This summer is set to be a huge one for Liverpool in the transfer market. In terms of bringing players in, much could depend on whether the club qualifies for the Champions League.
With fourth place in the Premier League meaning a Champions League play-off spot, even that does not guarantee progress to the group stages of European football’s premier competition. That being said, a place in the Champions League play-offs plus the name of the club should be more than enough to tempt players to Anfield during the summer transfer window.
However, bringing in players is only one part of the transfer conundrum ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. Liverpool must also look at keeping the important players, who are already at the club and prevent other teams from signing them.
One player whose name is being consistently linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid is Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian forward has enjoyed an excellent season for Liverpool and if he had remained fit for the whole campaign, Champions League football would have been assured before the final day of the season.
Coutinho delivered a tremendous performance in the penultimate match of the season at West Ham, operating from a central position and pulled the strings for much of the game. It was a massive match for Liverpool and Coutinho stood up and made the difference, creating the opening goal for Daniel Sturridge before netting two goals himself.
Coutinho recently signed a new five-year deal with Liverpool and there is no buy-out clause in the contract, which means clubs cannot automatically trigger a transfer by meeting a specified amount. This puts Liverpool in a very strong position if clubs should attempt to sign the player in the summer.
With strong rumours linking Coutinho to Barcelona, it would be a massive boost if he remained at Anfield. This would signal an intent to build on the current squad, rather than spend the time trying to replace outgoing players.
Keeping Coutinho would also make attracting potential targets easier, as the quality of the team would not be compromised. If a top player sees Coutinho leaving Liverpool, they will start questioning whether they are making the right choice in joining the club. So, making sure Coutinho stays should be one of the top priorities during the summer transfer window.
Much has been made in recent years of Liverpool taking players from Southampton and it could happen again before next season.
Having already signed Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane from the south coast club, another player could be about to make the same move. Liverpool have struggled again defensively this season, that much is obvious.
Whether it be corners, free-kicks or long balls into the box, Liverpool are still finding it difficult to clear their lines effectively. Against the teams from the bottom half of the table, goals have been conceded which should really have been prevented and this is where Virgil van Dijk comes into proceedings.
The Dutch defender has been a commanding presence at the back for Southampton, ever since joining from Celtic in 2015. Although the Dutch international’s season has been cut short through injury, he has shown enough over the past two years to catch the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, Liverpool included.
Southampton have maintained their stance of wanting to keep the player but have also placed a £50 million asking price on his head, which suggests they are bracing themselves for his departure. Van Dijk is quick, strong and reads the game very well, making him ideally suited to Liverpool’s style of play.
However, thanks to his impressive performances for the Saints, Van Dijk has also attracted the attention of Premier League winners Chelsea. If the Blues do come in for the Dutchman, Liverpool would find it tough to win his signature but should try everything in their power to get their man. He knows the Premier League well and would not need any time to adapt to the game, unlike a singing from abroad. That experience must be worth paying a little over the odds but will the board be willing to spend a little more than what is considered the going rate for their man?
Central defence is not the only issue which needs to be resolved in the summer, as a new left-back is desperately required. James Milner has performed well this season in an unfamiliar position but with him and Alberto Moreno the only left-backs at the club, Klopp needs to bring someone in this summer.
In truth, there are not many great left-backs available in world football now, something which was highlighted in the clubs failed efforts to sign one twelve months ago. One name who has been linked is Andrew Robertson of Hull City. It’s been reported Liverpool will announce the deal for the Scotland international as soon as the transfer window opens and he could be joined by Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham.
Due to Sessegnon being very young, he may not play in the first team initially and that’s why the signing of Robertson is so important. Neither player may be big names in terms of European football but will be good additions none the less.
Other players being linked with the club include Timo Werner and Naby Keita of RB Leipzig. A striker and central midfielder respectively, both have enjoyed fantastic seasons in the Bundesliga, leading their club to second place and Champions League football next season. With that in mind, it may take a lot of work to prise them away but with Daniel Sturridge likely to leave Anfield, a replacement forward will be required.
Werner has scored 21 goals in 31 games this season and his pace and movement would fit in well at Liverpool.
Talk of the goalkeeping position has quietened down in recent weeks and there has not been a new number one linked to the club. This is another position where the talent available is not great and anyone brought in would not be a guarantee of better quality.
So, it is set to be another busy summer of transfer news and rumours. Liverpool clearly need to improve at the back and if Daniel Sturridge leaves, a new forward will be required. However, the first step must be to keep the best players at the club, starting with Coutinho.