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Updated: 8 hours 29 min ago

Divock Origi leaves Jürgen Klopp a curious Liverpool hole that no transfer could ever replace

9 hours 16 min ago

Divock Origi is no longer a Liverpool player. After eight years at Anfield, with a couple of seasons out on loan in that time, the time was right for the Belgian to leave.

Far more than a cult hero, the hole that Origi leaves behind is a curious one. No player can match his ability to pop up with crucial goals at vital times — and yet he only played 126 minutes in the Premier League last season.

He needed and deserves more regular minutes, and AC Milan are likely to be able to provide them after Origi turned down interest from Spain, the Bundesliga and other Premier League clubs.

England bowler Issy Wong said this week that she is the "Divock Origi of women's cricket". The 20-year-old star of the sport was asked whether she was a 'big game player' and her answer was clear. Origi transcends football.

READ MORE: Liverpool have made transfer policy ‘change’ as FSG seek £67m saving before Jude Bellingham plan

READ MORE:Harvey Elliott is about to unlock exciting Liverpool partnership and 20-goal record is proof

Jürgen Klopp described his former number 27 as the 'best finisher' at Liverpool, while there was always a feeling that he was hampered by injuries at all the wrong times.

Had Ramiro Funes Mori not ploughed through the back of him during one Merseyside derby — almost pre-emptively getting revenge for what Origi was going to inflict on the team from the other side of the city — things might have been different.

That, though, might have taken away from the madness that is Origi's career. Few players can say they have scored in the Champions League final. Trent Alexander-Arnold's quickly taken corner will go down in footballing — let alone Liverpool — history and was just voted as the Reds' best ever goal.

The coolest and calmest footballer out there did not bother with the lesser games: he was here for the big moments, and the big moments alone.

Everton, Barcelona, late winners. That is what Origi will be remembered for.

Off the field, too, his legacy is clear. A partnership with the University of Liverpool means that students from the local area can attend higher education without the fees.

Origi has covered the £9,250 tuition fee, plus provided £3000 on top of that to help with other costs, for the last year. Bushra Ihmaidat and Grace Murphy began studying law in September 2021 with Origi's help.

"This scholarship has meant so much to me and has made a positive impact for me personally," Ihmaidat told Liverpool.com this week. "It has made me feel really supported and has motivated me to try my best in what I do despite any struggles I am facing. I am forever grateful for his kindness.

"It is sad to see Divock Origi go, but I'm happy that he is taking the steps towards what’s best for him and his career; to perform as a first-team member where his skills and determination will be recognised on a larger scale. It's well deserved and I wish him all the best in his career!"

"The scholarship provided by Divock means a great deal to me as the first in my family to go to university," Murphy added. "The bursary he provided meant I was able to purchase my first laptop and get my books for the year.

"I also don’t have to worry about how I will support myself throughout my studies or be in a lot of debt when I finish my degree.

"When I applied, I never ever thought I’d actually be lucky enough to get it. I can’t thank him enough for giving me this opportunity and for everything he has done for our city. In future, I’d just like to be able to pay it forward and help someone else the way he’s helped me!

"My family and I are huge Liverpool fans so getting the scholarship was just that much more special. I've worked at Anfield in the Kop serving food and drink since I was 16. It’s really a lovely place to work, you really feel a part of the community of the club and the city.

"It was great hearing the fans celebrating in the Kop whenever there was a goal! I’ll be sad to see Divock leave."

"I have been blessed by the opportunities I have had both on and off the pitch," Origi said of the scholarship. "When I established the scholarship with the University of Liverpool it was because I wanted to give young people the opportunity to develop their own passion for learning, and to help empower young people to achieve great things.

"Wherever I go in the world, the city of Liverpool and Anfield, in particular, will always be important to me, and I’m proud the scholarship will continue to inspire young people to follow their educational aspirations."

Despite no longer being at Liverpool, the scholarship will continue for the next two academic years as more students are funded. Origi might have departed, but his legacy very much remains.

In 175 appearances for the Reds, he scored 41 times. Not spectacular numbers, but he certainly picked his moments. Big moments and big contributions — on and off the pitch. Divock Origi arrived on Merseyside as a relatively unknown teenager. Mulitple iconic goals later, he leaves Liverpool as a legend that will never quite be replaced.

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Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp could be about to unearth another Harvey Elliott in pre-season

10 hours 16 min ago

At long last, Liverpool have returned from their month-long hiatus and it is now less than a week until they are back in action.

Jürgen Klopp's pre-season preparations are underway, and the Liverpool coaching team will be keeping a keen eye on his players in the coming weeks. With plenty of players to test out and systems to trial, Klopp should be doing a lot of tinkering during the club's pre-season this summer.

How that will look only time will tell, but another thing that is guaranteed is that Klopp will also hand some of his younger players from the academy an opportunity to impress. In the limelight, one man, in particular, could be set for a breakout campaign.

READ MORE: Liverpool have made transfer policy ‘change’ as FSG seek £67m saving before Jude Bellingham plan

READ MORE:Harvey Elliott is about to unlock exciting Liverpool partnership and 20-goal record is proof

Kaide Gordon has already played a handful of games for the club's first team last season at 16 years of age. He made an impressive impression during Liverpool's last pre-season, but this time around, Gordon is expected to take on even more responsibility.

Having grown as a player in the last year, the 17-year-old will not just be looking to put his name down, but he will be looking to make a statement and stake a claim for himself to be a regular member of Liverpool's first-team squad.

Last season, Harvey Elliott did exactly the same thing, establishing himself as a player Klopp became confident he could trust over the course of pre-season training sessions and games.

The path into the first team has opened up a little for Gordon with the departure of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Sadio Mané, and the young winger has a shot at establishing himself as a deputy for Mohamed Salah on the right-wing where Klopp's side currently lack depth.

With some strong opponents like Manchester United, Crystal Palace, RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg awaiting the Reds, Gordon will be tested to the maximum.

If he can overcome the challenge and express himself on the pitch then he will be edging closer and closer towards tasting more first-team action in the season ahead.

As Elliott proved, all it takes is one good season and the doors will be opened by Klopp and his backroom staff. Now the ball is in Gordon's court to show exactly what he is capable of and make the step up from academy football into the senior set-up.

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Harvey Elliott is about to unlock exciting Liverpool partnership and 20-goal record is proof

12 hours 16 min ago

Pre-season is an opportunity for new partnerships and systems to form, and for Jürgen Klopp to integrate some of his new signings and academy players into his first team set-up.

The next few weeks will offer a small glimpse of what may be about to come for the rest of the season ahead and fans and pundits will be keeping Liverpool under a microscope throughout all of it.

One player who will be determined to repeat the success of his pre-season last year will be Harvey Elliott. A fruitful pre-season campaign saw the youngster break into the starting XI during the early stages of Liverpool's Premier League campaign before an injury curtailed his breakout year.

READ MORE: Liverpool have made transfer policy ‘change’ as FSG seek £67m saving before Jude Bellingham plan

READ MORE:Liverpool may already have identified Roberto Firmino successor that could hint at 2023 plan

This summer, Elliott will eager to bounce back from the blow with aplomb and he may be aided by a burgeoning relationship that has just been rekindled at Anfield.

Fábio Carvalho will be joining Liverpool from exactly the same club that Elliott left in Fulham just over three years ago. The duo spent a considerable time together at Fulham's academy and therefore it was no surprise to see them cosy up to each other on the first day of pre-season on Monday.

Speaking to the ECHO ahead of the Champions League final, Elliott said Carvalho was 'one of his favourite players to play with as a youngster' and based on his record that is easy to understand.

Together they boast an impressive record beginning with their first ever U18 game in which Carvalho grabbed a hat-trick and registered an assist for Elliott in a 4-0 victory over Reading in a game the duo dominated according to Fulham's official website.

Altogether, they spent 1721 minutes on the pitch together so far in their career and in a total of 25 appearances they were involved in 20 goal contributions averaging 1.04 goal contributions per 90.

At Liverpool, the duo may be vying for the same number 10 spot if Jürgen Klopp opts to switch to a 4-2-3-1.

But at the start of the campaign, Liverpool are widely expected to use Carvalho in one of the front three positions and that could see Elliott and Carvalho continue where they left off from their academy days.

Whether their connection is still there only time will tell, but if they can conjure similar numbers from their time at Fulham during pre-season and beyond, Liverpool may just have another electric partnership that could be the future of the club for over a decade to come.

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Liverpool have made transfer policy ‘change’ as FSG seek £67m saving before Jude Bellingham plan

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 17:30

Liverpool have money to spend, but they have to be more careful than their rivals. Expensive failures are simply not an option: had FSG splashed out £100m on Jack Grealish, they would have been hamstrung in the transfer market for multiple seasons, quickly falling behind their rivals. It’s why any move for Jude Bellingham has to be carefully considered.

It looks like a deal will not be struck this summer. Liverpool have already signed Darwin Núñez for a potential club-record fee: another huge spend would be majorly uncharacteristic, even if Borussia Dortmund could be persuaded to sell. But next year, the timing may be right.

Having addressed the attack and signed a back-up right-back in this window, Liverpool have now future-proofed almost every area of the side. Bellingham will be primed to come in as the last piece of the puzzle, the one big spend which elevates Jürgen Klopp’s second great team onto the level of their predecessors. He can be the Alisson and Fabinho of the new generation.

READ MORE:Jürgen Klopp can conduct three pre-season Liverpool experiments to unlock Roberto Firmino again

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp could be about to have another 'Darwin Núñez moment' and hint at Liverpool transfer

Once those transformative additions were made in 2018, Sepp van den Berg was the extent of the summer business for Liverpool in the following season. Likewise, if 2023 is the year of Bellingham, FSG will probably build in at least a year of minimal investment, allowing the books to balance themselves once more.

This would be a statement of faith in a team just beginning to hit their prime together. The likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konaté, Joe Gomez, Luis Díaz, Diogo Jota and Núñez should all be peaking. Harvey Elliott, Fábio Carvalho and Curtis Jones will have matured further. Adding Bellingham into the mix would allow FSG to put recruitment on the back burner for a while.

But what about Alisson? The goalkeeper turns 30 later this year — still young for a goalkeeper, but at the point where a future beyond him at least comes onto the radar. By next summer, FSG may be reluctant to sanction a huge spend if they believe that another massive outlay on a new goalkeeper will be needed before too long.

After all, the initial £67m purchase of Alisson was one of the most transformative in Klopp’s time at Liverpool. FSG know the importance of a top goalkeeper, and will not neglect this area when the time comes to replace the Brazilian. But if they need to hold back a big sum for this task, strengthening the rest of the team becomes more challenging. Bellingham starts to look like a stretch.

A slight change in transfer policy suggests that FSG are trying hard to save that £67m outlay. The last few years have seen a major influx of goalkeepers into the academy, with Claudio Taffarel among those hired to help oversee their early development. Now, Liverpool are into the next stage of the plan.

A flurry of transfer announcements have seen not one but three Liverpool goalkeepers leave on various loans. Clearly, a decision has been made that these stoppers need senior minutes as soon as possible if they are to have a viable path to eventually taking over from Alisson.

There are high hopes for Vítězslav Jaroš, Jakub Ojrzyński and particularly Marcelo Pitaluga, the oldest of whom is 20. Respectively, they have now gone out on loan to Stockport County, Radomiak Radom and Macclesfield FC: a fairly motley collection, to say the least, but clubs where Liverpool have clearly calculated that their goalkeepers will be the undisputed number ones.

Amid all this, there is Caoimhin Kelleher, whom Klopp called the best number two in the world for the way Liverpool play. But the prospects of keeping him contented until Alisson hangs up his gloves are bleak. The younger goalkeepers are getting what he has been denied: game time. Ultimately, FSG may have to cash in on the Irishman at some stage, at which point they will bank a handsome fee.

As such, the hopes of finding an Alisson heir fall on the next generation. The proactive decision to loan them all out is a clear indicator of FSG’s intentions: if they can help it, they will not be spending £67m on the next great Liverpool goalkeeper.

With this saving tentatively ‘banked’, FSG can spend with increased confidence elsewhere on the pitch: maybe even on Bellingham. After all, even if it takes years of loans, there is no particular indication that Alisson is anywhere near done just yet. He will be between the sticks for much of Klopp’s Liverpool 2.0 era — and when the time comes to change the guard, his successor may already be at the club.

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Ruthless Sadio Mané decision proves Liverpool may already have mapped out Mohamed Salah future

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 16:30

For the considerable future, Julian Ward can sit back and relax. Having been thrust into the role and handed the challenge of trying to resolve one of the most important tasks in Liverpool's future in recent memory was like being thrown in at the deep end of an ocean and trying to learn to swim.

Fortunately, Ward had already acquired his scuba diving licence having worked under the shadow of his predecessor and that will have given him a significant leg up when negotiating with Mohamed Salah and his entourage.

No one will be as relieved as Ward to have succeeded in his endeavour and Salah's long-term stay at Anfield will be a significant boost for Liverpool in the next couple of seasons to come.

READ MORE:Jürgen Klopp can conduct three pre-season Liverpool experiments to unlock Roberto Firmino again

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp could be about to have another 'Darwin Núñez moment' and hint at Liverpool transfer

But with life, and with football, change is constant and even the best of things must ultimately come to an end. Sooner, or as Liverpool will hope, later, Mohamed Salah will have to part ways with the Reds, and following the latest decision about the African Cup of Nations, Liverpool may have just been given a hint at when that time will be.

Instead of taking place in the summer of 2023, as previously planned, AFCON has once again been moved to the winter of 2024 meaning Salah is set for a busy schedule that year. In the same calendar year, he could also compete at the 2024 summer Olympics should Egypt secure qualification to both respective tournaments.

If they do, by 2024, Salah will have just one year left on his contract again, and at 32 years of age, he will be nearing ever closer to the twilight of his career. Given his heavy schedule, another contract extension may be beyond Liverpool's means and that could see Julian Ward repeat history.

Sadio Mané left Anfield under similar circumstances this summer with his ceiling at the highest stage possible after a solid AFCON tournament and Salah will hope to do the same in two years' time.

Even at 32 years of age, Liverpool will be confident of getting a decent fee for Salah, who by that point will have just one year left on his contract and there will be appropriate suitors to take him away.

By then, the Reds will have also been able to identify his potential successor on the right wing either through a player from the club's academy or a transfer target.

Liverpool may have resolved Salah's future for now, but in two years' time the conversation will inevitably revolve around him once more. By then, Ward may be better prepared to make the decision he did not want to make this summer.

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Liverpool give exciting future glimpse as Pep Lijnders gets his wish and Roberto Firmino returns

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 15:17

Roberto Firmino was back among his Liverpool teammates today as the Reds continued their pre-season preparations.

The Brazilian forward returned for training as Jürgen Klopp continues to welcome his players back to action, with the new campaign just over a month away.

Firmino was not the only player to keep an eye on during the afternoon, though, with a training session taking place on the grass in Kirkby.

Several young players — including Bobby Clark, Stefan Bajčetić and Luke Chambers, all of whom were name-checked by assistant manager Pep Lijnders back in January as talents he was particularly keen to have on pre-season — were also involved.

READ MORE:Jürgen Klopp can conduct three pre-season Liverpool experiments to unlock Roberto Firmino again

READ MORE: Jürgen Klopp could be about to have another 'Darwin Núñez moment' and hint at Liverpool transfer

So too were Melkamu Frauendorf, Isaac Mabaya, James Norris and Tom Hill, while Harvey Davies and Fabian Mrozek worked with the goalkeepers.

Frauendorf made his senior debut in the FA Cup last season, while Mabaya is a versatile player best deployed at right-back, where he enjoys bombing on down the wing. He can also play as a holding midfielder.

Tom Hill, meanwhile, has spent much of the last two years out injured with long-term issues. It would have been a big moment for him to be involved in the session — the highly-rated midfielder is a big talent who was robbed of a significant portion of his development at a vital time, and he will now be hoping to kick on.

That those nine academy starlets were the ones chosen to step up to the first-team shows where they are at in terms of progression and how highly-rated they are among senior staff, with Vitor Matos also a keen observer of the academy sides.

Mateusz Musialowski was not there but is being linked with a loan move away from the club, while Leighton Clarkson and Sepp van den Berg could head out on loan again unless they believe opportunities will arrive at Anfield.

Clarkson struggled to get regular minutes at Blackburn in the first half of last season but has played in the Champions League for the Reds, while Van den Berg, now 20, impressed at Preston North End.

Fábio Carvalho continued to get to know his new surroundings, while Luis Díaz, Ben Davies and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were also among the training group — a blend of players each with differing ambitions in terms of their standing in the squad this summer.

Kaide Gordon was also there — as he was on Monday — though he is, at this stage, hardly viewed as a prospect and is closer to being in the first-team picture.

More senior Liverpool players like Firmino will continue to be brought back into the fold over the next few days ahead of the trip to Asia to play Manchester United and Crystal Palace next week.

But for the Academy starlets involved in this session, it was a good start to the summer — another reminder of which young players are the most highly regarded and are most likely to be gaining some senior minutes in the coming campaign.

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Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland have just explained truth of Liverpool and Man City difference

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 05:00

Liverpool were quick to withdraw from any race for Erling Haaland, with his wage demands seemingly the major offputting factor. Now, depending on which report you believe, Mohamed Salah has either just leapfrogged the new Manchester City man in the salary stakes, or else come up narrowly behind him. FSG’s differing approach to the two situations speaks volumes about the club culture.

It seems clear, now, that Liverpool could at least theoretically have afforded Haaland. There were certainly plenty of extra one-off fees, like commissions and agent payments, but Darwin Núñez proved that FSG can stomach big isolated costs. By all accounts, the wage demands were the major sticking point — but unless Manchester City are paying their new man far more than the headline figure of £375,000 per week, the recent Salah deal proves that the owners could have stretched their budget that far.

On paper, FSG would be expected to prefer a deal for Haaland over an extension for Salah. When looking at their transfer activity, age and potential is king. The Egyptian is 30 now, and seems unlikely to get significantly better — although the same was said prior to the first half of last season before he hit new heights once again. Why, then, was one of the continent’s foremost young strikers allowed to go to Manchester City unchallenged?

READ MORE:Liverpool beat Manchester United to transfer of exciting Spanish starlet Pep Lijnders is eyeing

READ MORE: Liverpool know Cristiano Ronaldo claim is absurd as Mohamed Salah shows Gary Neville must worry

The answer lies not in the basic fact of salary paid, but in the desire to create a long-term project. Yes, Liverpool could have stretched every sinew and put together an acceptable proposal for Haaland, but there would have been nowhere to go. He would have been parachuted in with an unearned status as top dog, most likely leaving without an extension due to the bumper nature of the initial deal.

Infamously, Haaland insisted upon a delayed-effect release clause in his Manchester City contract, which does not scream of somebody intent on sticking around. At the tender age of 21, his career is already set up for a tour of some of the best (and richest) clubs: not inherently a bad thing, but not something that will tempt FSG. Masters of long-term thinking, they built Jürgen Klopp a core that remained substantially intact for a full footballing ‘cycle’, and are now in the process of building the next one.

Salah will now be tasked with carrying the torch between the generations. FSG believe he has the longevity to straddle the divide. Just as significantly, they can now hold him up to the next crop of talent as the model of what a perfect Liverpool career looks like. There is no ceiling on progression, and the very upper echelons of wages can be reached, but they must be earned through loyalty and through years of consistently elite performances.

By dropping Haaland straight in on the top wage bracket, Manchester City are blithely disregarding the importance of team culture. The money itself is little more than a drop in the ocean to a club with the wealth of a nation behind it — but while Pep Guardiola gets to play with Monopoly money, he still has to manage real people. This summer, more players than ever seem unhappy at the club, and it is not too hard to see why.

Some of it comes down to the simple matter of game time. Haaland will further block minutes for the likes of Raheem Sterling, which increases the incentive to move. But more fundamentally, there is a tinge of disrespect to the big-money addition, a failure to recognise the basic principle that players should have to earn their status at a club.

As of now, Haaland has achieved nothing at Manchester City. His track record elsewhere suggests he will quickly remedy that, but for the time being it is only his potential at the Etihad that endears him to supporters. But like it or not, wages come with a label of status and seniority: it’s why Salah could genuinely say it was ‘not about money’, but still needed to be paid more in order to get the respect he deserved at Liverpool.

Agreeing to such a large hike on their wage ceiling is bound to have some sort of across-the-board inflationary effect for FSG, but they will be confident that it won’t be too bad. After all, they can legitimately point to Salah as a special case: half a decade of elite Liverpool service needed to be rewarded. What will Manchester City’s case be when the next transfer target wants parity with Erling Haaland? It will be harder to give a convincing reason why not.

In practice, their answer might simply be to pay those wages, shelling out time and time again. This is the reality of what Liverpool is up against. But even if that is financially possible for Manchester City, it could be unwise in practice: not making players earn their money and their status creates a team who view their club transactionally. FSG have carefully developed a squad of mentality monsters, and Salah has just rightly been crowned king.

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Liverpool can sign 'next Mesut Özil' for £25m but Jürgen Klopp has Arsenal transfer dilemma

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 03:00

There are still a little less than two months to go from now until the end of the summer transfer window. Naturally, that means even if it seems like Julian Ward has concluded Liverpool's incoming business this summer, the rumours will continue to persist.

How credible reports are will vary depending on the player in question, but Liverpool's latest reported target could be an intriguing player for the Reds. He is also one who is very much a star for the future rather than the present, which has been in line with how Julian Ward and FSG have operated in the past few seasons.

According to Turkish outlet Aksam, Liverpool are keeping a close eye on the exciting Fenerbahce talent, Arda Güler, who is also wanted by fellow Premier League rivals, Arsenal. Fenerbahçe are allegedly asking for a fee in the region of £25m for the 17-year-old's services who is already a regular member of the club's first team despite being born in 2005.

READ MORE:Liverpool beat Manchester United to transfer of exciting Spanish starlet Pep Lijnders is eyeing

READ MORE: Liverpool know Cristiano Ronaldo claim is absurd as Mohamed Salah shows Gary Neville must worry

Last season, Güler made 16 appearances for the club's first team, predominantly coming off the bench towards the second half of the campaign. Most used as an attacking midfielder and dubbed the 'next Mesut Özil' (the German is also at Fenerbahçe, at least for the time being), Güler is also capable of dropping deeper into midfield as well as playing on either flank.

His most impressive quality during his inaugural season was his ability to make an impact even with the limited time he spent on the pitch. Güler played just 373 minutes of first-team action but scored three goals and registered five assists averaging a whopping 1.93 goal contributions per 90 minutes.

An adept dribbler who is hard to dispossess and a pure creator with the ability to conjure opportunities from nowhere while also offering a goal threat, Güler is absolutely the real deal and his output at such a tender age is wholly impressive.

But whether Liverpool would be the right move in terms of his development is moot. Jürgen Klopp would absolutely like to add such an exciting teenager to his ranks, however, the Liverpool boss already has the likes of Harvey Elliott, Fábio Carvalho and Curtis Jones who play in a similar position in the current squad.

The above-mentioned trio would certainly stifle Güler's transition to first-team football at Anfield and for that reason, while the pull of Liverpool will be difficult to resist, the Turkish youth international may find other opportunities more appealing outside of Liverpool where he would be guaranteed the playing time needed for his continued development.

Given his talent though, Liverpool should keep a close eye on his progress in the coming years. Güler is currently his generation's biggest prospect in world football, and if he continues to develop his ceiling will continue to rise with the sky the limit for the 17-year-old's potential.

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Liverpool know Cristiano Ronaldo claim is absurd as Mohamed Salah shows Gary Neville must worry

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 01:00

Manchester United have a Cristiano Ronaldo problem. Their big-name striker, their top scorer last season, wants out, following their failure to qualify for the Champions League.

This would not necessarily be a bad thing for the club, whose overall progression has been stunted by indulging the 37-year-old. But their reported top striker target, Darwin Núñez, has already gone to Liverpool. Manchester City have snapped up Erling Haaland. Chelsea are among the candidates to sign Ronaldo and they are one of the teams Manchester United are meant to be chasing.

In short, Erik ten Hag has been left high and dry.

Amid all this, Gary Neville has concluded that Mohamed Salah has ‘played’ Liverpool. The Egyptian recently signed a new contract: in holding out for better terms and ultimately getting them, he has apparently somehow made his club look foolish.

Negotiations are a normal part of any contract renewal. Meanwhile, the way Ronaldo has treated Manchester United is a long way from normal. If anyone has ‘played’ anyone, the problem is not at Anfield.

Let’s look at the facts. Having given his prime years to other clubs, Ronaldo eventually returned to Old Trafford — but only after attempting to engineer a transfer to Manchester City. Once the move was complete, he spent a season refusing to press, demanding that the system be built around him. He finished as the top scorer, but his team ended up with 16 fewer goals than they managed in the previous campaign.

After failing to prevent Manchester United from missing out on the Champions League places, Ronaldo has now made it clear that he wants to leave the club for one that can offer him a place back in Europe’s elite. It could not be clearer that he is simply using his employers to pursue personal landmarks (or to use the words of Neville: he is playing them).

READ MORE:Liverpool beat Manchester United to transfer of exciting Spanish starlet Pep Lijnders is eyeing

READ MORE: Five things to watch as Liverpool pre-season begins including Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz changes

The contrast to Salah could hardly be more pronounced. Unlike Ronaldo, he did not seek a move abroad once Liverpool had helped him make his name. He stayed, and made the team a force to be reckoned with, ultimately delivering every single trophy on offer. Seeing out this latest renewal will take him to eight years of service at the club.

Yes, he has made Liverpool pay through the nose for the privilege of keeping him this time. But depending on which reports you believe, Salah will still be making less than Ronaldo. And, crucially, he has actually done something to earn it.

Ronaldo’s reputation precedes him, but he had done nothing to prove himself at Manchester United in well over a decade when they parachuted him in on a bumper wage. As for his previous role, all the warning signs were there: he had scored freely for Juventus, but the team as a whole had moved backwards. Sound familiar?

In shelling out for Salah, Liverpool know exactly what they are getting. Still seven years the junior of Ronaldo, and similarly intent on keeping himself in shape, the three-year deal is perfectly timed to ensure that the contract covers only his remaining prime years.

There can be no doubt about what he offers the club. He has broken countless records since joining Liverpool and is among the pantheon of all-time greats. Already sitting ninth in the all-time goalscorers list, he will have the top five in his sights. He finished last season as the top scorer and assister in the Premier League. Keeping him at Anfield is nothing short of a major victory.

If Liverpool had failed to keep hold of Salah, it seems obvious that Neville would have delighted in this too. The attempt to spin the renewal as some kind of defeat for the club is embarrassing — especially when a look closer to home would show him exactly what getting played really looks like.

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Liverpool can reverse ‘Bundesliga tax’ with shrewd £36m transfer policy already working for FSG

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 17:00

Football may have existed for more than 150 years, but new phrases are constantly finding their way into the sporting parlance. In recent years, ‘Bundesliga tax’ has risen to prominence: the idea that a player signed from the German top flight can be expected to drop off in the Premier League.

It is not hard to see why the idea has taken root. Chelsea’s big transfer for Timo Werner is perhaps the biggest offender. Liverpool, who had been in the running, instead signed Diogo Jota from Wolves — considered a far more underwhelming signing, he has been significantly more successful than his German counterpart.

Nor is Werner the only horror story. Jadon Sancho, another one in whom FSG held legitimate interest at one time or another, has endured a very tough start to life at Manchester United. He has time to rectify this — Kai Havertz has started to come good at Chelsea after a slow debut campaign — but it is hard to deny the pattern.

READ MORE:Five things to watch as Liverpool pre-season begins including Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz changes

READ MORE:Liverpool may have pre-season transfer plan as Jürgen Klopp gets chance to scout three players

Even looking beyond Premier League shores, there are prominent examples. Luka Jović is one of Real Madrid’s biggest transfer failings in recent times, having looked world-class at Eintracht Frankfurt. They won’t see much of that £56m back.

What’s the explanation? Perhaps, at least in part, it has simply taken top clubs too long to wise up to the fact that the Bundesliga has been on a decline in recent seasons. With Bayern Munich winning all the time anyway, it can be hard to gauge overall league quality, but recent woes in the Champions League are a good indicator. Germany have fallen from second in the UEFA coefficient in 2016/17 down to fourth today.

Indeed, Liverpool were arguably one of the earliest casualties. Naby Keïta, the player who seemed as though he had it all, struggled to live up to his price tag upon arrival at Anfield. He was one of the first major data points to suggest that elite performance in the Bundesliga should come with an asterisk.

But when looking at the rest of the ‘Bundesliga tax’ list, there is a clear pattern. Almost all of the offending players are forwards. This is where the phenomenon is about more than league quality: it is about league style. The typically high lines of the German top flight present strikers with plenty of chances, allowing them to pad their goal and assist numbers. This ultimately complicates the transition to other leagues.

However, there is a necessary corollary of this effect, and FSG seem to have discovered it. If pacey forwards are being made to look good by the nature of the Bundesliga, centre-backs are having to work doubly hard. Playing in high lines, with quick strikers constantly looking to penetrate, any defender who is impressing in Germany is actually more equipped than most to make the transition to a top team abroad.

After all, nobody plays an aggressive high line quite like Liverpool. The Bundesliga is the ideal proving ground for anyone hoping to slot into Jürgen Klopp’s defence. In activating Ibrahima Konaté’s £36m release clause, FSG showed they have cottoned on to this truth.

By the end of his debut season, Konaté looked as though he had been in the Premier League for years. He has even begun to oust Joël Matip — himself a veteran of the Bundesliga. While their rivals are toiling with the dreaded tax, Liverpool have flipped it on its head.

This could inform future transfer decisions. The defence needs very little work for the time being, but a departure for Joe Gomez could see Liverpool dip into the market again, and it would be no surprise to see them target the Bundesliga. Even Jude Bellingham arguably falls within the same FSG logic — while midfielders do not invert the ‘tax’ in quite the same way as defenders, they nonetheless evade the worst effects.

With everyone else struggling to come to terms with the mystery, Liverpool have cracked the Bundesliga tax.

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Liverpool can find hidden transfer gem in location that already paid dividends for Jürgen Klopp

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 15:00

It is a new era for Liverpool's attack. Not only has club icon Sadio Mané left for pastures new, but his departure has been compounded by another two Liverpool attackers.

Takumi Minamino has opted to leave the club for AS Monaco, meanwhile Divock Origi will be leaving for AC Milan upon the expiry of his contract. The trio who made 49 goal contributions combined for Liverpool last season, meaning their collective contributions will be sorely missed.

In their place arrives a new type of number nine in Darwin Núñez. The towering forward is different to the types of attacker Jürgen Klopp has had at his disposal and the fact that Liverpool have bucked previous trends could be an indication of an evolution of sorts in the Reds' attack.

READ MORE:Five things to watch as Liverpool pre-season begins including Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz changes

READ MORE:Liverpool may have pre-season transfer plan as Jürgen Klopp gets chance to scout three players

Given the departure of not one but three Liverpool forwards, in the long-term, that evolution likely won't end with Núñez alone. Liverpool will need to replace Takumi Mimanino's and Divock Origi's contributions sooner or later, too, especially with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both now in their 30s, and to do so the club could turn towards the same academy that developed Origi.

KRC Genk are renowned for developing elite talent. As well as Origi, the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and another former Liverpool forward in Christian Benteke all developed at the Belgian club.

Now the club's academy could be about to bring through another young talent in 19-year-old András Németh. Last season, the youngster scored the fastest debut goal in the Belgian Pro League's history when he netted against Beerschot just seconds after being substituted on in the last few minutes of the game.

Németh followed that up with another winner against Gent after coming off the bench meaning he scored a total of two goals in just 28 minutes and five cameos for Genk's first team last season. That's a remarkable rate or proficiency and the teenager is expected to feature regularly for the club's first team last season, especially after scoring four goals and registering two assists in his club's first two pre-season matches so far this summer.

A pacey forward with the physical attributes to suit Premier League football, Németh also finished joint second top-goalscorer in the U21 European Championship qualifiers scoring seven times in nine appearances for his country.

With an innate understanding of finding pockets of space inside the box, and the ability to put goals away from anywhere on the pitch, Németh has all the tools to go far in the game. In his brief foray into the first team at Genk, he has already demonstrated exciting potential and this season could be his breakout campaign.

Liverpool's previous experience with Genk academy graduates through the likes of Origi and Benteke has been fairly positive. Little needs to be said about the status of the former, but even the latter made 16 goal contributions in a single season at Liverpool averaging 0.65 goals and assists per 90 before being sold for roughly the same price the Reds bought him for.

Németh could be the next in line. With his pace and finishing ability as well as boisterous energy on the pitch, he is a player who could thrive at Anfield and continue the attacking evolution underway at the club. One good season at Genk could alert the club's attention and he is well worth keeping an eye on.

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Julian Ward still has four Liverpool tasks to complete this summer after Mohamed Salah agreement

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 13:00

The hard part of Julian Ward's summer is over. With a little less than two months still to go in the summer transfer window, Ward has already delivered for Liverpool.

The club's new sporting director may have broken Liverpool's transfer record, brought in three exciting players under the age of 23, and negotiated pivotal departures from the Liverpool first team squad, but his most important piece of business has been on the contract front.

Securing the future of Mohamed Salah until 2025 has ensured Liverpool will head into the 2022/23 campaign unperturbed by persisting rumours surrounding the Egyptian's future. With everything settled, the Reds can concentrate on the mission ahead.

READ MORE:Five things to watch as Liverpool pre-season begins including Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz changes

READ MORE:Liverpool may have pre-season transfer plan as Jürgen Klopp gets chance to scout three players

But while Ward may be done on the arrivals front. His work is still far from over and he still has a few important deals to negotiate.

One will be Neco Williams. The Liverpool right-back enjoyed a fruitful loan spell in the Championship with Fulham and Liverpool want a fee in the region of £15m for the academy graduate whose services are no longer required in the first team. Nottingham Forest and Fulham are interested, but Ward still needs to do some convincing to get them to cough up the full amount desired for Williams.

Elsewhere at the back, Williams is not the only defender who still needs to have his future resolved.

Nat Phillips and Ben Davies are both players who are surplus to requirements in Jürgen Klopp's squad and from whom Ward will hope to recoup a significant chunk of Liverpool expenditure this summer.

Phillips in particular caught the eye in the Championship last season, and Liverpool will be confident of getting a similar fee for the centre-back as they hope to get for Williams. Davies' case is a little more complex, but Ward will still want to make a profit on the club's £2.25m investment from last January even if it had not reaped any rewards thus far.

At centre-back, Ward will also need to find another destination for Sepp van den Berg. The Dutch U21 international has attracted a plethora of interest from the Premier League and elsewhere in Europe after an impressive Championship campaign, and he will hoping to catch Klopp's eye in pre-season. But ultimately, he will need another loan in order to continue his development and play regular football at senior level.

Ward has been prolific already this summer in terms of sanctioning loan deals for the club's academy stars, and he will be confident about finding the right environment for Van den Berg to thrive, too, with the Dutchman needing a new challenge to test himself.

This is undoubtedly where Liverpool's sporting director's attention will fall in the coming weeks. But with still so much time left in the window, it will be interesting to see what his next step will be when the future of the aforementioned quartet is resolved. For now, only those who possess a crystal ball with a glimpse into the future will know.

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Liverpool and Man City now share common concern as £85m spending spree will impact Jürgen Klopp

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 05:00

For three of the past four seasons, Liverpool and Manchester City have been the Premier League’s top two. On two occasions, both teams have broken the 90-point barrier.

When Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea won the Champions League in 2020, it seemed that they might be the team to finally break the Jürgen Klopp/Pep Guardiola stranglehold.

Up until the late autumn, the Blues were looking imperious. But then they progressively fell away, eventually finishing a whopping 18 points behind the top two.

READ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo has just paid Liverpool a compliment as Jürgen Klopp enjoys transfer advantage

READ MORE:Liverpool have avoided catastrophic Barcelona error with genius Mohamed Salah contract move

It’s too early to say whether they’ll be able to muster a challenge this time around. They’ve yet to make any new signings, with the headlines at Stamford Bridge dominated by the embarrassing departure of Romelu Lukaku and the free transfer exits of Antonio Rüdiger, one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League, and the impressive Andreas Christensen.

But one club who have been very active is Tottenham Hotspur. On Friday, Spurs announced the £60m signing of Richarlison from Everton, their third major addition after the summer after the free signing of Ivan Perišić and a £25m swoop for Yves Bissouma. Could they potentially pose a threat?

Spurs finished fourth last season but they were actually the third best side in the division in the 27 games after Antonio Conte replaced Nuno. In that time, they picked up 56 points, with City amassing 73 and Liverpool 70.

They scored 60 goals, only five fewer than the Reds, and shipped just 24, only four more than City.

Clearly, it’s still a significant gap to make up, but Conte is renowned for his ability to turn teams around quickly when given appropriate backing.

He arrived at Chelsea after what was, at the time, the worst title defence in Premier League history. They had finished 10th in the table and, while that wasn’t a true reflection of their quality, their 93-point triumph in 2016/17 was still mightily impressive.

This came after they spent £120m on the likes of N’Golo Kanté, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso.

Two years later, Conte took over an Inter side that had finished fourth in back-to-back campaigns and established them as contenders. They ended Juventus’ dominance in his second season in charge, having added around £185m worth of talent. Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolò Barella were all key pieces of the title-winning side.

This is, admittedly, a challenge on a different scale. This time, he’s competing with two of the all-time great teams, and we must be wary of overestimating pretenders as many did last season. But Conte is one of the best managers in the world, and there’s perhaps no manager, outside Merseyside and Manchester, more likely to pull it off.

The business so far has been excellent. Bissouma, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur form an enviable group of midfielders with complimentary attributes, while Richarlison offers elite-level depth behind Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

And they’re not done yet. If Conte can add an elite left-centre back to a back three that already includes the magnificent Cristian Romero, then Spurs could potentially be as watertight as the top two.

Perišić, the left wing-back at Inter in 2020/21, should offer Conte exactly what he wants, and £15m target Djed Spence may tick the key boxes on the other side.

We know how crucial wing-backs are to Conte’s system, and so it’s worth stressing that his options last season all had their limitations. He’ll feel like this is truly his team.

Liverpool and Manchester City have already seen the potential of the Conte project first-hand. Perfectly-executed game plans earned the Lilywhites a victory at the Etihad and a draw at Anfield.

Conte’s approach against the strongest opponents is clearly effective, but the test is whether he can hoover up the points against the rest of the league in the same remarkably consistent manner as Klopp and Guardiola.

Spurs will hope that the upgrades they have made, and continue to make, will mean they can eradicate the kind of slip-ups that dogged them in last season’s top four race.

Whether they’re a dark horse themselves or they simply pose one of the toughest tests in the division, Spurs will almost definitely be a factor in next season’s title race.

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Liverpool have avoided catastrophic Barcelona error with genius Mohamed Salah contract move

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 03:00

When the news finally came through, the news that all Liverpool fans wanted to hear, the sense of jubilation could be felt far and wide via videos, pictures and comments on social media platforms.

Mohamed Salah is set to stay at Liverpool for another three years.

It’s what fans, not to mention Liverpool players and Jürgen Klopp himself, have all wanted for some time: one of the best in the world committing to the club for what will be the peak of his career.

READ MORE:Cristiano Ronaldo has just paid Liverpool a compliment as Jürgen Klopp enjoys transfer advantage

READ MORE: Neymar and PSG have just proven Liverpool and FSG right again with 'flashy' transfer era over

His extension secures Liverpool’s status as one of the best teams in the world and makes them a strong contender to win the Premier League and Champions League next season.

But it doesn’t come without a risk of warning.

Salah, by most accounts, signed his extension to the tune of some £350,000-per-week to remain at the club. However, it’s also reported that the deal is also incentive-laden, so the figure is not a guaranteed sum.

Yet even still, the Egyptian is by far and away the best-paid player at the club, ahead of the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcântara.

And that could set a bad precedence for the future.

We’ve seen before what happens when one player earns substantially more than the rest of the squad, and the financial implications involved. Barcelona’s current predicament, while entirely of their own making through illogical mega-money signings such as Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé, wasn’t helped by their outrageously monstrous wage bill.

Lionel Messi’s last contract was in excess of £100m per-year, and while few would genuinely argue that he didn’t deserve it (within the deranged football bubble, at least), the knock-on effect was that other, less talented players in the squad, demanded a significant bump, which Barca obliged.

It got to a point where the Catalans had the likes of Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets on colossal amounts of money per-season. All three have been terrific servants for the club, but the money they were earning combined totalled over £25m-a-season. According to a report, Busquets in 2021-22 earned £20m (gross), despite their financial difficulty. Lunacy.

Liverpool need to look at Barca’s downfall and not make the same mistakes. However this is unlikely to happen, thanks to one simple but genius step: Salah’s contract, of course, was the last big one to be renewed. Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have all extended over the last year or more, and therefore won't be renegotiating again soon.

This leaves the chances of other players within the squad asking for significant raises at close to zero. Moreover, the fact that Salah’s bumper new deal is based more on goals, appearances and trophies and not a fixed-rate means that should he perform and Liverpool win honours, they’ll be able to afford his contract without overextending themselves.

This is the key difference between the club’s approach and Barca’s reckless one of the 2010s, and why there is little prospect of the club heading down the same path as the Spanish giants, who likely could’ve afforded Salah at one point — but not anymore.

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Cristiano Ronaldo has just paid Liverpool a compliment as Jürgen Klopp enjoys transfer advantage

Mon, 07/04/2022 - 01:00

As pre-season training gets underway, Liverpool’s arch-rivals Manchester United have been rocked by the news that their biggest star, Cristiano Ronaldo, wants to leave the club.

Ronaldo is said to be concerned that United will be unable to compete for the biggest trophies this season. Aged 37, he wants to have a realistic chance of winning league and Champions League titles as he approaches the end of his career.

According to The Athletic, the number seven is desperate for the Red Devils to ‘match his ambition by strengthening the squad’ and may well have grown ‘frustrated at a perceived slow start to the window’.

READ MORE:Neymar and PSG have just proven Liverpool and FSG right again with 'flashy' transfer era over

READ MORE: Liverpool 'schedule private talks' for '£20m transfer' as Naby Keïta 'rejects contract offer'

He’s seen the reigning champions, Manchester City, sign Erling Haaland and close in on a deal for Kalvin Phillips. Liverpool, meanwhile, have sealed what could prove to be a record deal for striker Darwin Núñez.

What about United? Well, Erik ten Hag has now finalised his first signing, with 22-year-old Feyenoord full-back Tyrell Malacia set to join for around £13m.

Malacia, though, is probably viewed as a squad player at Old Trafford, rather than someone who will necessarily strengthen the first XI straight off the bat.

What Ten Hag really wants is a reunion with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who won the 2018/19 Eredivisie Player of the Year Award under the Dutchman’s tutelage.

However, it’s fair to say the pursuit of the 25-year-old has dragged on. Even this weekend, Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said that ‘we have no intention of selling him [and] he wants to stay’.

Public posturing or otherwise, De Jong has already spoken of his contentment at the Nou Camp. He may be open to joining United, but he’s hardly enthused. Perhaps part of the reason the saga has run for weeks is that he’s not actively pushing for the move.

Already, it seems that Ronaldo has decided that Ten Hag will not be able to compete with City and Liverpool next season. His worries are, implicitly, a compliment to the Reds.

It’s clear that he regards their business highly. They have, after all, landed one of the best young strikers in world football, just like City.

Some Liverpool fans may be unsure whether their squad is truly stronger than last season, with Sadio Mané leaving for Bayern Munich, but Ronaldo seems to believe that, as of right now, the gap between the two big rivals — which stood at a cavernous 34 points at the end of last season — has only widened.

But all this also demonstrates that Liverpool and City have altered expectations. It’s worth stressing that the transfer window only opened just over three weeks ago, on 10 June, and it still runs for another two months, with the deadline set for 1 September.

Even with the start of the season brought forward, there are still five weeks before the Premier League kick-off.

And yet, there’s already a creeping sense that United are in trouble, dramatically magnified by Ronaldo’s transfer request.

Admittedly, it is more important than ever that clubs act swiftly. With the 2022/23 club calendar compressed by the winter World Cup, it’s arguably the biggest pre-season in recent memory. This is a manager's chance to do their most meaningful work before a breathless three-games-a-week schedule sets in and the need for recovery begins to affect the quality of training.

But more generally, City and Liverpool are elite operators who have raised the bar both at the elite level and further down the Premier League. Now, pursuing players for the entire duration of the transfer window is seen as a marker of dysfunction. Clubs are supposed to act with conviction, enacting long-term plans with the minimum of fuss.

Liverpool’s scouting department are known to plan two to three windows in advance, and so they are single-minded when trading begins. It’s telling that most incoming players seem to be posing for photos at Kirkby within a week of the first reports of serious interest.

Fairly or otherwise, the start of the window has further tarnished United’s reputation.

“It's worrying that United are struggling to get business done,” Gary Neville tweeted last month. “The others seem set and ready yet United can’t get moving.”

There might be one or tweaks — Manchester City will probably pursue a left-back, for instance, and Liverpool could move if something exceptional turns up in the market — but for the most part, the top two are all set. Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will virtually have their full squads at their disposal when they reconvene in the next couple of weeks.

All the while, it feels like the summer has only just begun for Manchester United.

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Liverpool launched £19.5m plan to re-sign Mohamed Salah with two more steps to come

Sun, 07/03/2022 - 17:30

On Friday, Liverpool announced that Mohamed Salah had finally signed a new contract, ending the unnerving speculation around his future.

The Reds retain the services of one of the best players in the world and, crucially, keep him out of the hands of their rivals, both domestic and continental.

Inevitably, though, this has come at a significant cost. Salah’s previous contract was worth around £200,000 per week, a relatively modest figure for a player of his calibre, albeit one considerably inflated by bonuses.

READ MORE: Liverpool 'schedule private talks' for '£20m transfer' as Naby Keïta 'rejects contract offer'

READ MORE:Liverpool have five ideal options to take number 10 shirt as two squad number changes confirmed

But this new deal puts Salah among the highest earners in the Premier League. He’ll now be taking home approximately £350,000 per week, an increase of a whopping 75 per cent.

Sadio Mané’s move to Bayern Munich has been identified as a key moment in breaking the deadlock that existed between the club and Salah’s camp.

Mané, after all, was on £200,000 per week himself, according to German publication Sport1. And significantly, his replacement Darwin Núñez will ‘only’ receive £140,000 per week under his first contract. It will work out as a saving of more than £3m per year.

But, alone, that won’t cover Salah’s salary hike — £7.8m per annum. Perhaps Mané’s exit was simply the most important part of a multi-step process.

In addition to the Senegalese superstar, Liverpool have also offloaded Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino. According to The Telegraph, Origi was earning £100,000 p/w, or £5.2m p/a, while Minamino was thought to be on around £75,000, or £3.9m.

That’s a total reduction of £19.5m through the sale of three attackers. And notably, they’ve only signed one replacement in the form of the versatile Fábio Carvalho, whose salary is likely to be far smaller as a 19-year-old fresh from the second tier.

The incomings and outgoings and Anfield have facilitated substantial savings, then. And on top of that, one of the highest earners at the club, the veteran James Milner, has agreed to take a ‘significant’ pay cut to sign a new short-term deal.

Liverpool have had to make allowances for Salah and that process will continue in the coming weeks.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe reports that, rather than signing more players, the priority for the remainder of the summer will be trimming the wage bill.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be the headline departure, but there are a number of young players who are surplus to requirements too: Ben Davies, Nat Phillips, Sepp van den Berg and Neco Williams.

If they go out on loan, their temporary clubs would be expected to contribute heavily to their wages, or even cover them entirely. And if they leave, they’ll likely net the Reds somewhere between £5m and £15m from transfer fees, while freeing them of salary obligations altogether.

Beyond this careful squad management, you might suggest that Liverpool have been shrewd with the timing of their renewals. Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Fabinho — some of the team’s most important players — all penned extensions last summer, and so it should be a while yet before they’re asking for pay rises. For the time being, there will remain a gulf between Salah and teammates.

All of this means that the biggest contract in the history of Liverpool Football Club should, ultimately, be manageable.

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Liverpool transfer move makes sense for 'incredible talent' that Alisson Becker loves

Sun, 07/03/2022 - 16:00

Things at Liverpool, these days at least, are never random. Even when things appear to make little to no sense, there will be a method somewhere — even if the theory has not always paid off perfectly.

The error in not signing a fourth senior centre-back, for example, definitely did not pay off — neither did the panic moves to bring in Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies mid-season — but the theory was that a short-term signing when Dejan Lovren left was not necessary and it was better to wait for the man they really wanted in Ibrahima Konaté.

There were eyebrows raised earlier this week when highly-rated teenage goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga moved to eighth-tier Macclesfield FC, who play in Northern Premier League Division One West, and where Robbie Savage is director of football.

READ MORE: Liverpool 'schedule private talks' for '£20m transfer' as Naby Keïta 'rejects contract offer'

READ MORE:Liverpool have five ideal options to take number 10 shirt as two squad number changes confirmed

The 19-year-old, who was brought in from Fluminense in his homeland of Brazil in October 2020, probably did not expect to be playing in that division, but as ever — the move is nothing random.

It probably helps as well that Macclesfield is not far away from Liverpool — it certainly was an appeal when Harvey Elliott went to Blackburn Rovers for a season — but there is also precedent for young Reds goalkeepers getting experience at a lower league level.

Jakub Ojrzynski spent last season at Caernarfon Town in Wales and will spend the next one back in Poland with Radomiak Radom. Vitezslav Jaros, who signed from Slavia Prague in 2017, spent time with Irish Premier Division side St Patrick's Athletic before he moved to the National League with Notts County in January.

Kamil Grabara, who moved permanently to FC Copenhagen last summer, had a year with Aarhus (also in Denmark) prior to that. Liam Hughes was at national league-level Stalybridge Celtic last season.

Those clubs are a rather 'random' mixture of teams at home and abroad, but there will be a number of reasons for them being chosen.

With Pitaluga, one reason is regular football. The U17 World Cup winner wanted to play regularly and while the physicality of the lower leagues will take some adjusting to, it will help his progression and adaptation to English football. He could have played regularly higher up, but is more likely to be guaranteed of minutes at this level.

"Marcelo is an incredible talent, so the next one in line [after Caoimhin Kelleher]," Jürgen Klopp said of the 19-year-old earlier this year. U23s boss Barry Lewtas described him as a 'big part' of what his side achieved in the first half of last season when speaking to Liverpool.com.

But playing regular senior football, where results really matter, is the next step in his development and Pitaluga will have the chance to advance his game in serious situations rather than just with goalkeeping coach John Achterberg.

"Marcelo is really talented," Alisson Becker said of the young stopper. Alisson had actually helped identify Pitaluga when he trained with him in Brazil (Pitaluga played for the same team as Alisson's brother, Muriel).

"I saw him a few times back in Brazil, but I could know more about him here as a goalie and as a person as well. He is a really special boy, he is really excited about having the opportunity to play for Liverpool.

"Now he has settled in and is doing really well in training. He is a boy who trains really hard and is really dedicated for what he is doing. And someone who likes to learn as well. It is really good to work with him."

Pitaluga, even if he does not become the number one at Liverpool, will play far higher up the footballing pyramid than at Macclesfield throughout the majority of his career, and the Reds rate him highly.

An eight-division drop might seem like a strange move, but there is precedent at Liverpool for similar switches. Pitaluga could have played regular football higher up the system but there are reasons to understand why the Reds sanctioned the move — after all, the Brazilian is yet to play senior football in this country other than in training in Kirkby.

It will take some performance to oust Kelleher as number two and an even bigger swing to one day overtake Alisson, but Pitaluga has talent. Macclesfield are about to experience it.

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Liverpool have already made '£20m' Roberto Firmino decision amid Juventus transfer 'interest'

Sun, 07/03/2022 - 14:30

What does the future hold for Roberto Firmino? Last season was a difficult one for the 30-year-old, as injuries plagued him throughout.

Firmino’s season never really got going. He missed 26 games due to his various injuries, and he’d become a forgotten figure by the final few months of the season as Liverpool attempted an unparalleled quadruple.

Firmino’s role last season morphed into that of an impact sub, coming on the last 25 minutes of games to score goals or help Liverpool tick over. He scored 11 goals in all competitions last season, but most of them didn’t come as a starter.

With his contract winding down and entering its final 12 months, many have asked what the future holds for the perma-smiling Brazilian, who has been one of the club’s best players of the Jürgen Klopp era.

READ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo 'request' proves Liverpool right as Jürgen Klopp transfer warning comes true

READ MORE: Liverpool 'schedule private talks' for '£20m transfer' as Naby Keïta 'rejects contract offer'

With Sadio Mané gone, Mohamed Salah renewing his deal and Firmino’s role diminishing, it’s the end of an era for Liverpool’s brilliant trio. Klopp is evolving the front line and Firmino’s own position within this new-look Liverpool set up remains up in the air.

Recently, Firmino has been linked with a £20m move to Juventus, which throws up its own set of questions.

Do Juve really need him? The answer is no. Max Allegri intends to utilise a 4-3-3 system next season, in order to get the best out of Federico Chiesa, Dušan Vlahović and soon-to-be new signing Angel Di Maria. It’s also thought that Allegri wants a vice-Vlahović figure in the shape of the Serb, so signing Firmino isn’t likely on the cards, even if it’s abundantly evident over the years that Firmino can play in a 4-3-3.

From a Liverpool perspective, and let’s imagine for a second that Juve’s interest is genuine, how high would they have to go with an offer in order to entice Liverpool into a sale?

Some reports have Juve offering £11m for Firmino, while others state figures between £17m and £20m. Calciomercatoweb even went as far as to say that Juve would be willing to offer Adrien Rabiot in a straight swap for Firmino.

Having already lost Mané, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino this summer, Liverpool cannot afford to green light a departure for Firmino unless Juve offered so much money that the Reds had no other choice but to accept.

Juve currently have financial issues stemming from the pandemic, but if they sell Matthijs de Ligt, which looks ever likely, they will have cash to play with. How much money would Liverpool hold out for before deciding to let Firmino go?

If, let’s say, for hypothetical reasons, Juve made an offer in the £25m range, Liverpool would be foolish not to accept, considering Firmino’s age and time left on his contract.

Yet by the same token, are Liverpool going to find a replacement on the market with Firmino’s quality for less than £25m? The smart move would be to just let Firmino enjoy his final year at Anfield, and wish him good luck in 12 months’ time, just like the club did with Origi.

Firmino still has a role to play at Liverpool, and with so many new faces in attack, keeping him at the club for a further year just makes the most sense. So even if any potential Juve offer is tempting, the response should be to keep Firmino where he is.

By letting Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and Sadio Mané go, and with no more incomings expected this transfer window, Liverpool have already made their Firmino stance clear.

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FSG can repeat Premier League transfer for better player as Julian Ward secures Liverpool future

Sun, 07/03/2022 - 05:00

Julian Ward's task at Liverpool is a simple one, at least on paper. Build a team for the future and herald the next generation of Liverpool stars.

So far, the club's new sporting director has acted promptly, securing three first team signings for the club all under the age of 23 while also bringing in exciting academy players like Ben Doak and Trent Kone-Doherty.

But Ward's task is far from finished, and his next mission is to rejuvenate Liverpool's midfield options. In the midfield department, the Reds currently have an ageing core, and sooner or later they will have to be replaced.

One midfielder who has been heavily linked with a move to Anfield is Jude Bellingham, and Liverpool will be keen to recruit him next summer, but he alone cannot refresh all of the club's options.

READ MORE: Liverpool unveil Sadio Mané 'heir' as Jürgen Klopp has a major new option this season

READ MORE: Liverpool can hijack Manchester United transfer for Jude Bellingham alternative after £103m news

Ward will have to search elsewhere, but he will be mindful that Bellingham will likely cost Liverpool a fortune. If the club do secure his services, he will take away a significant chunk of the club's transfer budget. That could see the new sporting director turn to alternative solutions and under-the-radar options which could lead him to Leeds United's latest signing, Brenden Aaronson. Or more specifically, his brother, Paxten.

The 18-year-old is currently enjoying a fruitful campaign at Philadelphia Union and has already racked up 26 senior appearances for the club. A versatile player with an eye for goal from midfield and the creativity and energy to dominate the centre of the park, Paxten — like his older brother — has the work-rate and the intensity to suit Jürgen Klopp's regime at the club.

In the past, Liverpool were linked with Brenden, but Paxten could be an even bigger talent. The Aaronsons' former coach, Omid Namazi, told First Time Finish that Paxten was ahead of his older brother and often pushed him to get better while they were growing up and that he expects him to be playing in Europe soon.

"Paxten was ahead and always pushed Brenden. They trained together and that helped Brenden get better and better and I see Paxten making his way abroad too. That brotherly competition helped him get better."

If Liverpool wanted to get a younger talent, then Paxten Aaronson could be an intriguing target for the club's midfield, and one who would not cost the Reds a fortune either. It seems to fit with the emerging Julian Ward blueprint.

At the same time, with Paxten regarded as one of the USMNT's brightest prospects, he would also be an alluring candidate from FSG's perspective, with the club's American owners knowing full well that Paxten's presence could bring new marketing opportunities. Bringing another Aaronson to the Premier League could end up making sense on all levels for Liverpool.

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Liverpool unveil Sadio Mané 'heir' as Jürgen Klopp has a major new option this season

Sun, 07/03/2022 - 03:00

It won't sink in for a while. Sadio Mané's departure from Anfield still feels surreal and unfathomable. But Liverpool's former winger is no longer contracted to the club and now the Reds have to build towards a new future.

Over the summer, Julian Ward has strengthened the side with three signings to the first team all under the age of 23 and Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool will undergo an evolution of sorts in pre-season. In the 2022/23 season, there will be a new kind of Liverpool built on the pillars of the old guard but also sparked into a new lease of life by the club's exciting emerging youngsters.

That change has been acutely defined by Harvey Elliott. As a kid, only a few years ago, he was someone who looked up to Mané for inspiration and idolised the Liverpool icon. Now having become teammates with the club legend for a brief period, he will also have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

READ MORE: Liverpool can hijack Manchester United transfer for Jude Bellingham alternative after £103m news

READ MORE: Liverpool and Mohamed Salah have reached perfect compromise as £55m FSG risk comes at right time

Liverpool have announced Elliott will wear the number 19 next season, formerly worn by Mané at the club. Speaking about the inspiration for the change to the club's official website, Elliott named Mané as the biggest influence.

"I remember having a Sadio shirt with the number 19 on it as a kid. So to be able to wear it after him, it's a great pleasure.

"At the end of the day, a number is just a number, but it's just nice to have a lower number. I think it's a great opportunity going into another season."

Many were a little too impatient with Elliott towards the end of last season. The teenager was still recovering from a serious injury and it was always going to take him time to bounce back. But if the Liverpool midfielder can reconjure the kind of form he demonstrated prior to his injury, Klopp could have one formidable player among his ranks — someone who will not only be an integral member of Liverpool's future but also a crucial component of the club's season ahead.

Last season, Elliott averaged the most shot-creating-actions (5.46) per 90, and was a major creative influence in Liverpool's midfield. Towards the end of the season, Liverpool often lacked that spark in the final third and didn't really manage to create a lot of clear-cut opportunities from midfield. If Elliott can post similar numbers from a much bigger sample next season, he could easily end up becoming almost like another new signing, especially if Klopp decides to operate in a 4-2-3-1 system.

With a new number taken from one of his idols, the motivation and the incentive is all there. Now it's simply up to Elliott to put in the work and grab his chance.

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