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Klopp and Edwards – match made in heaven

Under Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards, Liverpool have enjoyed far more success in the transfer market than most of his predecessors. Whether it’s through massive cash outlays or smaller, more shrewd buys, the Reds have not only built a formidable squad but also effectively integrated their purchases.

In each summer transfer window, there appear to be certain trends that are quite constant with Klopp and the transfer team. We are going to look in a bit more depth at what exactly those trends are and how they’ve helped outfit Klopp’s Liverpool side.

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Trends

Buying from ‘home’

Liverpool under Klopp have consistently bought players from England. Since the summer of 2016, Liverpool have purchased seven players from fellow Premier League sides, with the biggest signing being Virgil van Dijk’s £75M move from Southampton. Each summer window has involved at least one move from a fellow domestic side.incoming transfers by league

There is also a touch of Klopp’s preference for his old stomping grounds, with four of Liverpool’s transfers coming from Germany, including the much-coveted capture of Naby Keita. Arguably the club’s most influential signings of the past two windows, however, come from Italian side AS Roma, who saw both Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker trade the red of the Italian capital for the red of Merseyside.

Slight attention outside Europe’s “big 5”

Under Klopp, there have been slight shifts toward scouting players outside Europe’s top 5 leagues (Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France). Liverpool have been linked with players such as Gelson Martins (Sporting CP, Portugal), Hirving Lozano (PSV, Holland) and Nigerian winger Moses Simon (Gent, Belgium).

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These players play in arguably ‘lesser’ leagues but the talent is there. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool didn’t really target players in these leagues, while Kenny Dalglish seemed interested in the best of England. But under Klopp, it’s different – the only player bought so far is Marko Grujic from Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade. But Klopp has a history of unearthing absolute gems in the obscure corners of the market.

Unpredictability in transfers

Since the Virgil van Dijk debacle last summer, Liverpool have tended to be far more discreet in their dealings. The club needed a midfielder to replace the soon-to-be-departed Emre Can. The name on everyone’s lips was then-Napoli midfielder Jorginho, to the extent there were rumours it was down to Liverpool and Manchester City for his signature.

The week after the Champions League final, AS Monaco midfielder Fabinho was announced as a Liverpool player without the press knowing. Liverpool had been working on the deal long before the season finished but kept it remarkably quiet.

Similarly, reports surfaced as few as two days before Liverpool secured the services of Alisson reporting that the Reds had no such interest in the player and would potentially persevere with Loris Karius and Danny Ward. Not 72 hours later, the Brazilian shot-stopper was being presented as the Reds’ latest acquisition in a deal that made him the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.

Key positions not having alternatives

Liverpool, for strange reasons, have become stubborn in quickly shifting from plan A to plan B in player recruitment. Key positions don’t easily have alternatives in the market. Take for example, the transfers of Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita. There were no alternatives for both players. It was simply, “So long they haven’t been sold, we will patiently wait for them”. The players, in turn, were ready to force a move to Liverpool which is quite an encouraging sign for the club not to look at other players.

Though there are alternatives, it’s mainly for positions of to an extent of ”lesser importance”. Positions such as the wings and fullbacks have been alternatives to the intended signing, with Mohammed Salah a prime example after a deal for Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt broke down. Core positions such as goalkeeper, centre back, central midfield and centre forward don’t easily have alternatives because the club have done their groundwork and are sure of the player.

So long it’s a core position which makes up the spine of the team, the club won’t easily bulge away from their intended plan A.

I only want Liverpool

Every summer under Klopp, there is always one transfer which takes time to conclude or one where the player simply just wants only Liverpool. Signings such as van Dijk and Keita were stubborn about joining any other club.

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Van Dijk went on strike to force a move away from Southampton and even rejected Pep Guardiola’s advances while Keita had a training ground bust-up with a teammate after a proposed move away from Leipzig to Liverpool failed to materialize. Chamberlain was also stubborn when leaving Arsenal. A deal was agreed with Chelsea but the player didn’t want to go there. He waited for Liverpool to agree on terms with Arsenal and made the move.

For a player to play for Liverpool under Klopp, not only must he be talented but he must be hungry to join the club. Xherdan Shaqiri had to cut his holiday short to move to Liverpool. The latest being Nabil Fekir dragging Lyon back to the negotiation table to allow a potential dream move to Liverpool go through. Players are now hungry to play for Liverpool again.

A touch of Edwards

Making Michael Edwards sporting director is proving to be one of the best decisions made by Liverpool. The Virgil van Dijk saga was really a bad image for the club but other transfers have been really impressive most especially a certain speedy Egyptian. Edward’s negotiations skills are impressive in the sense clubs don’t rip them off.

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Naby Keita’s transfer fee was quite impressive where Liverpool had three optional fees to pay if Leipzig made the UCL, Europa League or neither of the above. Standing firm on Emre Can’s demand for a buyout clause was also impressive. Had the club bowed to his demands, key players will demand a release clause in their contracts. Standing firm was very impressive.

The one notable influence from Edwards was the signing of Mo Salah from AS Roma at just £36M. Klopp has given deserved praise for Edwards and the transfer team’s influence on the deal as Salah wasn’t his own preferred option for the forward line but they kept on hammering about him. That £36M paid is now looking like a real bargain particularly when you consider Edwards was dealing with popular director of football, Monchi.

Silence among British journalists

The club are making progress in this. Before Fabinho was signed, nobody knew of it till it happened. Too many at times transfer news on players leak out via the press and other interested clubs try to hijack the deal or it angers the selling club with Virgil van Dijk’s failed transfer to Liverpool in the summer of 2017.

Liverpool were tapping him up and someone leaked it to the press who put the story out that angered Southampton. Liverpool eventually got their man but at a huge premium.

These summer transfers are being done quietly and under the radar that Liverpool based journos don’t really know what is going on behind the scene till the deal agreed.

Factors affecting transfers

Certain factors have been quite obvious in recruiting players for Liverpool under Klopp. The following are listed below.

Targeting the less looked at

Mohammed Salah won more than 20 individual awards at Liverpool but before joining the Merseyside club, not one of the Barcelonas or Real Madrids of this world looked at him nor had serious interest for him. Liverpool target quality players but those who aren’t really looked at by top sides. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are prime examples of this. Quality players but nobody ready to take a chance on them…yet.

Avoiding transfer wars

Ever wondered why Liverpool hardly buy from La Liga? For every quality player in Spain, one of Real Madrid or Barcelona is watching him.

Rarely do you see a La Liga based player being linked to one of those two and clubs from other leagues not staying in Spain to play of one of those two top sides. These days Liverpool target players who play in leagues where they can compete with whatever club is dominating the respective league.

Liverpool can compete with the best teams in Italy financially for a player based in Seria A. Same applies to leagues in Germany, France and even England. The only problem they will face is convincing the player to join.

Klopp factor

This is the core factor. If a player is having second thoughts about joining the club especially after talking to the manager, then it’s almost certain he won’t be joining the club. Klopp wants players who want to play for him and the football club. If that hunger isn’t there, then it’s almost certain the player won’t be joining the club and the club will likely not go back for him. Players such as Mario Gotze, Ben Chiwell and Julian Draxler were once linked with serious interest from Liverpool but didn’t show a hunger to join. Since then, the club has moved on from them and haven’t turned back.

Once a player rejects Liverpool, they will likely not come back for you again especially if Klopp spoke with the player. Hunger to join the club is key.

Conclusion

Liverpool have clearly changed their ways in transfer dealings under Klopp and Edwards. Long gone are the days you can easily predict who the club are after and which league the club will be doing their dealings.

Everyone knows about Liverpool buying from England, after all, it’s an English club. But outside England, it’s becoming hard to predict. Lesser leagues are being scouted for the best talents while careful information is being taken on players interesting other clubs as well as Liverpool. Transfers are being done silently to the extent that most journalists don’t really know who is coming which is very unlike Liverpool.

Long gone are the days the club would be held to ransom in transfers and also players rejecting Liverpool on certain conditions. Klopp is slowly making Liverpool an appealing project to players that it is now looking hard for them to give a big NO to Liverpool. Long may it continue.

Chijioke Ochubili
Civil Engineer in the making, Nigerian Kopite, Animal lover and mini football freak

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