It’s been just over 2 weeks since Liverpool’s defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League Final! It was a gut-wrenching affair in which Los Blancos hung on by hook or by crook while slowly establishing ways to hit Liverpool on the counter.
The match was marred by the total ineptitude of the Parisian police, unchecked gangs of street hoodlums, and faulty ID technology, followed by the predictable parade of politicians pointing fingers at everyone except those that were actually culpable.
For me, this made defeat all the more difficult to swallow. About 15% of supporters with verifiable tickets never got in while many more endured tear gas, pepper spray, assaults, thefts, false accusations, and late entry. The Mayor of Liverpool was robbed in plain sight of riot police! The Liverpool family hurt across the globe as events all too close to Hillsborough unfolded.
To make it worse the partly anticipated news the following morning that Sadio Mane wanted to leave the club made things feel that much more painful. Rumors had floated around the previous week of a bid from Bayern Munich. Klopp meanwhile had made a “wherever he ends up playing next season” comment, slipped into other broader remarks (the same wording he’d used about Divock Origi a few months earlier), that seemed to suggest a move was possible.
But the story from Bild seemed wild! Liverpool was never going to take £25m for him and they will not be having already rejected out of hand a £30m follow-up that was so weak it induced a parody offer to Bayern Munich from Spartak Moscow. And although punditry in some corners suggested it was good business for Liverpool to begin turning over their forward line, this seems to be driven directly by the player.
How Much Will They Get?
Liverpool will probably not take less than £42.5m for Mane with FSG’s consistent line suggesting they’ll keep the player and run his contract out if they don’t get it. This despite the fact that they have just put the finishing touches on the signing of Darwin Nunez, Uruguay international and ready-made replacement on the forward line. Bayern does seem to be getting the message though and a deal is starting to look closer with terms agreed between Bayern and Mane.
Liverpool answered their last Champions League Final defeat by promptly signing Fabinho the following week. This time around Liverpool has reset with Nunez, a product of the Penarol academy in Montevideo who spent the last 2 years starring for Benfica.
The arrival of Nunez restocks the Red’s attacking options where additional turnover sees Divock Origi walking over to AC Milan on a free transfer while Taku Minamino has received a £17m valuation. It’s not clear where Liverpool will plug holes with 3 potential attacking departures to 1 addition so far. We don’t know if Kaide Gordon will be loaned out for development or if newly arrived Fabio Carvalho will feature in midfield or up top, and in the same vain as Carvalho, it’s not clear what role (if any) will be assigned to Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Carvalho in fact is one of the more intriguing signings. Playing on the left of a 4-2-3-1 for Fulham he has the defensive and pressing qualities to be a Klopp forward but without the scoring. However, securing a spot there would likely require ousting Luis Diaz from his prime position. In midfield, his passing and vision would be a huge plus but he cannot run the game like Thiago (at least not yet).
There is a lot of speculation that the personnel will dictate a switch to a 4-2-3-1 which would seem to suit Henderson, Thiago, Carvalho, and Nunez more. But Klopp has been noticeably stubborn in sticking to his 4-3-3 and he may want players to adapt to the way he wants his team to play.
What Else Will Be Done
It also remains to be seen if Liverpool is done with beefing up the midfield. The Reds were definitely in for Tchouameni from Monaco (which lends further weight to a 4-2-3-1) who would have cost slightly more than Nunez, but he definitely preferred Real Madrid and even chose them over PSG. A lot of supporters would like to see Jude Bellingham from Dortmund who seems out of reach this window; or will Liverpool now regroup and push on with more opportunities for Carvalho and Elliott to play for the time being.
In defense, right-back Calvin Ramsay is scheduled to arrive and back-up Trent Alexander-Arnold (although Joe Gomez may still be the preferred choice). World Cup-bound Neco Williams, on loan at Fulham, is likely to leave the Anfield fold permanently. Ramsay will be given time to bed in should they complete the move and is not in immediate need of game time. The 18-year-old made 33 first-team appearances for Aberdeen last season including 6 in Europe. The deal is currently concluding.
Goalkeepers look set for Liverpool. Reliable reports say Alisson’s understudy, Carabao Cup Final hero Caoimhin Kelleher will be back for another campaign with the club making a long-term decision on his future in the summer of 2023.
So it’s going to be a slightly new look, Liverpool. Harvey Elliott will be pushing for a regular spot in midfield where Jordan Henderson will likely find himself as more of an alternate in the 6 and 8 spots. Curtis Jones meanwhile is another who may be offered the chance to leave, but could yet thrive more on the left side in a 4-2-3-1. But so it is as players strive to break into the first team, others must give way. Liverpool is re-shuffling the deck as they must and striving to improve.