Loris Karius needs a fresh start away from the club.
That is how I see his situation after his errors in Kiev cost his team the chance to lift a sixth European Cup trophy and manager Jurgen Klopp went out and spent a world record fee on a replacement.
It now looks certain that the German will be second choice to Alisson Becker this season, assuming he stays, but he is unlikely to get much game time outside of preseason friendlies and the odd domestic cup outing. He won’t be afforded the opportunity to play in the Champions League as he was last season, as the Brazilian has not moved to Anfield to sit out games in the biggest competition the team will be playing in. No chance.
Karius was eased back into the first-team last season in Europe because the group stage games lacked the intensity and physicality which was his undoing during his first season at the club after joining from Mainz two years ago. The away defeat against Bournemouth during his first campaign showed that he wasn’t ready for what the Premier League has to offer a young and unproven goalkeeper. He was taken out of the spotlight and used as a cup keeper, while Simon Mignolet claimed back the league games. Last season started with Klopp using the Belgian in the league, Karius in Europe and Danny Ward in the League Cup. The Welshman got one start, incidentally against new club Leicester City, but didn’t see any further action thanks to a 2-0 defeat and early exit from the competition. Karius kept his place in the Champions League side, despite an error in the 1-1 draw with Spartak Moscow, and reclaimed the domestic spot from Mignolet after the former Sunderland man made one mistake too many.
Things started to gradually improve for Karius as he went about winning over fans who remained skeptical after his ropey start to life at the club. But Kiev quickly eradicated that with the vast majority of supporters and calls grew deafeningly loud for a replacement to be signed. He had run out of credit with most fans and any mistakes in future games would instantly see them on his back. And so it proved to be when he dropped a routine catch against Tranmere Rovers, allowing them to score in a preseason friendly. He needed to put in a fairly long run of good performances before he could get any kind of breathing space. Even one of the Tranmere players, supposedly a Red, told him he is “f**king shit” as they celebrated their goal. He is on a hiding to nothing and would have faced immense pressure from day one of the new season were faith kept in him and he remained first-choice.
Spending a world record fee on a new keeper was what many Liverpool fans were hoping to see happen this Summer. Most saw Atletico Madrid number one Jan Oblak and Roma’s Alisson Becker as the two to choose from. We have more financial clout than them and supporters perceive us as the bigger club. Why would they not want to trade up to an Anfield move? Any deal for Oblak would prove incredibly complicated, given his release fee and contract situation at the La Liga club. Further to that, he would have had a vast amount of heavyweight clubs after his signature if he decided to move. Atletico have no intention of letting him go and would require his release fee to be paid in full immediately to even consider doing business. That left Brazil international Alisson as the clear and obvious choice. His ability with the ball at his feet also made him preferable to the Slovenian stopper. Roma are not on solid ground financially and indicated a willingness to do business – at the right price. Liverpool knew competition could come from Real Madrid and Chelsea for Alisson and so set about getting a deal done as quickly as possible once Roma named their price. Real Madrid have set their sights on a deal for Chelsea’s current number one Thibaut Courtois as they know he wants to return to the Spanish capital – and would cost considerably less than Alisson thanks to his contract having just a year left to run. A deal for him would also help to further tempt Eden Hazard into pushing to join them as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo. They will have to pay a huge fee to sign him, so saving £30m on a new keeper makes absolute sense – especially one who has proved himself over a longer period than Liverpool’s new man.
So Klopp found himself the ideal man to come in and end the uncertainty over the goalkeeping position in the team. Karius has a minute hope of reclaiming the gloves from his new colleague and so it looks like a fresh start elsewhere makes absolute sense for him. But it doesn’t look like he will be given that chance as Klopp plans to have him on the bench in the new season. He needs a new beginning elsewhere perhaps even more than either Mignolet or Ward.
Mignolet’s Liverpool career has run its course. He has had chance after chance following costly errors and hasn’t been able to show the level of consistency required to convince. Klopp handed him a new contract and that appeared a show of faith in the Belgian. But more mistakes followed and he went out and spent a modest £4m to bring in Karius – who had shown promise at Mainz in the 2015/16 season. But supporters were tired of having an unproven number one and wanted to see the club bring in a bona fide top class keeper. That has now happened with Alisson’s arrival, but Karius was not going to be given long to show that he was capable of sorting out the position. He had spent time as a youth with rivals Manchester City, but he hadn’t had the chance to play first-team football in England and so it was a big move for him. He needed to hit the ground running and show form and confidence quickly to get the fans believing in him. It hasn’t happened, despite some improved form last season, and he finds himself in a position few would even describe as square one.
Some have suggested that a loan move away, perhaps to a club like Fulham, would make sense for him. But why would a newly promoted Premier League club want to take a punt on him for our sake? They clearly would not. A return to Germany would make the most sense, perhaps even to Mainz, as he would be back in familiar surroundings and away from fans, both home and away, who will give him a hard time for any mistakes. Bayer Leverkusen are rumoured to be interested after selling Bernd Leno to Arsebal. But that’s not to say that away fans in Germany wouldn’t get on his case, he’s going to have to put up with it wherever he might go, but it would perhaps be less vicious in his homeland.
Ward has been given the chance to go and challenge for the gloves elsewhere, in a surprise move to become Kasper Schmeichel’s understudy at Leicester, and Karius looks even more in need of that kind of exit. I would have allowed all three of the senior keepers to move on this Summer and rejuvenate the position in the squad by signing Alisson, someone happy to be his backup and then had Kamil Grabara available as third choice should he be required.
All three of the goalkeepers that were at Klopp’s disposal last season needed to move on to seek first-team football, but Karius needs the change of scene most of all in my opinion. I hope he is allowed to move on before the transfer window slams shut. But I’m not expecting it to happen.
He has been subjected to some vile abuse from fans who would have the audacity to call themselves Liverpool supporters in the last couple of months since the Champions League final. These people will belt out You’ll Never Walk Alone and tag their posts on social media with #YNWA. They’re hypocrites of the highest order. They need to either stop singing along to and using YNWA or go and ‘support’ another club. Fans of this club, who pride themselves on being the best in the world, get behind the players and don’t send them personal abuse after they make errors. We were all gutted about what happened in Kiev, but it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone is as heartbroken by it as Karius himself. He was initially left on his own at full-time, consoled by Real Madrid players before any team-mates, and has been hung out to dry by a lot of fans since. That’s not the Liverpool way.
Criticism is fine, but abuse is not. He’s been made to walk alone by a lot of so-called ‘supporters’ and it needs to end. It’s not just his Liverpool career that is coming under pressure – it’s his mental health too. A move away looks just what he needs to preserve both.