Sam McGuire: Liverpool need to take a more ruthless transfer approach after Klopp

Liverpool had gone soft. There’s no way of dressing it up either. Over the past couple of seasons, a club famed for their data-driven approach had been shaped by sentiment.

And it is no doubt why they keep finding themselves in unenviable situations.

In the summer of 2021, Gini Wijnaldum left on a free. Whether you rated him or not, at that stage of his career in that market, he was easily worth £40million had he been under contract.

Of course, this is subjective, but this was a 30-year-old midfielder with over 200 appearances for Liverpool. He had won everything with the Reds and while his sale should’ve helped fund part of the middle third rebuild, he was allowed to leave on a free.

He could’ve been sold the year prior if he wasn’t going to be given a new deal. But, if reports are to be believed, Jurgen Klopp didn’t want to part ways with the Dutchman. In fact, he wanted to give him an extension.

This has been a common theme throughout.

At a glance, it appears Liverpool hang on to players for too long. They are then unable to pocket a respectable transfer fee if they do depart before their contract comes to an end which in turn impacts their budget for incomings.

In reality, the players remain with the club because Klopp isn’t ready to say goodbye to them. In fact, he’s usually pushing for them to be offered new deals behind the scenes. In a recent Paul Joyce article for The Times, one source told him that: “Without doubt relationships mean more than trophies to Jurgen.”

This is both a blessing and a curse.

Klopp loyalty cost Liverpool

His relationship with players is what allows him to eke out that extra 20 percent. But then it also makes it nearly impossible for the club to make the tough decisions. He simply won’t force a player out.

So you end up in squad-management limbo. And this is where Liverpool have found themselves for the past few campaigns.

In the summer of 2022, the Reds found themselves in quite a pickle. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were all due contract talks. How do you get yourselves into such a situation with your three senior forwards?

Roberto Firmino

SAFF Roshn Saudi Pro League 2023-24 MD11 Roberto Firmino of Al-Ahli SFC during the Match Day 11 of the SAFF Roshn Saudi Pro League 2023-24 between Al-Hilal SFC vs Al-Ahli SFC at King Fahd International Stadium on October 27, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh King Fahd International Stadium Saudi Arabia PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxJPNxUK Copyright: xVictorxFrailex 0311121295st

A ruthless management team would’ve sold one in 2021 for big money, one in 2022 for reasonable money and then made a decision on what to do with the third player during the summer of 2022. Either offer a new deal, agree to part ways on a free the following summer or sell him during that transfer window.

In the end, Liverpool sold Mane in 2022 for an initial £27 million fee. It was on the low side given his numbers during the 2021/22 campaign. Firmino then left on a free after the 2022/23 campaign even though Klopp wanted him to stay. Salah penned a new deal but now has just 12 months left on his current contract.

The likelihood is the Reds end up with just £27million for Mane, Firmino and Salah. When, at one point, any one of them could’ve fetched £100million.

 It is a case of Klopp not knowing when to call time on working with a player he likes.

New regime needs to put a stop to it

He wanted to give 37-year-old James Milner a new deal last summer before his move to Brighton. And, as revealed by Joyce, the German tactician wasn’t joking when he said he would give Joel Matip a new deal.

The defender suffered a season-ending injury in December and with his deal up at the end of the current campaign, he had played his last game for the club.

Liverpool needed a defensive overhaul. Freeing up space in the squad and in the wage bill helps facilitate that. Matip, in all honesty, should’ve been sold a couple of years back when his stock was at its highest and it would’ve allowed the Reds to bring in a more reliable option.

Joel Matip Liverpool

Premier League Manchester City v Liverpool Joel Matip 32 of Liverpool during the Premier League match Manchester City vs Liverpool at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, United Kingdom, 25th November 2023 Photo by Conor Molloy/News Images Manchester Etihad Stadium Manchester United, ManU Kingdom Copyright: xConorxMolloy/NewsxImagesx

Instead, he remained and Liverpool had to turn their right-sided centre-back position into a timeshare between their injury-prone defenders.

It wasn’t an easy decision but it would’ve been the right decision.

Matip isn’t the only example of this either. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain falls into this category. So do Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara who was released on Friday along with Matip.

Liverpool haven’t sold well over the years because they haven’t been able to sell. Assets are able to leave for free because the manager hasn’t wanted to push them out,  even if they aren’t able to contribute consistently.

The new regime needs to put a stop to this, even if it does rock the boat.  How they handle the situation with Virgil van Dijk, Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold could shape the new era of the club. A more ruthless approach could see the Reds return to the very top.

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