Liverpool have already signed Darwin Nunez, sold Sadio Mane and tied Mohamed Salah to a new deal, all before flying out for their pre-season tour. It’s been a characteristically efficient summer of business for the Reds.
The departure of Michael Edwards as sporting director raised concerns that Liverpool could lose some of their advantage in the transfer market, but his successor Julian Ward has wasted no time in proving himself a more than capable replacement.
Núñez’s signing from Benfica for a projected record £85m fee was sealed within days, with Ward traveling to Portugal to seal the deal before rivals Manchester United were seemingly unfazed by Mane’s surprise decision. to leave Anfield. A week after signing his replacement, Mane’s departure to Bayern Munich was confirmed.
Liverpool’s investment in Núñez marked a clear change in transfer strategy as they broke the club’s transfer record with a deal that could amount to €100m for the 23-year-old Uruguayan international. Jurgen Klopp said in 2016 that if such numbers became the norm in football, “I wouldn’t be in a job anymore.”
In the background, Liverpool was able to secure the arrival of two young promises. Attacking midfielder Fabio Carvalho signed from Fulham, while right-back Calvin Ramsay joined from Aberdeen.
But, perhaps the most important business of all for Liverpool this summer, was to agree a new contact with Salah after almost a year of long negotiations. The Egyptian international, who signed for a further three years at Anfield, has become the highest-paid player in Liverpool history, earning £350,000 a week.
Here, German soccer expert Rafa Honigstein assesses Klopp’s summer business on the Transfer Talk podcast…
Has there been any change in Klopp’s transfer strategy?
I don’t think so [Klopp’s comment on spending] It was a joke, I think it was real six years ago. I don’t think he could have foreseen the acceleration of salaries and transfer fees. I think it shows where Liverpool are that they can spend that kind of money. They had to sell in the past, they couldn’t keep their best players. It was a situation I was very familiar with at Dortmund, every year they would lose a player and every year you constantly rebuilt yourself and as a result you lost a little bit of momentum and rhythm. And now they are in this fantastic position, Mane is gone, but they kept the one they really wanted to keep in Mo Salah and brought in one of the most exciting young strikers in Europe. It’s a fantastic situation to be in.
Why were Liverpool able to convince Salah to stay?
I think a couple of years ago there were rumors that Salah might leave and it was almost accepted that it would get to a point where Liverpool can’t pay the wages and can’t compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid. To be completely honest, if any of them had entered we could have seen that situation because they can pay up to £500,000, a third more [than his new Liverpool wage] – at least they did [previously]. But as the economic situation has changed for Barcelona and because Real Madrid have had other interests this year, I think that Liverpool and Salah found themselves in a situation where the arguments to renew were overwhelming and that is why the agreement was reached. It could have been different if Mane had decided to stay and sign another contract. But as it played out with Liverpool making a bit of money and Nunez coming on, to get three more years out of a 30-year-old Mo Salah, I don’t see any downside.
How will Salah’s deal affect Liverpool?
The only potential problem is, does it create a ripple effect in the locker room? Does it generate a bit of envy in the locker room? That comes down to Klopp’s management and the perception in the locker room. If there is a feeling that Salah is worth every penny and that the club has done the right thing and continues to score consistently, then there will be no problem. If his form drops, things get more complicated, but we haven’t seen much sign of that. He was a bit tired maybe after AFCON in some periods, but with a full season and some rest for him as well during the World Cup because Egypt didn’t qualify, it should be great.
Has it always been Klopp’s style to bring in the best young players?
I think it’s a combination of things. Jurgen Klopp’s style of football is very demanding and it is easier for players in their prime or entering their prime, rather than players entering their 30s, to play it. That requires a certain style of play, I think also a certain mentality. Younger players tend to be a bit more malleable, they listen more, they’re more ready to accept an existing context rather than say, “I’ve won this and this and this, surely you’ll adapt to the way I play.” and that will never happen in a Jurgen Klopp team.
But it’s also testament to how many smart moves Liverpool have made as a club. They signed people like Andy Robertson, they developed fantastic players internally like Trent Alexander-Arnold, and why wouldn’t you play those guys if you know they’re so good at such a young age? It’s not just the coach saying I want young players, it’s the ability to play very good football at a young age, both through clever recruitment and a very good job in the academy, that gives Klopp the possibility. to give these guys a chance.
I think what Liverpool have now is a very good mix between young players, more experienced players, players from the academy, players who have been brought in from abroad. And I think that creates a machine mentality of ‘We’re going to go and win most games.’ You saw how close they came to winning absolutely everything last season, and I think they’re in that position for next season, it’s just a wonderful position to be in. I think as a manager I would have also renewed because you can see there is still a lot of joy to be had with this side in the future.
Is Mane an automatic starter at Bayern?
Yes, it will make it more difficult for the likes of Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and even Thomas Muller to break into the side. The reason they signed him, aside from the opportunistic element that he was available, was because Julian Nagelsmann loves his attitude and ruthlessness. Bayern can sometimes find it a bit easy in the Bundesliga because they are so superior that we saw in the second half of the season they lost a bit of their edge and when it came to beating Villarreal in the Champions League they couldn’t quite. raise your game. And with Mane setting the tone, he gives you that consistency, that work rate and the humility that will have a positive effect on everyone else. His playing style is contagious and he can play a wide variety of positions.
The big question is, do Nagelsmann and the rest of the board consider him a good enough replacement when it comes to playing through the middle in the post-Robert Lewandowski era or do they need someone else as well? There’s a debate because it’s been in Bayern’s DNA for almost the last 40 years to have a big strong number 9 of some sort and it would mark an outlet to go to Liverpool’s system of three strikers who are all wingers and not 10s who can all play in different positions. I think Nagelsmann would be in favor of that, but there are some people on the board who think they need a number 9 who can score even if they’re playing poorly. I think Mane will be an automatic starter and an absolute superstar for Bayern next season.