.
The Uruguayan also outshines Son, a player who has been linked with the Reds in some quarters, in most aspects. Salah marks higher than Nunez for assists and expected goals, but that only makes the prospect of them combining in the same team all the more mouth-watering.
All signs point to the fact the Reds have acquired a clinical finisher. While Nunez and Mane are streets apart in terms of style, you would expect the ex-Benfica man will be able to replicate Mane’s numbers in front of goal and more.
Realistically, Luis Diaz was the more like-for-like replacement for Mane, and Liverpool’s coaching staff will be licking their lips at the prospect of fine-tuning the ex-Porto man’s game to make him more efficient in front of goal.
Nunez, in terms of the numbers he’ll be expected to bring to Liverpool’s attack, could be more of a long-term replacement for Salah, who is set to leave the club on a free transfer next summer as things stand. The fact Nunez can also operate wide in a front three will also have appealed to Klopp.
While it will be sad to see Mane, who will go down as a club great, leave for a new challenge this summer, nobody should be in any doubt that replacing him with a player like Nunez, who is eight years younger, is more astute business from Liverpool.
As Klopp’s first big-money signing, Mane has been at the heart of all of the success the club have had in recent years, but Liverpool are wise to not be offering him the reported £328,000 a week wages he’s reportedly set to earn at Bayern Munich.
Times a’ changin’ and there’s every chance Nunez will be leading the evolution of this hugely exciting Liverpool team.
Liverpool are likely to be in the market for a right-sided attacker in the next 12 months, with Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio and Darwin Nunez‘s ex-Benfica team-mate Rafa Silva said to be on the radar.Asensio or Silva to replace Salah?
With Mohamed Salah seemingly no closer to agreeing to a contract extension, eyes are starting to turn towards his potential replacement.
The 26-year-old scored 12 goals in 42 appearances for Carlo Ancelotti’s side last season but did not feature in the Champions League final, with Real said to be open to selling at the right price.
However, all signs point towards Liverpool having already wrapped up their signings for the summer and we’d be surprised if Asensio is a serious target, with a younger option likely to be pursued next year.
The Reds have also been tentatively linked to another right-winger today.
When Julian Ward and Liverpool’s recruitment team were drawing up plans to sign Nunez this summer, his Benfica team-mate Silva is also said to have caught the eye.
At 29, it seems the club ultimately decided that splashing out on the Portugal international would not have made financial sense.
Had Silva been a few years younger, though, The Athletic‘s Simon Hughes claims Liverpool may have been tempted to make their move, one that could even have persuaded them to cash in on Salah this summer.3 things today: Ox to stay put and Minamino angry?
Ramsay is loving every bit of his £6.5m “dream” move to Anfield.
— CALVIN RAMSAY (@CalvinRamsay) June 20, 2022
No matches of note in Europe tonight, but the diehards amongst us may want to stay up to watch Sao Paulo host Brazilian Serie A leaders Palmeiras at midnight BST!
Despite some suggestions over the weekend that Liverpool would be open to another loan move for Williams, a permanent departure is still expected this summer.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a productive end to the 2021/22 season on loan with Fulham and that has seen the newly promoted side eager to retain his services, with Nottingham Forest similarly interested.
The Saints have long been admirers of Williams having sought a loan move in January 2021 for the Welshman before reviving their interest last summer.
The cards did not fall to see Williams make a move to the south coast but renewed interest has seen them return to the fore as a potential destination for the defender.
A consistent position in the top flight will be the goal for Williams as he looks to push on in his development and keep his place in Wales’ side ahead of the World Cup in November.
“Right now, I just want to play football week in and week out,” Williams said back in April.
“I want to play as much as possible and gain as much experience as possible, and so far [Fulham loan] has definitely helped me.
“I want to be a Premier League player. For me, I think it’s the best and the toughest league in the world.
“And you always want to be playing against the best players in the world.”
If Liverpool want to get their main man, they will have to wait: Jude Bellingham is unlikely to be going anywhere this summer with Borussia Dortmund having already committed to one major sale in Erling Haaland's move to Manchester City.
Liverpool are understandably huge admirers of Bellingham but given Dortmund's tough stance, a move is only realistically going to be possible in the summer of 2023, as has long been the case.
Given the Reds' ageing midfield and the potential loss of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is courted by several Premier League clubs, Bellingham's 2023 availability leaves FSG and Julian Ward with a bit of a dilemma.
Ideally, Liverpool would want to fix the midfield void in the squad this summer. Last year, Jürgen Klopp's midfield options only dwindled with the departures of Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum and this summer that could get even worse.
Klopp will remember all too well what happened to the Reds when they didn't fix their vulnerability in the centre-back department following Dejan Lovren's departure which saw Liverpool suffer a horrific season defensively during the 2020/21 campaign. They ultimately only made the Champions League by a whisker.
The Liverpool boss will be reluctant to see a repeat of the same crisis in midfield, and as much as he will want to add Bellingham to the squad, he will need a temporary solution at least for the time being.
That temporary solution could be provided by the aforementioned Wijnaldum. According to the Irish Daily Star, there are 'whispers' at Liverpool about making a loan move for the Dutchman, who is reportedly available after just one season at Paris Saint Germain.
Wijnaldum may not have had the best year at PSG, but he is still a competent midfielder who is well versed at playing under Klopp's gegenpress and who would have no problems slotting into the Liverpool midfield.
His tenacity and technical ability made him one of the best midfielders under Klopp's era and at times during the beginning of last season, Liverpool certainly missed his presence.
A loan move would present little risk for FSG. Crucially, they would not have to commit to a transfer fee and sign a player who has already entered his 30s. In addition to that, they would still get a midfield who would allow Liverpool to continue to compete in all departments and emulate the feat of the Reds' success from last season.
If Liverpool can somehow get the deal done, then Wijnaldum might just be the temporary fix that FSG and Klopp both need before Liverpool make an attempt to lure Bellingham to Anfield next summer and secure their desired long-term solution.