Jurgen Klopp is willing to wait a year for Liverpool to sign Jude Bellingham. The absolute cheek of it!
It was revealed on Thursday that Liverpool’s summer transfer business would come to an end after they tied up a deal for Calvin Ramsay. The right-back joins winger Fabio Carvalho and striker Darwin Nunez as the new additions to a completed 2022/23 squad. Bish, bash, bosh, they’re ready for the season six weeks before it starts. Phenomenal work.
And there’s very little evidence to suggest those three new players will be anything other than brilliant; Liverpool signings made under Jurgen Klopp almost always are. Players are brought in to provide greater strength to areas we weren’t particularly aware of needed strengthening, and they duly strengthen them. The Fab Three weren’t fabulous enough, so Diogo Jota came in and started banging goals in every which way, before Luis Diaz pushed him from the starting line-up.
The forwards in particular slide so seamlessly into Klopp’s team that you somehow struggle to remember what life was like before them. Are they good? No, they were great. Just not this great.
Liverpool have got to a point where anything they do in the transfer market feels entirely risk-free. Nunez has had one good season and they paid £85m for him. Had Chelsea or Manchester United signed the same player for the same money, we would be rubbing our hands with glee, wondering just how floppy this multi-million pound flop would turn out to be. But because it’s Liverpool we live in fear, getting through the days by telling ourselves that at some point one of these signings will be a bit sh*t; they just have to be.
But it’s no coincidence that Liverpool get it so right when others get it so badly wrong. Klopp’s standing as the main man at the club certainly helps, and the football they play allows players (certainly the forwards) to learn on the job to a certain extent. But it’s the clarity and forethought that’s so remarkable. It shouldn’t be. Other clubs should be able to do the same. But having long been the butt of the joke in the Premier League, Liverpool are now the model club others aspire to bespending money expertly within their means.
Liverpool have sold well and bought better in a time when Manchester United have “f***ing burned through” £1bn. And while their red rivals remain very much at panic stations despite attempting to exude calm, Liverpool are now in a position to be patient, almost waiting for the deals to come to them.
Sometimes external factors force their hand. It’s thought they wanted to wait until this summer to sign Diaz, but Tottenham’s interest meant they had to move in January. And it’s fair to suggest they may not have pushed for Nunez had Manchester City not landed Erling Haaland, or if Sadio Mane had signed a new deal. But those transfers, though they apparently happened quickly, were straightforward. These players hang fire until Liverpool come calling and jump at the chance to join them when they do.
And there’s now a wonderful, if irritating, arrogance to Liverpool in the transfer market. Barcelona and Real Madrid have long had the status that Liverpool now enjoy. The one where they can come calling in the knowledge that pretty much everyone wants to play for them. It’s the same status Manchester United have now lost through seasons of ignominy, with ‘Big Club’ talk and DNA nonsense now their primary method of persuasion for players who would much rather join a club that’s just as ‘big’, with an undoubtedly world- class manager who has his team playing excellent football and wins trophies consistently.
A report claims ‘Liverpool will spend the next 12 months stepping up their search for a world-class midfielder’, with Klopp telling Sporting Director Julian Ward he wants ‘a young, multi-functional operator with technique and athleticism in equal abundance’. They appear to be describing Jude Bellingham. But it’s not the target but the time they’ve set aside to find the perfect addition that’s so extraordinary and perfectly illustrates their growing hubris.
They’ve got a great squad, but it’s not perfect and that’s fine. They’re not rushing to buy a new central midfielder. They’re happy to be imperfect while they wait for the right player at a point when they have the funds to sign them. Klopp knows he has at least the second best squad in the Premier Leagueand if it is slightly inferior to Pep Guardiola’s at City, he knows they’re able to compete on this seemingly inexorable path to becoming even better.
It’s often said that one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest strengths was his ability to rebuild title-winning teams. He would sh*t and then get off the pot. We are coming to the point where Klopp will be truly tested in that regard, as he looks to replace players that have served him and the club so well. But there’s no panic. Instead there’s patience and arrogance, and it’s working brilliantly.