Liverpool are targeting a number of deals for Premier League players this summer
As the referee’s full-time whistle echoed around Old Trafford on Thursday evening to secure Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea and confirm their place in next season’s Champions League, Mohamed Salah didn’t mince his words as he took to social media to express his disappointment at Liverpool’s exclusion from the Premier League’s top-four for the first time since May 2016.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for this,” tweeted the Egyptian, who has contested three finals for the Reds in Europe’s premier competition since his transfer from AS Roma six years ago. In one of those finals, of course, Salah fired the opening goal as Liverpool defeated Tottenham Hotspur at the Wanda Metropolitano in June 2019 to claim their sixth European Cup.
Judging by Jurgen Klopp’s comments at Friday’s final pre-match press conference of the season, there appears to be no misunderstanding of Liverpool’s grave failure at the AXA Training Centre with the Reds boss admitting he holds the same viewpoint as Salah.
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Despite a run of seven consecutive wins in the Premier League through April and May, a four-and-a-six-point deficit to Newcastle United and Manchester United in third and fourth place in the table means the Reds’ final game of the season, an away trip to Southampton on Sunday afternoon, has been rendered meaningless with a fifth-place finish secured regardless of the outcome.
It means that for the first time since the 2015-16 season, Liverpool will contest the Europa League next term. It comes less than 12 months after an exhilarating 63-game season put Klopp’s side on the brink of a first quadruple on English shores.
But despite such shortcomings in both the Premier League and Champions League, Liverpool are working swiftly behind the scenes to ensure next season’s quest in UEFA’s secondary competition is nothing more than a blemish on the German’s gleaming European record with the Reds.
Veteran Bundesliga sporting director Jorg Schmadtke is set to be the club’s first addition of the post-season reshape, with the 59-year-old former goalkeeper set to travel to Merseyside over the weekend in order to finalise the details of his short-term deal. Should all go to plan, he will become the club’s third sporting director in the last 12 months after Michael Edwards and Julian Ward both vacated the position.
Schmadtke will be tasked with helping Liverpool bolster their squad with quality additions and the aim of plotting a return to the top end of both the English and European tables in the years ahead. And in order to achieve exactly that, Liverpool know they cannot afford to fall any further behind Manchester City, or any of the Premier League’s latest Champions League representatives in Newcastle and Arsenal – who this season both ended their lengthy exiles from the competition.
To fulfil such aims, Schmadtke will be entrusted with helping identify players who can immediately enhance the quality of Klopp’s squad from as early as the Premier League’s return in August, which hasn’t always been the case on Merseyside in recent years.
Despite winning the Premier League, Champions League, Club World Cup, Super Cup, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield since June 2019, Liverpool have largely favoured carrying out their business in overseas markets with Ward previously utilising his connections from his time as the club’s European scouting manager to strike deals for Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez in 2022.
In fact, since making then-Red Star Belgrade midfielder Marko Grujic his first signing in January 2016, 23 of Klopp’s following 33 first-team signings have come from outside of the Premier League, with the most notable additions being Alisson Becker, Nunez, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara.
And of his 34 signings in total, the remaining 11 have been made up of players from Premier League sides with names such as Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and most recently Diogo Jota when he joined from Wolverhampton Wanderers in September 2020.
In more recent years, those at the top end of the Premier League have persisted to scour the tried-and-tested English market with this season’s title challengers Arsenal recently raiding Manchester City of four-time Premier League winners Raheem Sterling and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Mikel Arteta also added Chelsea’s midfield stalwart Jorginho to their ranks during the winter transfer window to assist their hopes of a first league title in 19 years.
Meanwhile, closer to Anfield, Manchester City have shelled out huge fees to Premier League clubs for the signatures of Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish, Nathan Ake, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kalvin Philips during Pep Guardiola’s time at the Etihad Stadium.
This summer, however, those at Anfield could be set to make their first Premier League addition since September 2020, with Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister two players drawn up as well-liked alternatives to Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. Mount’s Stamford Bridge team-mate Conor Gallagher has also been linked with a move to Anfield this summer.
If successful in landing two of their midfield targets this summer in Mount and Mac Allister, Liverpool would be welcoming two players with a combined 226 appearances in the English top-flight. That, combined with a sprinkle of their continental savviness of recent years, would go some way to ensuring the Reds are well-placed to avoid the teething problems they encountered from the first whistle of this Premier League at Craven Cottage back in August.
In avoiding a repeat of such failures, Liverpool would assure they are already halfway to delivering – what Salah described as – the “bare minimum” of a return to Champions League football next campaign.