Liverpool's midfield rebuild: What happened next for the players let go last summer?

Liverpool's midfield rebuild has been one of the success stories of the 2023/24 season.

The Reds entered last summer expecting to do some renovation work on their engine room and ended it with a complete overhaul.

Planned exits for James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arthur Melo at the end of their contracts were followed by the unexpected transfers of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho following too-good-to-turn-down offers from Saudi Arabia.

In the place of the departing stars arrived Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch.

The quartet along with existing options like Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones have transformed Jurgen Klopp's midfield from perhaps the squad's biggest weakness to one of its core strengths.

Mac Allister has shone both in a deeper and more advanced role, stepping up with goals and assists in key moments, and the World Cup winner already looks a snip at £35m.

Meanwhile, £16m Endo looks a strong contender for the signing of the summer and is outshining the big-money defensive midfielders Liverpool were linked with before his surprise arrival.

Szoboszlai has added much needed creative and dynamism to the engine room, while 21-year-old Gravenberch's potential is clear.

The six players who left last summer have hardly been missed at all as 'Liverpool 2.0' (as Klopp has dubbed them) continue to chase four trophies this season.

But what of those six who left? Where are they now and how have they fare since leaving Anfield?


Jordan Henderson

AMSTERDAM - Jordan Henderson of Ajax during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on February 3, 2024 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. ANP OLAF KRAAK Dutch Eredivisie 2023/2024.

Liverpool's captain of eight years tarnished his reputation somewhat with a summer move to the Saudi Pro League, joining Steven Gerrard's Al Ettifaq.

The decision to jump ship just because he might not be first choice anymore didn't sit well with many Reds, while the transfer also caused controversy more widely for Henderson's supposed selling out of his LGBT+ advocacy.

The ill-fated spell in Saudi Arabia only lasted six months however, with Henderson seeking a move back to Europe in January.

The 33-year-old joined Ajax on a two-and-a-half-year deal after Al Ettifaq agreed to terminate his contract.

He has played seven games for the underperforming Dutch giants to date, winning just once.

While his arrival in the Eredivisie was seen as something of a coup by many — 'Henderson 6' shirts reportedly broke records as the fastest-selling in club history — his performances have drawn criticism.

Rafael van der Vaart has been one vocal critic, while Henderson faced a particularly brutal line of questioning from one interviewer after a 2-2 home draw with Fortuna Sittard.

James Milner

38-year-old Milner probably left Liverpool on the best terms of the six departing midfielders, with it widely viewed as the right time for the loyal club servant to move on.

While Milner was replaced as the 'Lactate Test King' at Liverpool by Dominik Szoboszlai, he found a new home at Brighton, where he has made 20 appearances in all competitions so far this season.

In January, he moved into second place in the all-time Premier League appearances chart ahead of Ryan Giggs and is fast closing in on leader Gareth Barry.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Another who left on a free transfer last summer, Oxlade-Chamberlain revealed he was left in the dark over his future ahead of his Anfield exit.

“It was never said [but] I obviously got the picture,” he told the Athletic. “I got told before they released the statement [three days before the Villa game]: ‘Just so you know, we’re putting this out about you, Milly, Bobby and Naby leaving’.

“And I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Thanks’. But there was nothing official at any point before. It was just, the silence was enough to know what the situation was.”

Now at Super Lig heavyweights Besiktas, Oxlade-Chamberlain has made 20 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring four times - including in an Istanbul derby against Galatasaray. He has also been sent off for sparking a brawl in a Conference League win over Lugano back in December.

Domestically, Besiktas are far from title challengers this season and sit in fourth spot after 29 games of the 2023/24 campaign, three points behind Trabzonspor in the Europa League qualification spots.

Naby Keita

Naby Keita Werder Bremen

Naby Keita Werder Bremen

It's fair to say Keita's infamous fitness issues have followed him since leaving Liverpool.

The 29-year-old midfielder who cost Liverpool over £50m back in 2018, did manage to turn out for Guinea at the Africa Cup of Nations but has hardly been seen on a pitch anywhere else in 2023/24.

Keita, who joined Werder Bremen as a free agent in the summer, has played just 81 minutes of football for his new club so far, as injury struggles continue to dog his career.

Initially seen as a coup for the German side, Keita's signing has quickly become a nightmare amid regular updates of knocks and other issues.

Recent reports claim he was actually left out of Werder's latest matchday squad for 'performance reasons' rather than fitness ones, while it was alleged back in December that Keita was 'annoying' the club by turning up late to team meetings.

Arthur Melo

The man who managed just 13 minutes for Liverpool in an ill-fated loan spell last season has found a new lease of life at Fiorentina in 2023/24.

Unsurprisingly, Liverpool didn't opt to take up the purchase option on Arthur after an injury-hit year at Anfield and he was subsequently loaned out again by Juventus.

The 27-year-old former Barcelona star has fared much better back in Italy, making 34 appearances this season to date.

The deep-lying midfielder has shone for his new side, who sit eighth in the Serie A table.

Speaking back in January in an interview with Tuttosport, Arthur's agent even called his client 'the best player in the league'.

Federico Pastorello said: “Fiorentina were good at seeing the opportunity. Juventus had to cover part of the salary to revive him and today Arthur is maybe the best player in the league.”

Fabinho

Al Ahly FC v Al Ittihad FC - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023 Fabinho defensive midfield of Al Ittihad and Brazil during the FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023 match between Al Ahly FC v Al Ittihad FC at King Abdullah Sports City on December 15, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Liverpool's biggest summer exit, Fabinho sale to Al Ittihad was sanctioned for £40m — an amount seen as too good to refuse, given the Brazilian's age and recently declining performances.

The move made Fabinho the Reds fifth biggest ever sale, while he joined up with the likes of Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante for the Jeddah-based Saudi champions.

The 30-year-old was even given a Rolex by a journalist after an impressive debut in the Saudi Pro League. However, things since then have not gone so smoothly.

Al Ittihad sit fourth in the league table, some 35 points off leader Al Hilal after just 23 games, with manager Nuno Espirito Santo getting the sack for the club's poor performances back in November.

Fabinho, once nickname Liverpool's 'lighthouse', was sent off for raising his hands to an opponent in a 5-2 defeat to Sadio Mane's Al Nassr back in December, while clips of the midfielder's occasionally lacklustre-looking defending have gone viral.

Unlike Henderson, however, there have been no reports of Fabinho seeking a move away yet.

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