Jurgen Klopp’s charges reached the final of Europe’s elite competition against the odds and can now use the 2017/18 season as a selling point to potential signings.
The aim, of course, would have been to bring Ol’ Big Ears back to Anfield for a sixth time but, as defeatist as it may be, it’s an achievement in itself for this side to reach the final. Our friends at Football Whispers explain why the best is still to come from Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The Reds, despite claims to the contrary, didn’t have an easy route to the final. Porto might not be the best team in Europe but the Estadio do Dragao is a difficult place to go. To hit them for five without reply is a statement.
Manchester City romped home to the Premier League title, finishing a record 19 points clear of neighbours Manchester United in second, yet lost 5-1 on aggregate to Klopp’s men. They had no answer to the first-half blitz they faced at Anfield.
Roma never really threatened to win the Serie A title but Eusebio Di Francesco’s team took four points from Chelsea during the Champions League group stages, hit Napoli for four and completed a historic comeback against Barcelona to progress to the semi-finals of the world’s premier club tournament.
They welcomed Liverpool to the Stadio Olimpico having not conceded on home soil in Europe this season, but found themselves behind after just nine minutes. The Reds did something five other teams, including Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, failed to do.
An environment to develop
This Liverpool squad had no right to achieve what they did – they’re only the second team in the past decade to finish in the top four and go all the way to the Champions League final – but the team is greater than the sum of its parts. Klopp works in a way which showcases the strengths of his players and this in turn helps them add another dimension to their game.
Mohamed Salah went from a 15-goal-a-season winger to an attacker who hit 44 goals in all competitions under the guidance of the charismatic manager. Roberto Firmino was deemed not clinical enough by the masses but finished the 2017/18 campaign with 39 goal involvements across the board. While Sadio Mane, Mr. Inconsistency himself, scored 20 goals in a single campaign for the first time ever.
Klopp makes good players better and quality players into great ones. It’s an easy USP to sell to individuals on the periphery of having their breakout campaign; the ones looking to elevate themselves to the top table.
The feat is even more impressive when the sale of Philippe Coutinho is taken into account. Klopp and the recruitment team made the decision to allow the Brazilian to leave for Barcelona during the January window.
They were compensated with the second highest fee in world football. The club resisted the urge to go on a spending spree and instead backed the players already on Merseyside.
The decision to do so will have no doubt pique the interest of a number of Liverpool transfer targets. It’s another reminder that the Liverpool boss knows what he’s doing and that there’s a clear vision in his mind of where he wants this project to go.
And because there’s a long-term plan in place there’s room to be patient. Unlike many other clubs where owners can be knee jerk and managers are quick to throw players under the bus if it gives them and extra six months in the job, Klopp unburdens his players and has created an environment in which mistakes are encouraged so long as they’re carrying out his instructions.
He said as much recently: “We have an early agreement – I am responsible for the defeats. The boys are responsible for all the things we win.”
He’s backed Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and even Firmino in the past when the media, and fans, have called for them to be replaced. He’ll no doubt do the same with Loris Karius after the German shot-stopper had a Champions League final to forget about. Klopp’s loyal. Sometimes it’s to his detriment but for the most part it’s the reason behind the success he’s had.
The cavalry is on its way
Liverpool are already on their way to assembling a squad capable of competing with Manchester City for the Premier League title. Juventus transfer target Emre Can looks set to depart this summer but the arrival of Naby Keita more than makes up for it. He’s arguably the most well-rounded midfielder in Europe and arrives on July 1 having agreed a deal last summer.
If he adapts quickly then the midfield at Anfield, possibly the biggest weakness right now, will have an immediate upgrade. He’s not the only new signing on the cards, either.
Nabil Fekir has been named as a top Liverpool transfer target and could well be the man to fill the creative void left by Coutinho. A £60million fee has been mooted and his addition would give the Reds the depth they’ve lacked for the best part of six months.
Ousmane Dembele, Leon Bailey and Malcom are all reportedly on a wish list, too. It’s clear Klopp is eager to add pace to his squad so they aren’t as reliant on Mane and Salah. The three players on the radar of some of the most exciting talents in world football today aged 21 and under and they’re a far cry from the likes of Saido Berahino and Jordan Ayew, players linked with Liverpool just a couple of years back.
The club’s progress is clear with transfer targets alone. A Champions League triumph would’ve been the icing on the cake but the loss hasn’t derailed the project. Far from it. The foundations are there for the Reds to really kick on.