With the return of Champions League football, here are five summer signings that need to happen if Jürgen Klopp is to bring the title to Anfield.
If last season’s fourth-placed finish spoke to the progress made by Liverpool FC under Jürgen Klopp, the German knows that only silverware this season – or, at worst, a second-placed finish comparable to Brendan Rodgers’ 2013/14 nearly men – will keep him at Anfield going into the autumn of 2018.
At times last season, it looked like they’d cracked it.
A rapier front trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and the brilliant (and brilliantly consistent) Sadio Mané saw the Reds mount a serious challenge for what would have been their first top-flight title in 27 years.
Nine wins from their opening 13 games – and just one anomalous defeat to Burnley – proved the ultimate tease for Liverpool’s fanbase. However, the free-scoring front three, along with the impressive performances of Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnadum, could only paper over the defensive cracks for so long.
With Mané’s disappearance for the Africa Cup of Nations and, later, injury, so evaporated any realistic chance Klopp had of overtaking Tottenham and a rampant Chelsea at the top of the table. The pace went, and so did the fabled pressing, and so did the title.
So, to the impending new season and the addition of European football to an already busy schedule. Winger Mohamed Salah has already been added, but what – and indeed who – else do they need?
One of the biggest disappointments of the summer so far for Liverpool fans has been seeing Jordan Pickford sign a deal on the wrong side of Stanley Park. Klopp said long before the end of the last campaign that he had no intention of replacing Simon Mignolet in the Reds’ goal and so far it seems he’s going to stay true to his word.
Having seen the claims of the unfortunate Loris Karius, Mignolet went on to enjoy his most solid season at Liverpool to date but the feeling remains that he’s not a Championship-winning ‘keeper.
Having missed out on Pickford to Everton, Klopp could do far worse than test Stoke’s resolve to hold on Butland, who recovered from serious injury to play the last five games of the season for Mark Hughes’ men.
Strong, imposing, young and with the kind of dominant personality that marks out the great ‘keepers from the good, the 24-year-old would be a significant signing in a key position.
Liverpool actually tried to sign the young Portuguese left-back from Lorient last summer, but he went to Borussia Dortmund having helped Portugal to their first ever major tournament win at Euro 2016.
The 23-year-old did not enjoy the smoothest of seasons under the now departed Thomas Tuchel, deployed mostly out of position in midfield, so a renewed attempt at bringing him to Merseyside would be a shrewd move on Klopp’s part.
He’s quick, has an eye for goal, but is crucially solid in defence – unlike the (surely) departing Alberto Moreno – and his signing would free the competent but limited James Milner from his makeshift role at the back.
Player of the year at Southampton last season, should the Reds’ focus have been on Romeu rather this his team-mate Virgil van Dijk all along?
Liverpool, after all, can hardly be expected to get through an entire summer without signing someone from the South Coast club and Romeu has been a revelation since leaving Chelsea in 2015.
For all the thrust of their attacking players, Liverpool has been powderpuff at the base of midfield since, arguably, Javier Mascherano left for Barcelona in 2010. The protection of a scrapper like Romeu would be invaluable in shielding a defence that, all too often, had room for an ageing Lucas Leiva last season.
The Brazilian stalwart is likely to have played his last game for the club and in Romeu, still just 25, Klopp would have a significant upgrade.
By all accounts, the 22-year-old Guinea international is Lothar Matthaus, Roy Keane, Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard rolled into one behemoth of a central midfielder. If Wijnaldum was a qualified success in his first season at Anfield, Keita is as guaranteed a hit as they come.
Voted the second best midfielder in the Bundesliga last season, behind only team-mate Emil Forsberg, Keita’s stock has risen to vertiginous heights just one year after joining RB Leipzig from their Red Bull brethren in Salzburg.
He’s an all action terroriser of defences and is anxious to move to Anfield and take the iconic No.8 jersey last worn by Gerrard. Talks are expected to advance this week and now that £70m is the new £35m, a deal should be done before Liverpool start their pre-season.
It would be money well spent.
Arguably the third best footballing Dembelé (after Dortmund’s Ousmane and near namesake Mousa of Tottenham) in Europe would cost a fair whack from Celtic, but the former Fulham striker has all the attributes to thrive as the focal point in Klopp’s attack.
Dembelé scored 32 goals for Celtic last season and is widely expected to depart as soon as the Bhoys guarantee Champions League group stages football for the season ahead.
He has been mentioned as a replacement for the so-so Michy Batshuayi at Chelsea, while West Ham United are also keen, but the French under-21 striker will know that chances at Stamford Bridge would be as hard to come by as they were for Batshuayi and a massive breakthrough season at Anfield would go a long way towards a place in France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup.
Would Rodgers facilitate a move to the club that showed him the door? Would £50m be too much to spend on one of the brightest young attacking talents in European football? It’s worth serious consideration for Klopp and co.