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Updated: 12 hours 31 sec ago

Luis Díaz is about to explode at Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp plan can unleash his full potential

12 hours 41 min ago

In terms of the quality of his performances, you could argue that Luis Díaz was Liverpool’s most impressive attacker in the second half of last season.

He was surely the best January signing made by any Premier League side, edging Dejan Kulusevski at Tottenham Hotspur. His arrival seemed like a turning point in the Reds’ season, invigorating their push for glory on four fronts. Now he’s preparing for his first full season on Merseyside, and he may just be about to explode.

In his first 26 appearances for Liverpool, Díaz scored six goals. It was a reasonable return given that he only started 15 of those matches, but in terms of minutes per goal, he still fell short of his teammates. Díaz averaged one every 282 minutes, compared to 129 for Mohamed Salah, 164 for Roberto Firmino, 170 for Diogo Jota and 71 for Sadio Mané.

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He had actually been in devastating goalscoring form for Porto, with 14 in 18 Primeira Liga appearances before his January switch. So what can he do differently to push for the 20-goal mark at Liverpool?

Well, perhaps the first adjustment he ought to make is to take higher-quality shots. Díaz was actually second to Salah in terms of attempts per 90 minutes in the Premier League with 3.58, and yet he ranked the lowest among the five players listed above for expected goals per 90 (0.42). That’s because his xG per shot was just 0.12, again placing him fifth. For reference, Jota led the way with 0.18, closely followed by Mané and Firmino on 0.17.

Those numbers may be in pretty much line with supporters’ conceptions. One of the reasons Díaz is an electrifying player is because of his audacity — he doesn’t hesitate to cut inside onto his favoured right foot and whip a shot goalwards in an attempt to catch goalkeepers or defenders out.

Indeed, of the 2021/22 attacking quintet, Díaz recorded the furthest average shooting distance at 16 yards — near the edge of the penalty area — well above Mané (13.3) and Jota (11.8).

To take higher quality shots, and score more goals, he needs to get into better positions. That sounds pretty obvious, but how exactly does he do it?

Well, he needs to make more runs in behind the opposition defence when the opportunity arises, as he did in the 3-1 victory over Norwich City, exploiting the ill-judged starting position of Ben Gibson before dinking the ball beyond Angus Gunn.

He should be on the shoulder of the last defender, like he was against Brighton, when he beat the onrushing Robert Sanchez to Joël Matip’s teasing ball and nodded home, and against Benfica, when he gathered Naby Keïta’s incisive pass, took it round the goalkeeper and scored.

Indeed, what strikes you about Díaz’s goals so far, barring his long-range deflected effort against Tottenham Hotspur, is their simplicity. In addition to those already mentioned, there was his close-range tap-in to open the scoring against Manchester United, and a free header away at Villarreal.

And that’s another area he can target — getting on the end of crosses. Coming from the left, Díaz can be the recipient of deliveries from one of the finest suppliers in the game in Trent Alexander-Arnold, yet he only registered four headed attempts in last season’s Premier League.

That works out as 0.37 per 90, well down on Mané (0.64) and Jota (0.9), who have both shown that movement, anticipation and an impressive leap can compensate for a lack of height.

It’s worth stressing that Díaz should benefit considerably from his first pre-season at Anfield. After a breathless few months when recovery was perhaps deemed just as important as tactical guidance at Kirkby, the next few weeks of training should be far more valuable. Drills centred on positional play could prove especially fruitful for Díaz.

If he can carry his shot volume into more dangerous areas, then there’s frankly nothing stopping him becoming one of the best players in the world at Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp will attempt to coach that into him at the first opportunity during pre-season — the first time the pair can properly work together on how the Colombian will integrate into the team since his arrival.

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Liverpool have just been given two reasons to accelerate £103m Jude Bellingham transfer plan

14 hours 41 min ago

If a truly generational talent comes along, FSG and Liverpool are ready to break records.

When the Reds signed Alisson Becker from AS Roma for £66m in 2018, he became the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of football. Around six months earlier, they had made Virgil van Dijk their club-record signing, paying Southampton £75m.

And that benchmark may be surpassed by Darwin Núñez, who will cost £64m initially but potentially up to £85m depending on appearances and individual and team success.

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Alisson and Van Dijk have established themselves as arguably the best in the world in their respective positions during their time at Liverpool. The hope will be that Núñez can do the same. In each case, the idea was to splash out on a player who could make the position — goalkeeper, centre-back, striker — his own for the long-term, elevating the rest of the team in the process.

The one area where they’ve yet to make a historic addition is midfield. Naby Keïta remains the most expensive signing in that department at £52m. But that could soon change, and change emphatically.

Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham is the man Liverpool want. They know that the 19-year-old could offer more than a decade of world-beating service. But they also know that to sign him, they’ll almost certainly have to go bigger than they did for Van Dijk and Núñez.

According to an array of reports, Liverpool’s plan is currently to wait until next summer before they step up their interest. Dortmund don’t envisage a sale until 2023 but German publication Bild (via This Is Anfield) claim that they’ve already placed a price tag on Bellingham’s head: €120m (or £103m).

Signing Bellingham this summer would significantly boost Liverpool’s chances of taking the Premier League title from Manchester City. But even beyond that, there are other compelling reasons to bring the move forward if possible.

With Bellingham under contract until 2025, there’s a strong possibility that his price tag will only increase over the course of the season, especially if he shines at the Qatar World Cup at the end of the year. Bellingham wasn’t a starting option for Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020, but he’s now been selected for five of England’s last seven matches, suggesting he may be given more of a platform this time.

Crucially, there’s also reason to believe that Liverpool already have the money. The scouting team at Anfield operate two to three windows in advance, and so you would imagine funds have long been set aside for this marquee midfield addition. Indeed, finance expert Mo Chatra says that, after generating record turnover in 2021/22, Liverpool should be able to afford two blockbuster new arrivals. Núñez was the first, and the sales of Sadio Mané and Takumi Minamino could cover nearly 80 per cent of the base fee.

Dortmund, who have already lost Erling Haaland to Manchester City and may believe that they can fetch even more money in 2023, may be far from the most willing negotiating partners.

But it’s still so early in the window that they would be able to replace him well in advance of the start of the season. Indeed, you would imagine that they have a list of successors effectively on standby, having long accepted that they were a mere stepping stone for Bellingham.

What’s more, making a firm offer now could potentially unsettle the midfielder and prompt him to submit a transfer request. That would be a true test of Dortmund’s resolve.

They might want to keep hold of Bellingham in order to maintain a degree of stability, but an early bid could upset that and lead to a rethink.

Next summer, virtually every elite side will declare their interest in Bellingham. That includes Liverpool’s Premier League rivals, but also Real Madrid, for whom he is a priority target (according to AS).

As an Englishman, Bellingham might see his future in the Premier League, but Liverpool have already lost Aurélien Tchouaméni to the unique and powerful allure of Los Blancos, and so it shouldn’t be underestimated.

When Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and others inevitably make their approaches, an effective salary auction may well follow.

And at that stage, Liverpool, who try to keep new signings away from the top of their wage bill at first, might wish they’d at least attempted a bid in 2022.

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Mohamed Salah should heed latest contract 'warning' to solve Liverpool dispute once and for all

16 hours 41 min ago

Footballers are generally very private people. They never seem to want people to know what their true thoughts are on any particular subject.

You see it after matches, in more ways than one. In handshakes on the field, once the final whistle has blown, players will often cover their mouths when talking, lest some devious person skilled in the art of lip reading decipher what they are saying.

Then there are the post-match interviews, where media-trained stars frequently say little of genuine originality or interest for fear of slipping up in some way.

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Words can be twisted by supporters and media organisations eager for a scoop, so why take a chance by saying something unusual or controversial? It’s easy to see why players don’t take such risks, as trivial as they might seem.

Still, it can be fun to speculate about what footballers discuss in their down time. They enjoy lives mere mortals couldn’t realistically comprehend if they tried, so they can only truly talk about their experiences with their fellow professionals.

Liverpool supporters will have been very intrigued to see a recent social media post from Mohamed Salah, which contained a photo of him with former teammate Gini Wijnaldum. ‘Reminiscing’ read the one-word caption, but what might they have been discussing?

“Ah, Gini, I can’t believe we lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid again,” Salah might have said. “Yeah right, you needed my goals, like when you were injured and we beat Barcelona,” could have been Gini’s retort.

In reality they could easily have been reminiscing about any one of the 182 matches in which they played together. Finals won against Tottenham and Chelsea, with countless other big game victories to look back on too.

But they could have been talking about their time apart, in 2021/22, and what that might mean for their futures. It’s not unreasonable to say that Wijnaldum had a pretty disastrous time of it in his first campaign with Paris Saint-Germain. Being named as the Ligue 1 Flop of the Year by Get French Football News was likely an overreaction, but there’s no smoke without fire either. The Dutchman played for 80+ minutes in just 13 matches, and only four times in 2022.

With rumours of a loan move doing the rounds, it’s little wonder that the idea of a return to Liverpool has been floated. Indeed, perhaps when they met up Salah tried to convince Wijnaldum to make that move and re-join a club where his contribution was valued. But the better advice might have been flowing in the other direction. “Listen, Mo, the grass isn’t always greener.”

Unless he signs an extension to his Liverpool contract, rumours will persist that Salah will be leaving the club on a free transfer next summer. After six years of excellent service, he will owe them nothing, and if FSG are not willing to sanction the salary which he seeks then a parting of the ways would be inevitable.

While a goalscorer’s stock will always be higher than that of a midfielder, this is essentially what happened with Wijnaldum, and Emre Can before him. They moved on, only to find themselves unable to make an immediate impact at their next clubs. Gini’s recent experiences also show the value of remaining in a system for which a footballer is suited, and not jumping ship for a team which plays a different way.

Even if Wijnaldum encouraged Salah to sign for another team next year, he would surely warn him off joining the chaos at PSG. If the Egyptian were to rule out a move to the French capital, the already small list of clubs that could afford his salary would drop in size.

But who knows what they discussed? It’s easy to imagine how they reminisced; their thoughts on their respective futures, though, would be far more interesting to learn.

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Three players could be set to change their position at Liverpool as Pep Lijnders hatches plan

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 17:00

On Monday, the Liverpool squad will reconvene for pre-season training at the AXA Training Centre.

After beginning their summer programme in Kirkby, the Reds will jet off to Southeast Asia for friendlies against Manchester United and Crystal Palace in Bangkok and Singapore respectively.

Then it’s on to Austria, where they spent much of the 2021 off-season, for warm-up matches against RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg before the Community Shield against Manchester City on 30 July. A clash with Strasbourg at Anfield the following day rounds off the schedule.

If you discount the Community Shield — the first opportunity for silverware — then there are five friendly matches for fringe players and youngsters to leave their mark. Of course, they can also make an impression on the training field too.

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With the load of first-team stars carefully managed, opportunities open up. Indeed, Jürgen Klopp will often substitute the whole starting XI over the course of a friendly, as he did against Mainz and Hertha Berlin last summer.

For players in the academy, the audition process is already underway. They returned to Kirkby on Monday with assistant manager Pep Lijnders joining them, running the rule over the U21s and U18s, and deciding who will be joining Klopp’s pre-season squad.

Who, then, could significantly change their position and improve their standing at Anfield in the coming weeks?

One candidate is Tyler Morton. The Reds have seemingly decided not to sign another midfielder this summer, meaning they will remain without a natural back-up to Fabinho. Morton has predominantly operated as a central midfielder at academy level but Klopp mostly used him as a no. 6 across his nine first-team outings last season.

In the space of a month, he started Champions League games against FC Porto and AC Milan, and a Premier League game away at Spurs. However, he didn’t feature in either competition after the turn of the year, only making the Premier League matchday squad three times.

Morton’s composure and distribution are impressive, but he perhaps needs to demonstrate improved physicality in order to earn more responsibility next season.

There may also be a vacancy for Kaide Gordon. Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi have both left Liverpool, and the arrival of Fábio Carvalho only fills one of those spots. Gordon played just eight Premier League minutes last season but started domestic cup matches against Norwich City, Shrewsbury and Arsenal.

Minamino and Origi, by contrast, made 22 and 18 appearances respectively. If Liverpool decide not to consider external replacements, then Gordon could conceivably be promoted to a first-team back-up role.

He may only be 17, but he’s regarded as one of England’s outstanding teenage talents (part of his lack of minutes last season was also down to injury), and so his development could be accelerated. If he can be more ruthless in front of goal in pre-season than he was in his appearances last term, he may considerably boost his short-term prospects.

Another of the academy’s most exciting prospects is Oakley Cannonier. His record is sensational: 33 goals in 36 appearances overall for the Under-18s and one every 85 minutes in 2021/22. He was, unsurprisingly, the top scorer in the U18 Premier League.

Cannonier hasn’t established himself at U23 level yet, despite being older than Gordon, and so Lijnders might be hesitant. But if any U18 player is to get the call, it will surely be him. And if he holds his own in elite-level sessions, then he could be in line for his first senior outings in 2022/23.

All three players will hope to generate fresh excitement among the coaching staff and indeed the fanbase by showing that they’ve taken the next step.

And they may all benefit from the move to five substitutes in the Premier League, which should prove to be a blessing for young players.

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Julian Ward can help Liverpool strike gold with youngster who channelled 'prime Gareth Bale'

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 15:00

It’s a distant memory now, but back in the autumn of last season, Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson was coming under pressure.

Robertson, arguably the best left-back in the world when on form, had been struggling for a few weeks, with his deputy Kostas Tsimikas shining at every given opportunity. Many felt that his place was under threat.

"He’s pushing," Jürgen Klopp said of the Greek international at the time. "Kostas is much better than he was." But, without prompting, the manager also threw another player into the mix: "We have Owen Beck coming up, big prospect."

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In the medium term, Robertson and Tsimikas will continue to compete for the left-back spot. With the latter thus far showing no sign of discontent, it’s a perfect situation for Liverpool.

But Tsimikas (26) is only two years younger than the Scotsman, and so he can’t really be billed as a long-term successor. Instead, Liverpool might look to 19-year-old Beck to fill that role.

One of the outstanding players in the academy, Beck has registered 10 direct goal contributions (two goals, eight assists) in his first 38 Premier League 2 matches. He’s recording an assist every 4.75 matches on average, not far short of Tsimikas (4.3). Together with Conor Bradley, he formed an excellent full-back duo for the Under-23s.

Beck, the great-nephew of Anfield icon Ian Rush, has already earned seven caps for his country at U21 level.

He signed his first professional contract in June 2020, and just over a year later, he’d been handed a new five-year deal, a striking mark of his progress.

The Wrexham-born gem featured in Carabao Cup games against Preston North End and Leicester City, made the bench for three Premier League fixtures and, perhaps most tellingly, trained with the first team in the days leading up to the Champions League final in Paris.

What about his package of attributes? Well, in the words of talent scout Jacek Kulig, it’s ‘spectacular’. Pace, dribbling, ball control, dynamism, tackling, crossing and bravery are all listed as strengths.

Beck, Kulig says, plays with real ambition, driving with the ball and looking to reach the penalty area. He even compared him to a ‘prime Gareth Bale’ after he surged past three Juventus players on a solo charge in a UEFA Youth League game.

There’s plenty of justifiable excitement around Beck, then, but in the immediate future, he’ll be heading out on loan. According to reports, Liverpool have received offers from Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Primeira Liga.

While there’s interest from the EFL too, the club would rather send him to a top-flight club in Europe and given him the opportunity to face Europa League and Champions League-level opposition.

However, they face a significant dual challenge. First and foremost, he has to play enough games. As a teenager who’s only notched 10 first-team minutes at Anfield, he simply can’t expect to start week-in, week-out. But equally, Liverpool’s plan may not pay off if he’s restricted to cup outings and late league run-outs.

And second, the stylistic fit must be right. It’s important that he has the opportunity to get forward, rather than playing for a side that is often camped in its own final third by design or by necessity.

If Beck is to play regularly in one of Europe’s top six leagues, then the reality is he’ll probably be in the lower reaches of the division. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play under an attack-minded or aggressive coach.

Of the three continental options, the Primeira Liga stands out as the likeliest destination. Julian Ward has an extensive network of contacts in Portugal, having worked as the country’s head of analysis and technical scouting before managing Liverpool’s scouting network in the Iberian peninsula.

Ward then went on to become the Reds’ loan manager as part of his ascent to the role of sporting director. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take an active involvement in this particular decision, in conjunction with loans manager David Woodfine.

Encouragingly, Klopp hailed Ward’s track record in the loan department as ‘incredible’. If he strikes gold again, then Liverpool could be reaping the rewards long-term.

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Raphinha transfer decision can influence Liverpool and could lead to Jürgen Klopp opportunity

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 13:00

While all football clubs will have their plans, hopes and dreams mapped out for the transfer window, very few get exactly what they want. The 98 teams in Europe’s top five leagues completed 1,555 deals last summer so that’s a lot of jigsaw pieces to fit together in the picture of ins and outs.

For relegated sides, it can feel more like Jenga than a jigsaw, with key pieces removed by vulturous clubs in the division above until their team collapses. The more interesting parallel for some would be Pop Up Pirate. They put more and more players into their barrel until one is deemed surplus to their requirements and pops out of the top to land elsewhere.

Few teams plan their board games better than Liverpool. Most Kopites would view Michael Edwards’ moves over the last few years as chess-like, and probably of the five-dimensional variety. But that isn’t to say they wouldn’t take advantage of a potential target being forced out elsewhere.

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One of the key pieces moving around the Premier League chess board this summer looks set to be Raphinha. The Reds have been linked with the Brazilian for over a year, yet whatever interest they held appears to have cooled.

David Lynch recently provided an insight into their thinking on Blood Red’s Liverpool Transfer Daily show: “My sense, from conversations I’ve had, is that they don’t think he is a ‘game-changer’ level of forward that is worthy of this Liverpool team.”

The 25-year-old could be a game-changer for the Reds in another sense though, depending upon where he decides his future lies. Having been strongly linked with Arsenal, focus then shifted to a potential move to Chelsea. If rumours are to be believed, Barcelona are now ready to enter the fray too.

For Leeds United, his club, this is ideal. Any kind of bidding war can only be a benefit for them, with figures of £55m already being bandied about for a player Transfermarkt rate as being worth closer to £40m. If a deal goes through at the higher mark, then Raphinha would be the third most expensive deal of the summer so far, and the costliest sale made by a Premier League club.

Liverpool may hope he remains in England, for the knock-on effects a deal could have. If Raphinha joins Arsenal, then would that force Bukayo Saka to consider his future? The England international has been frequently linked with Liverpool, and could find himself pushed down the pecking order at club level, particularly if he has Gabriel Jesus to compete with too.

While both he and Raphinha are versatile and can play multiple positions, they both saw more of their starts on the right of the attack than anywhere else. Saka would likely choose to fight for his place in 2022/23 but might be looking for a move next summer when the Reds could be hunting high and low for a Mohamed Salah replacement. The Arsenal number seven would only have a year remaining on his contract at that point too.

Something similar could occur at Stamford Bridge if Raphinha decides to make west London his new home. In this instance, it could be Hakim Ziyech who finds himself pushed towards the exit door. Liverpool’s supposed interest in him dates back further, to 2019 when he was still at Ajax, though the odd story has trickled out since.

The Moroccan made 19 starts in the league and five in Europe in 2021/22, and as with Saka they were more frequently on the right of the front three than anywhere else. He too could face a fight for regular football with both Raphinha and a former Manchester City player, as Chelsea are rumoured to be looking to sign Raheem Sterling.

Clearly there are a lot of ifs, buts and idle speculation in the above. Don’t be surprised if similar thoughts have also floated through the minds of the transfer team at Liverpool though. The fun and games of the window may not be over just yet.

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Jürgen Klopp could be about to get a first-hand look at ideal Liverpool midfield transfer fix

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 05:00

Liverpool still feel a little short in the midfield department this season. While the club are adamant their business is done for the summer, Julian Ward could change his mind if the right player becomes available.

The Reds will want to add a specific type of midfielder to their ranks. One who would be able to cover several roles in midfield, and who has the work-rate to suit Jürgen Klopp's intense gegenpressing regime.

At the same time, this player would need to be relatively young and someone who would rejuvenate the club's ageing midfield options, while also being available for the right price. It's an extensive list.

Konrad Laimer, at 25 years of age, is a midfielder who ticks all of those boxes. According to SportBild, the midfielder is available for as little as €30m this summer, which is around £26m. The player has just one year left on his contract, explaining the relative discount.

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RB Leipzig are yet to receive an offer for the midfielder, which is somewhat surprising given Laimer has experience in the Champions League and Europa League, as well as being a regular with the German giants. He helped take them to the DFB Pokal title last season.

It is also somewhat surprising that Liverpool have not been credited with interest for the player, considering Klopp's need for reinforcements in the position. Laimer is available for an affordable figure this summer, and has the playing style and work-rate to match what Liverpool require in the team.

Add to that FSG's strong relationship with Red Bull, and the deal makes even more sense. In the past few seasons, the Reds have conducted numerous pieces of business with both Leipzig and Salzburg, and they will face both teams in pre-season this summer.

Liverpool will play RB Leipzig on the 21st July, and Laimer should be in the squad unless something changes radically in the coming weeks in terms of his future. If he does feature, Klopp will be able to get a first-hand look at the Austrian international and assess his qualities in the flesh.

For Laimer, that will be an opportunity to not only showcase his ability to play in a holding midfield and box to box role but also to continue his purple patch from last season, with the 25-year-old making five goal contributions in his last nine Bundesliga appearances before the end of the campaign.

A good performance could put him on the agenda for Liverpool and open up the potential of a transfer. If not this summer, perhaps next, when he would be available on a free contract.

What the future holds, only time will tell, but Laimer is a player to keep a close eye on, and a bargain Liverpool would do well to land. Klopp may soon get to see that for himself.

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Liverpool will watch closely as Serie A rule change could have huge effects on Man City rivalry

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 03:00

Serie A is changing its format from next season.

The new rule only pertains to the top of the table and the fight for the Scudetto. Should the two teams at the top finish the season on equal points, then a play-off game will happen in order to crown a new champion, rather than the old method of head-to-head record in the two games during the season.

This new ruling has come into being due to the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina, who is attempting to shake up the Italian game and to make it ‘more attractive’. Yet the chances of two sides ending on equal points remains remarkably slim, considering it hasn’t happened for decades.

The last time two teams finished level in Serie A was back in 1964 — ironically, the rules of the day required a play-off between Inter and Bologna. Since then, the league has been awarded on the usual basis of topping a league with the most points.

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It could’ve happened in the season just past, with Milan and Inter going into the final day with a chance of winning the title. Had Milan drawn against Sassuolo instead of winning 3-0, the Milanese cousins would have been tied on 84 points.

So what if a similar scenario happened in the Premier League, and how would it affect Liverpool?

The Reds pushed Manchester City all the way in the fight for the title race in 2021/22, going into the final day of the season with all to play for. in the end, Liverpool’s win against Wolves wasn’t enough, as Aston Villa couldn’t hold on against City to deny Pep Guardiola’s side from winning a fourth title in five years.

But imagine a scenario in which both sides did end in a point stalemate, something hardly beyond the realms of possibility given the fine margins between Liverpool and Man City. Who would benefit?

The answer would be arguably Liverpool.

Both teams squared off against each other three times last season, and Manchester City couldn’t manage to beat Liverpool once. Liverpool’s trouble over the last few seasons hasn’t been about beating City, it’s always been about having the squad depth to maintain a title tilt in such relentless conditions.

Liverpool have always managed to beat City in one-off games. But by the same token, City have also beaten Liverpool, with the last a 4-1 demolition at Anfield in February 2021.

Yet imagine the tension, the pressure, the excitement and the build-up for fans of both sides if the title came down to a one-off game? It is almost unimaginable — but the emotion of the occasion could well favour Liverpool.

As football tries new ways to appeal to a wider audience, this may be something that becomes in the norm in the coming years. The Americanisation of the beautiful game could see play-offs slowly creep more and more into the game, and not just for title deciders for teams on equal points.

Yet for now, the league system still captivates fans of the Premier League. If Liverpool are to overthrow Man City, they will need to do it the orthodox way.

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Liverpool star with Joël Matip trait may have just caught Jürgen Klopp's eye with special moment

Thu, 06/30/2022 - 01:00

Liverpool's academy in the last decade has experienced a bit of a revival.

During the 1990s, the club produced the likes of Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher. But in the early 2000s, the biggest names to leave Kirkby were Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly.

That changed in the 2010s. FSG's takeover heralded an increased focused on the academy and it has reaped rewards with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Conor Coady, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones making a breakthrough in the team or succeeding elsewhere in the Premier League.

Jürgen Klopp, who has a knack for working with young talent, has also helped to facilitate that at Anfield with the Liverpool boss always open to promoting from within and not fazed by throwing youngsters in at the deep end.

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Last season, Klopp gave debuts to the likes of Conor Bradley, Kaide Gordon and Tyler Morton, who are all highly-rated by the club's academy staff. They have been tipped to have successful senior careers in the future.

This season, Klopp will likely introduce more players into the first team. One such star could be Jarell Quansah.

The England U19 international is currently on duty with the Three Lions at the U19 European Championships in Slovakia, where he has been featuring regularly for his side at centre-back. Last night he scored a crucial winner against Italy in the semi-final of the competition to take England to the final.

It is not the first time Quansah caught the eye for England. During the qualifiers against Malta he had his own 'Matip-esque' moment, when he brought the ball forward from deep, skipping past several defenders and laying off a sumptuous pass for Alfie Devine to finish into the back of the net. You can watch the clip of the run here, starting from 0:05.

His positional rival Billy Koumetio has so far tasted more first team action for Liverpool, but Koumetio has been sent out on loan this summer, and his departure could be an opportunity for Quansah to catch the eye.

Something Quansah will be more than ready for, considering he statistically outperformed Koumetio last season.

In the UEFA Youth League last season, Quansah averaged more defensive duels (5.6 per 90) than Koumetio (2.83), and enjoyed a better defensive duel success rate (58.3 per cent over 54.2 per cent), as per Wyscout. He also won 77.3 per cent of his 3.46 aerial duels per 90 and averaged 6.45 interceptions — again outperforming his defensive partner Koumetio.

Composed on the ball, as well as being an accomplished defender, Quansah has even featured at right-back for the club's U23 side this season, and he is an extremely intelligent player. Having only turned 19 years of age in January, he is still very young, and has plenty of time to make his mark in senior football.

He will be hoping to take some silverware back to Liverpool when he returns to pre-season, and whether he will start with the academy or the first team is still undecided. But with moments like his header at the Euros, he must be on the cusp of catching Klopp's attention.

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Jürgen Klopp has ended biggest Liverpool debate as Naby Keïta could be set for new contract

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 17:30

There isn’t a more divisive player in the current Liverpool team than Naby Keïta. The Guinean has been at the club for four years now and many Liverpool fans feel they are still waiting to see who the ‘real’ Keïta is.

The Keïta issue tends to go as follows: there are those in the pro-Keïta camp, who believe that he is good when he’s on the pitch, and that his best qualities aren’t always those that can be easily picked up by TV cameras. Then there are those in the anti-Keïta camp, who believe he’s injury prone and doesn’t particularly excel in any given area.

Take a glimpse through social media platforms whenever Keïta plays for Liverpool and one can find a real mix of extremes, with people excessively lauding his performances, and others severely criticising him for the simplest of things.

READ MORE:Julian Ward may be about to repeat clever Liverpool transfer trick that will help Jürgen Klopp

READ MORE:Jude Bellingham 'the only man on Liverpool list' as Darwin Núñez could be eclipsed in pre-season

Keïta, it seems, brings out the worst in Liverpool fans.

Yet the former RB Leipzig midfielder has a chief ally in Jürgen Klopp, with Klopp calling him ‘one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga’ when the club bought him in the summer of 2018.

It’s presumably because Klopp is a big fan of Keïta’s that there are reports Liverpool are in talks with the player about extending his contract. Having been mentioned as a likely outcome earlier in the window, The Athletic report that the club are now 'pushing' for his signature.

Keïta’s current deal expires in 12 months' time, and the club won’t want to lose him for free in the summer of 2023. A move away this summer is also unlikely, given that Klopp needs every available body in midfield for 2022-23, as the club are supposedly looking to make a move for Jude Bellingham next summer.

So tying Keïta down makes the most sense, which is bad news for those in the anti-Keïta camp.

Last season was his most productive in terms of minutes on the pitch since joining the club. Keïta managed to stay relatively injury-free (by his own standards), missing only eight games. He clocked in some 2,000 minutes last season, scored four times and contributed three assists.

However, this only amounted to 14 starts in the Premier League and five in the Champions League. And critics have always used his transfer fee against him, as well as his inability to stay healthy, as proof that he isn’t a Liverpool-level player.

Yet Klopp has no doubts, and said as much earlier this year. “Naby, I would say, is one of the best midfielders I ever saw,” said Klopp in January.

That’s remarkably high praise indeed.

Retaining Keïta makes perfect sense. He’s still young enough that Liverpool could sell him in a year’s time should the club feel the need to, and they could still make back a portion of the mammoth £52m they spent on him in 2018. Moreover, he can still give his contributions throughout a season when fit, and he has a fan in Klopp who knows when and how to utilise him.

So renewing his contract is the right call to make, even if the critics will be sharpening their knives once more.

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Jude Bellingham 'the only man on Liverpool list' as Darwin Núñez could be eclipsed in pre-season

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 16:00

Liverpool are just days away from the start of pre-season, with the 'break' seeming to have passed in the blink of an eye. It will not be long before Darwin Núñez makes his eagerly-anticipated debut, but that's just one of many exciting things on the horizon.

Away from the looming return of the Reds, transfer rumours continue to rumble on in the background. Specifically, links to Jude Bellingham are reaching fever pitch, with the prospect of a 2023 deal talked up in many corners.

We asked Liverpool fan Nick Sapia a few questions about the Reds.

Transfers appear to be finished for the summer. Are you happy with that, or should Liverpool be looking for one or two more?

Yes, I am happy, and I think this will ultimately be seen as a critical window in Liverpool's evolution. Darwin Núñez is a statement signing, the club handled the Sadio Mané situation swiftly and deftly, and the potential of Fábio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay is exciting. The squad is set up for long-term success.

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There is clamour for another midfielder, as it's the one area of the squad where FSG haven't made a significant refresh. Still, Liverpool have repeatedly proven that they will make the right choice over the expedient one, and I think they've earned the benefit of the doubt on this.

That said, Liverpool are always a little cheeky about their plans this time of year, and it wouldn't shock me if there were a few more twists and turns.

Pre-season starts in less than a week! Who are you looking forward to watching ahead of the new campaign?

It's hard to believe! A new season is exciting, but I do feel for the players, who could probably use a slightly longer break. It will be an unorthodox pre-season given the quick turnaround and the unique season ahead of us.

Obviously, I can't wait to see Núñez and Luis Díaz with a pre-season under their belts, but for me, it's Curtis Jones. Suppose he can make a bit of a jump, find some more consistency, and put himself in the conversation to start every week. If that happens, we'll have few worries about the midfield.

Jude Bellingham appears to be the obvious midfield target for 2023. Would he be the one for you, or is there anyone else you think worthy of a mention?

It does seem like he is the extent of the list at the moment, and it's hard to argue against him. He ticks so many boxes at such a young age and is the obvious choice to build the next iteration of the midfield around.

He won't come cheap, both in terms of fee and his wage demands, and there's likely to be serious competition. If I'm building a target list behind Bellingham, I'd have Salzburg's Luka Sučić next up, given that he's of a similar age and looks like he has a lot of promise, and Nicolò Barella third on the list.

Anything else to mention?

I'm curious to see the tactical approach this season. I suspect we may see a lot more 4-2-3-1 with the likes of Roberto Firmino playing as an attacking midfielder. It seems clear that Jürgen Klopp is building a team of talented players with positional flexibility. I think he'll want to find ways to get Firmino on the field with Núñez, Díaz and Mohamed Salah.

This formation will help get more combinations of players on the field at certain times, while resting other midfielders and offering a bit of unpredictability.

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Liverpool just got exciting Fábio Carvalho hint as Jürgen Klopp 'will not accept' transfer myth

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 14:30

Liverpool waved goodbye to Takumi Minamino this week, as the Japanese international completed his move to Ligue 1 side Monaco.

Minamino’s two-and-a-half years at the club weren’t an overwhelming success, but neither were they an outright failure: the truth is somewhere in the middle. He was pivotal for Liverpool last season in the earliest rounds of the cups, scoring a bagful of goals as they breezed through in the early going.

Minamino found playing time more difficult to gain when it came to the Premier League. He played a sum total of 176 minutes across the entire campaign. Yet even within that relatively short time, he still managed to score three goals.

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Despite the lack of game time in general across the season, Minamino’s impact, mostly unseen, was made public by Jürgen Klopp in his tribute to the departing forward, as he trades Liverpool for the Principality.

Speaking to the club’s official website, Klopp waxed lyrical about his now-former forward, saying: “It’s hard to see Taki go, but it’s a great move for him and one he thoroughly deserves.

“An amazing professional; super, talented player. As a person, he is full of warmth and makes everyone feel positive. A manager’s dream, to be honest.

“I’m sure there will be those who think it didn’t quite work out. Those who think this are wrong. I don’t accept that.

“His contribution far outweighs the opportunities we were able to give, in terms of starting matches. He made us better each and every day he was with us – not just in the games he played in but every single session in training. Perfect attitude, winner’s mentality.”

There have been question marks as to who will replace Minamino in the squad. Who will be that player to start in the early rounds of the cups? This has become an even more pertinent question with the departure of Divock Origi, who has joined Milan.

The likes of Fabio Carvalho, Kaide Gordon and Harvey Elliott could be the ones brought in to take over the Minamino role. Considering Klopp’s effusive praise of Minamino in the wake of his departure, if the German is to trust the likes of Elliott, Gordon and Carvalho to effectively replace Minamino, then that is a huge level of faith.

The young trio will no doubt get their chances, just like Minamino did, in the cup competitions. Moreover, with Klopp perhaps contemplating a switch in formation due to the amount of attacking talent within the squad, Carvalho, Elliott and Gordon could all see game time increased in a way that wasn’t possible for Minamino in the 4-3-3.

The young trio have a long future ahead of them, and next season will be about developing and improving, especially for Elliott and Gordon, who tasted first team football at various points last season. For Carvalho, it will be about settling into the club and impressing Klopp.

But given the high estimation Klopp holds Minamino in, instilling his faith in Gordon, Elliott and Carvalho is a wonderful show of faith. It will be up to them to seize their moments, just like Minamino did when he got on the pitch. Especially for the new man, it is a huge vote of confidence: it's set to be an exciting season ahead.

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Liverpool could target £63m dynamo Jürgen Klopp loves as transfer can new midfield dimension

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 03:00

It’s almost a certainty that Liverpool will aim to buy a midfielder next summer. It had been thought that the club would sign one this summer after losing Gini Wijnaldum a year ago without signing a replacement.

However, it seems Jürgen Klopp is content with his current crop of midfielders, and is happy to forgo another season without having signed a replacement for Wijnaldum.

All signs point to a big signing in midfield in the summer of 2023, when the likes of Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contracts expire. Keïta could, and likely will, renew with Liverpool, but Oxlade-Chamberlain's future is in serious doubt.

READ MORE: Forward 'like Luis Suárez' is 'on his way to Anfield' as Liverpool could make 'explosive' transfer

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp forced to accept pre-season change as Liverpool prepare money-spinning compromise

Much speculation has centred around Liverpool holding off for a year to sign Jude Bellingham, but they shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, and a list of targets should be drawn up.

One name that will very likely be on the list is Inter dynamo Nicolò Barella, who Transfermarkt value at £63m, and who is under contract until 2026.

The Italian is an integral part of the Nerazzurri set-up in midfield, and it’s believed that Klopp is a big fan of the former Cagliari player.

Barella was signed by Inter in the summer of 2019 and quickly became a cornerstone of Antonio Conte’s side. Possessing a mixture of pace, strength, running and a powerful shot, his short height belies just how physical a footballer Barella is. He flies into tackles and is just as good as battling to win the ball back as he is when in possession of it.

He’s one of the only few Italian midfielders in recent years who can do it all in midfield, with Italy typically producing either footballers like Andrea Pirlo or Marco Verratti, who sit deep, or attacking midfielders like Domenico Berardi or Lorenzo Pellegrini.

The last box-to-box midfielder Italy produced of Barella’s quality was arguably Roma legend Daniele De Rossi in the early 2000s.

Last season, Barella scored three times and provided 13 assists in 36 league games as Milan wrestled the Scudetto from Inter’s clutches, but Barella was one of Inter’s best performers of the season, and without him in midfield, the Simone Inzaghi’s side aren’t the same.

This was evident in the two meetings against Liverpool in the Champions League when Barella was suspended for both games (much to the delight of Jürgen Klopp, who made reference to his quality in his pre-match press conferences). Inter lacked Barella's incisiveness and dynamism in midfield, with everything they did very laboured and slow.

Liverpool still would have progressed had Barella been available, but it would have made it more of a fight, and very much a lot closer than the actual games were, even though Inter won at Anfield.

Inter’s financial problems also aren’t going away anytime soon. Even with the return of fans to stadiums in Italy after the pandemic, the club will likely close their accounts for the 2021/22 season with a loss of £103m which, while bad, isn’t anywhere close to the £212m they posted a year ago.

The debt will likely still be high in a year’s time, and Liverpool could take advantage of that. It seems Inter will still have to sacrifice a big name this summer, with Milan Škriniar on the verge of joining Paris Saint-Germain.

Next summer, it could be Barella.

Barella would be ready-made for Liverpool’s midfield, with his combustible style perfectly fitting for Klopp’s 4-3-3. Moreover, at 25, he’s coming into the prime of his career, and a 2023 summer move would be the perfect time for Barella and Liverpool to make a deal happen.

Whether Inter will want to let Barella go is a different matter, but given their financial state, they may not have a choice, even a year from now.

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FSG may already be working on the perfect Mohamed Salah transfer plan for Liverpool next summer

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 01:00

Mohamed Salah — a name once worshipped at the Kop, despite still being a Liverpool player, his name has evoked apathy from a large section of the supporters base at Anfield of late.

Salah is a world-class talent who was undoubtedly one of Liverpool's best players last season, but with his long-term future in doubt, there is increasing trepidation he could depart the club on a free contract next summer and move to pastures new.

He will leave behind him an indelible legacy, and also a major void if he does decide not to extend his current deal. The gaping abyss left from his absence will be a mighty task for Julian Ward to fill. But it seems like the club's sporting director is already working on a plan to ensure Liverpool are prepared for the possibility.

READ MORE: Forward 'like Luis Suárez' is 'on his way to Anfield' as Liverpool could make 'explosive' transfer

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp forced to accept pre-season change as Liverpool prepare money-spinning compromise

According to Sport, Liverpool are in discussion with Serge Gnabry, who also has an expiring contract with Bayern Munich next summer, and who the club could potentially see as an heir to Salah's throne at Anfield.

Predominantly playing on the right-wing, but also capable of playing on the left and in central roles, Gnabry's profile is similar to that of Salah as we have previously highlighted here. In key metrics, they match up well together but the key difference is that Gnabry is over three years younger than the Egyptian star and therefore Liverpool may be more open to giving him a long-term contract on the wages he would demand.

Not to mention, there will be a lure of replacing a player departing on a free with a player arriving on a free contract is one FSG will regard as the perfect solution to what would have been an otherwise hefty financial challenge considering there are few players of Salah's ilk on the market and most cost excessive figures.

Next summer, if he were to arrive on a free contract, Gnabry would be on the brink of turning 28 years old. He would be about to enter his prime years in his position and still have plenty of seasons left at the pinnacle of the game.

It's a sort of future proofing for Liverpool who will hope by the end of Gnabry's time at Anfield, his successor will already be primed through the likes of Kaide Gordon or Ben Doak, who have both been brought into the club's academy over the last years and a half with extremely high hopes and will be expected to make a gradual progression into the first team.

Gnabry has proven over the last few seasons his talent in the Champions League and the Bundesliga, and while he may not ever hit the heights of Mohamed Salah, he has the ability and potential to reach close to it.

Few players offer a guarantee of goals like Salah, but Gnabry, with 104 goal contributions in 171 appearances for Bayern Munich, would certainly come close.

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Real Madrid sound Jude Bellingham transfer 'warning' as Liverpool know 2023 plan's risks

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 22:00

Liverpool aren’t likely to make a move for a new midfielder this summer, despite a move seemingly making sense. The club still haven’t replaced Gini Wijnaldum, but it seems like they intend to hold off from making a big purchase in the middle of the park until next summer.

According to many, Liverpool intend to make a serious move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham in the summer of 2023. This makes sense in a lot of ways as the likes of Fabinho, Thiago Alcântara and Jordan Henderson will be a year older, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely leave the club upon the expiration of his contract.

Moreover, Bellingham gets another year of top-class football under his belt at Dortmund, and given that he’s only about to turn 19, has a very bright future ahead of him.

READ MORE: Forward 'like Luis Suárez' is 'on his way to Anfield' as Liverpool could make 'explosive' transfer

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp forced to accept pre-season change as Liverpool prepare money-spinning compromise

However, Liverpool can’t sleep on Bellingham. According to reports in Spain, Real Madrid are considering making a 2023 move of their own for the former Birmingham player.

News outlet AS report that Madrid have identified Bellingham as their big midfield signing for next summer, after signing Aurélien Tchouaméni this summer for around £86m.

While a lot could change in a year, the last thing Liverpool need is to enter into a competition with Madrid for Bellingham, with FSG resistant to get into such battles with other teams for targets, preferring instead to have a clear run in order to keep the price down.

As history has proven time and again, the allure of playing for Madrid tends to win the day in a lot of cases, despite Liverpool’s own standing in the game, and so there is no guarantee that just because Bellingham is English, he would prefer a move to Liverpool if it came down to a choice between the two sides.

It’s just another reminder that Liverpool can’t take Bellingham for granted and that they must have something in place with Dortmund this summer, some agreement or another, that ensures that Bellingham stays where he is for the next year, but that in 2023 he moves to Anfield.

Liverpool no doubt know the risks involved in waiting a year for Bellingham. The club did the same with Fábio Carvalho, after his January deal broke down at the last minute. Other clubs could have come in and swooped for Carvalho ahead of a summer move, but Liverpool knew a deal wasn’t far away, and so bided their time to sign him officially.

Moreover, despite prioritising Bellingham for the midfield next summer, the club will no doubt have contingency plans put in place in case things don’t go according to plan, with it being said that the likes of Nicolò Barella, Luka Sučić and Ibrahim Sangaré all supposedly appreciated by Jürgen Klopp and the club.

Either way, the summer of 2023 will likely be a big one for Liverpool’s midfield, and the hope will be that Bellingham will be the marquee signing, but Madrid have sent a warning that waiting is a risky game.

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Liverpool can sign ideal Jürgen Klopp midfielder if FSG continue Michael Edwards transfer trend

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 15:00

While a portion of Liverpool's fanbase may prefer to see Liverpool add to their midfield ranks this summer, the likelihood at the moment is that Julian Ward will only fulfil that priority next year.

Jude Bellingham seems like the preferred target for the club at the moment with the English international someone who fits FSG's strategy of recruitment in terms of his age and profile.

However, there could be one major obstacle in the deal with Borussia Dortmund likely expected to demand an extortionate fee for the youngster's services roughly in the £100m mark, and that could deter FSG from making a move.

READ MORE: Forward 'like Luis Suárez' is 'on his way to Anfield' as Liverpool could make 'explosive' transfer

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Of course, the Reds will have alternative solutions lined up and there is undoubtedly a long list of names that the club's scouts will be monitoring come next season, and who are already on their radar.

One such player, according to GOAL, is Croatian international Luka Sučić. The 19-year-old plies his trade at Red Bull Salzburg and he could be an ideal alternative solution to the club considering FSG's strong relationship with the Red Bull group. They have conducted plenty of business with them in the past, under the guidance of Michael Edwards as sporting director.

But those close ties have been maintained by Julian Ward who worked closely with Edwards as his deputy. This summer, Liverpool will visit Red Bull Salzburg for a pre-season friendly further fortifying their close relationship. The game will also offer an opportunity for Jürgen Klopp, who will be able to take a closer look at Sučić and gauge his ability.

Last season the midfielder already caught the eye in the Champions League and he is a player who is regarded as one of the best midfield prospects in world football at the moment which should make the transition to the Premier League easier for Sučić. He is also someone who we previously profiled as an ideal alternative solution to Bellingham due to his playing style.

A true box-to-box player who is capable of putting in a defensive shift while also contributing in attack, Sučić fits Liverpool's ideal midfield candidate in terms of age and the style of play he would be able to bring to the club.

His shooting from long-distance could also bring a new element to the Liverpool midfield with the Croatian averaging 2.54 shots per 90 last season, higher than any of Liverpool's midfield options, and scoring three goals from outside the box for Red Bull Salzburg as well as a spectacular strike against Barcelona in pre-season.

Given Liverpool's close ties with Red Bull, the Reds would likely be able to land him for a fee much lower than that of Bellingham's extortionate valuation and that might just be the best argument for FSG next summer in order to opt for Sučić instead rather than the Borussia Dortmund star.

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Forward 'like Luis Suárez' is 'on his way to Anfield' as Liverpool could make 'explosive' transfer

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 13:00

Football clubs are always changing and evolving. It is only a natural process of the sporting world and life in general. To survive, one must continue to adapt and evolve. Metamorphosis on some level is always happening around us.

Nowhere is that more evident than around Anfield this summer. From top to bottom, Liverpool are embarking on a new adventure. It has seen the club's sporting director, Michael Edwards, depart as well as Jürgen Klopp's first Reds talisman in Sadio Mané.

Liverpool's new sporting director, Julian Ward, is now building for the future. He has been tasked with finding the next wave of Liverpool attackers, and this summer he has already brought in a handful of exciting talent all under the age of 23.

READ MORE:Liverpool 'beat Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund' to 133-goal forward Virgil van Dijk called 'scary'

READ MORE:Roberto Firmino could play new role for Liverpool next season after intriguing Jürgen Klopp hint

But considering Liverpool will lose three key players in attack over the course of the window, with Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino both joining Mané in the departures lounge at Anfield and Liverpool saying farewell to a trio who made 49 goal contributions last season, Ward's work may not be done.

The Reds could do with another attacker to fill the gap and provide competition and a deputy role to Liverpool's first-choice options.

To do that Ward may be taking a lesson from Manchester City's book and setting his sights on the South American market. Earlier this year, City brought the hugely exciting Argentinian forward, Julián Álvarez, to the club. He is set to join the Etihad side for pre-season.

With the new Brexit point system introduced to securing work permits in English football, South American players, particularly from Brazil and Argentina, are easier to attain and bring to the Premier League.

Liverpool scout the region extensively, and they were aware of the likes of Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz, even from their time in Uruguay and Colombia respectively as teenagers.

In the future, the club could look to save money by going directly to South America to make purchases rather than waiting for their targets to arrive to Europe before making a move. And Ward could start with that new approach this summer by making a move for 19-year-old Santos forward, Marcos Leonardo.

According to TV presenter Milton Neves (via Sport Witness), the forward is already 'on his way' to Anfield. Speaking after Santos' draw with Corinthians over the weekend, the presenter who is known for his witty and facetious remarks, name-dropped Liverpool as Leonardo's next destination.

“Corinthians yesterday escaped being defeated by the Santos kids. Marcos Leonardo, who’s going to Liverpool, this guy is the new Romário!”

The comment should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it would not be a surprise if Liverpool did keep an eye on the hugely exciting teenager who is regarded as one of the best young forwards on the continent alongside, Manchester City's Julián Álvarez.

Hailing from the legendary club that produced the likes of Neymar and Pelé, Leonardo is unsurprisingly a player full of flair and eye-catching flamboyance. But in terms of like-for-like comparisons, he is more of an industrious player in the ilk of Roberto Firmino, while possessing the finishing quality and the explosiveness of Luis Suárez in his prime.

Standing at 1.75 metres tall, Leonardo does not have the biggest aerial threat, but he is more than adept at handling physical challenges due to his strong upper body and powerfully built legs that make it difficult for the opposition to jostle him off the ball when in possession and which would make him an ideal player in the Premier League. Given his physical assets, it is not a surprise that the forward has already set his sights on England being his dream destination in the future, as per The Mirror.

Capable of tracking back and winning the ball high up the field, Santos' system is not necessarily focused on pressing from the front, and his defensive numbers are as a result short of what you would expect from a typical Liverpool attacker — but this is an area that could be honed under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp.

For now, Leonardo has been a forward who has truly come alive when in possession in the final third. He thrives at running at defenders and taking them on in one vs one situations. His average of 3.08 dribbles per 90 is a relatively high volume for a number nine and his 57.6 per cent success rate is a very welcome return.

His output this season has been hugely impressive with Leonardo averaging 0.65 goal contributions per 90 — that's a commendable figure alone, but it's even better when taking into account how Santos only average 1.28 goals per 90 in the league. At youth level, he also has seven goals and two assists in five games for Brazil's U20 national team.

Creatively, he is someone who will not drop deep often and when he does he will hold the ball up rather than instigate attacks, but he will still look to play his teammates in when in possession high up the field if they are in a better position. Leonardo has the understanding and the vision inside the box that makes him quite a productive creator and he will often pick out passes for his teammates to put them into definite scoring positions. It is therefore unsurprising that he has averaged 0.12 expected assists in all competitions this season, and for U23 forwards in the league he ranks first for both smart passes (0.37) and key passes (0.28) among his positional peers.

Stepping up to Liverpool will require increasing his defensive output, but offensively he definitely seems like a quintessential Klopp player in his explosiveness, physical strength and ruthlessness in the final third.

Santos are known for playing hardball for their key assets in the past, and that will likely be the only obstacle in FSG's way and in Leonardo's way of completing a dream move to Anfield. But if Liverpool and Julian Ward can somehow overcome that barrier, they could bring an absolute gem to English football.

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Roberto Firmino could play new role for Liverpool next season after intriguing Jürgen Klopp hint

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 11:30

Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff City in the FA Cup was not a game that most people would remember in too much detail from last season, but it was one in which Jürgen Klopp performed an interesting experiment.

For a short spell, Roberto Firmino — often injured in the previous campaign and playing a reduced role even when fit — was deployed in a different position, though not one that was completely alien to him.

Firmino was always a number 10 for his previous club, Hoffenheim, so when Klopp asked him to drop a little deeper again and perform the left-sided number eight position in midfield, it would not have been that difficult for a player as intelligent as the 30-year-old to adapt.

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Against a lesser side — hence the experiment being against Cardiff, rather than, say Manchester City — it makes sense to have another creative player in the team anyway.

Firmino was able to float around and spray passes, progressing the ball into dangerous positions with Luis Díaz looking lively in front of him and Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones also impressing on the day.

Cardiff did not particularly test him defensively and Liverpool were not out of possession for long spells at a time, cruising to a win at Anfield and progression into the fifth round of the competition they would go on to win.

But there are reasons to believe that Firmino could cope in slightly more strenuous circumstances — against a lower-placed Premier League side, for instance. He is, after all, arguably the most intelligent presser the Reds have.

Additionally, with Firmino in midfield, it is not that different to switching to 4-2-3-1 and having the Brazilian as the number 10 — something that plenty of people are keen for Liverpool to try.

The subtle difference, though, is that you can have that benefit (of having Firmno deeper, and also getting more creativity and not using another midfielder in the role if they need a rest or are injured) without changing the formation at all and risking altering the team's balance.

It is not something that Liverpool will do most weeks. Against Cardiff, it was only 11 minutes before Klopp moved Firmino further forward again, replacing Takumi Minamino with James Milner and switching things around, but he had also played a similar deeper role in Premier League matches with Tottenham and Leicester.

While he might not do it often, Firmino could have a new role next season perhaps more frequently than he did last. Should he remain fit for longer, and with four players in attack ahead of him in the pecking order, it might just make sense.

Liverpool won't be signing a midfield stop-gap this summer, but they might actually already have one on their books for when they really need one.

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Bayern Munich transfer hypocrisy can only end one way as Liverpool made wise Sadio Mané call

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 03:00

In what is shaping up to be one of the biggest transfer sagas of the summer, Robert Lewandowski remains a Bayern Munich player (for now) and Barcelona keep being linked with him.

Lewandowski has made it clear publicly that he wants to move to Barcelona, and Barcelona have made it clear that they want to sign him — and yet, a deal does not appear close.

So where do Liverpool come into the equation? Well, having agreed to sell Sadio Mané to Bayern Munich for a fee that could reach £35m (but is initially less than £30m minus the add-ons), there is more than a little hypocrisy at play.

READ MORE:Liverpool can copy Naby Keïta transfer trick to complete signing of £32m Luis Díaz repeat

READ MORE: Liverpool 'beat Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund' to 133-goal forward Virgil van Dijk called 'scary'

Mané is almost four years younger than Lewandowski. Both forwards have (or had, in the case of Mané) a year left on their contracts, and both wanted to leave.

But while Liverpool fairly quickly found a replacement and granted Mané's wish to move on, things have played out very differently with the Bundesliga champions — even though in the Senegalese, they have a replacement of their own.

Barcelona, despite having very limited finances to work with to put it mildly, have an interest, but whether they can meet Bayern Munich's demands remains to be seen. The goalposts appear to change with every passing week.

Sky Sports now report that Bayern want to receive a transfer fee of €60m (£52m) for their Polish striker (other reports had suggested a figure of around two-thirds of that only a week or two ago), despite Lewandowski publicly making it clear he wants out.

It remains a possibility that Lewandowski could stay. Bayern Munich would point out that he is under contract for another season and therefore has no choice — though while he would be unlikely to kick up too much of a fuss and would probably settle for staying another 12 months rather than wasting a year of his career, it seems counterproductive in the long-term.

What if, in 2024, a year before his contract with Bayern runs out, Mané decides that he wants to move to Spain, for example, to experience another league, having won, say, two consecutive titles in Germany and the Champions League?

What if other Bayern Munich players are not allowed to leave when they want to, despite having offered years of service? Perhaps then it would become more difficult to convince players to sign there to begin with.

Bayern Munich, Liverpool and others do not want to become stepping stones for other destinations, but there is a fine line between taking a stance on transfers and letting that dictate the future.

As Lewandowski continues to push for a move, Bayern Munich should take a leaf out of Liverpool's book. In the long-term, letting a player go when they are so adamant that they want to depart is usually the best course of action.

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Liverpool can copy Naby Keïta transfer trick to complete signing of £32m Luis Díaz repeat

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 01:00

In the end, Liverpool did not harm Spurs too much by snatching Luis Díaz from under their noses. The full effects of the transfer saga will be felt in the seasons to come, with the Colombian hopefully following Mohamed Salah in establishing himself as a genuine world-beater, but Antonio Conte was able to guide his team to a top-four finish without him — doing some major damage to Liverpool and Manchester City along the way.

Liverpool know more than most that a second-choice signing can often prove every bit as effective as the number one name on the list. Julian Brandt and Mario Götze were not destined for Anfield, but Salah and Sadio Mané ended up as legends. Whether Dejan Kulusevski can do anywhere like as well at Spurs is doubtful, but an initially ‘incandescent’ Daniel Levy will surely have calmed down by now.

That bonhomie could be shattered, however, by another Liverpool hijacking operation. Spurs are reportedly in talks with RB Leipzig over a transfer — traditionally the stomping ground of FSG, they could yet move to protect their turf.

READ MORE:Liverpool 'beat Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund' to 133-goal forward Virgil van Dijk called 'scary'

READ MORE: Liverpool have already signed Jude Bellingham ‘stop-gap’ as FSG transfer stance explained

Good relations date way back to the Naby Keïta deal, struck in 2017 for completion the following year. Since then, the connection has only grown: Liverpool played host to Red Bull Salzburg last pre-season, and will come up against them and Leipzig this time around. Ibrahima Konaté and Takumi Minamino have both joined from the energy drink stable.

Clearly, plenty of Red Bull Group assets have moved to other clubs in that time, too. Liverpool do not have a monopoly. But when one of the brightest young talents in the setup is being linked with a transfer to a Premier League rival, it is bound to turn the heads of FSG.

The owners have reportedly finished their summer business. But they were not meant to be signing anyone in January either. Spurs forced their hand then by moving for Díaz, and they could do so again if they continue to pursue Joško Gvardiol.

A self-proclaimed admirer of Liverpool, Gvardiol is one of the most exciting defensive talents around. Aged just 20, he played 45 games for RB Leipzig last season, establishing himself as a mainstay in his debut season following a move from Dinamo Zagreb.

Leipzig’s Konaté replacement could yet become his long-term partner at Anfield. In the 97th percentile of centre-backs around Europe's top leagues for expected goals and assists per 90, he has something of the Joël Matip about him, while also possessing a Virgil van Dijk-esque quality of being able to ping the ball around the pitch at will. A powerhouse in terms of progressing the ball and with the defensive stats to back it up, he would fit right in at Liverpool.

For FSG, the only issue is that Liverpool are already extremely well-equipped at centre-back. Gvardiol impressed at left-back for Croatia at Euro 2020, so that could be an option too, but there is currently plenty of cover there as well. Despite his professed boyhood loyalties, the defender would likely prefer the proposition that Spurs could put on the table at present.

But Liverpool know how to get creative with RB Leipzig. They still remember the Keïta deal. FSG struck the agreement a year ahead of time, thus beating off anticipated competition for when his release clause kicked in.

Gvardiol has no release clause, but a similarly-structured deal could suit all parties (except Spurs) perfectly. Leipzig, who are said to have issued a ‘hands-off’ warning, would get a guarantee of keeping their young defender for another season. Much like the Keïta deal, they would also get a premium on top of his value: £31.5m, according to Transfermarkt. Liverpool, meanwhile, could secure themselves an elite talent without giving Jürgen Klopp a major selection headache.

It would be premature to usher Van Dijk and Matip out of the door just yet. Both about to turn 31, they have plenty of time left at the top. But by the end of 2022/23, the question of succession will at least be a little more pertinent. Konaté is the answer to one of those positions, but what about the other? It could have Gvardiol’s name on it.

This is where Joe Gomez inevitably comes into the equation. Positioned as the long-term partner to Konaté, it would represent quite the turnaround for the England international, who was all but frozen out last season. Many of his limited minutes came at right-back, where Calvin Ramsay has now been signed as back-up. While he could still be the eventual answer for Liverpool, he will not wait around forever.

If it was known that Gvardiol would be arriving next summer, everyone would have more clarity. Liverpool could sell Gomez or look to find him a value-inflating loan ahead of the World Cup. Alternatively, they could simply keep him on as an emergency fourth choice, knowing full well that even with a year left on his contract he would still sell for more than the £3.5m he cost way back in 2015.

Ultimately, FSG may decide that they have full faith in Gomez, and allow Spurs to land Gvardiol as a result. But he is a similarly head-turning talent to Díaz, and Liverpool will not want him to end up as the one that got away: perhaps Keïta holds the answer to the conundrum.

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