What do Liverpool need to do to push for next year’s title?


Liverpool appear to have most of the ingredients for a concerted push for Premier League glory following a series of impressive displays in domestic and European competition this season, but earning premium silverware remains elusive for now.

Boss Jürgen Klopp has suggested that the club must “become winners” in order to make the leap from perennial top-four finishers to league title winners. The German claims that “being aggressive” will be fundamental to any success, and it is one of the reasons why the Reds are always a joy to watch. It can be argued that a positive mentality may need to be tempered by a more pragmatic approach during some games, as Liverpool are still prone to conceding poor goals in vital moments.

There is no doubt that Klopp’s team have the firepower to support a Premier League title push after scoring 73 goals in the first 31 games of the season and putting five past Porto in the Champions League. Liverpool’s attacking play has been breathtaking this season, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino thriving in their respective roles across the forward line, and it is one of the reasons why it will be worth placing a bet at Stakers.com on the Reds during the coming months.

Ensuring that Salah remains at Anfield will be key to any title aspirations. That’s just how good the Egyptian has been during his debut season at the club. The 25-year-old’s impressive four-goal haul against Watford in mid-March underlined his incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time, while his 28 strikes in the top flight is already a record for a Liverpool player in his first season.

New signings will need to be made to ensure that a platform is built for improvement for the 2018/19 campaign. Naby Keïta will join the club from RB Leipzig in July, and there is already excitement in the city that the 22-year-old could be the player to reinvigorate the central-midfield area. Klopp has also stated that he is ready to spend big to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United after completing a £75 million deal for Virgil van Dijk in January.

Klopp said recently: “This club will do what we have to do. The owners are ready for that. That was the sign for it but it doesn’t mean we only spend in this [expensive] category. It’s all about timing, doing the right thing at the right moment. If the player is the right player this club will pay big money.”

Liverpool perhaps need another star player or two in defensive positions, with a readymade replacement for Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet and an upgrade on Dejan Lovren a possibility. The back five has been an area of concern for some time now, but the arrival of Van Dijk will hopefully herald the start of a new era of plentiful clean sheets, record-breaking goal-scoring, and EPL title wins.

Kewell backs Salah for Ballon d’Or


Former Liverpool winger Harry Kewell has backed Mohamed Salah as a contender for the Ballon d’Or award for 2018.

The Egypt international has been in sensational scoring form for the club since his arrival from AS Roma last Summer and Crawley Town boss Kewell believes he could carry it on to claim the prize.

“People are saying about Player of the Year, but I’d even go that next step.” he is quoted by KingFut.

“If he was to have a fantastic World Cup, gets a couple of goals and plays well, and then continues again next season, why not go for the Ballon d’Or?

“He’s got the goals, I don’t see why he couldn’t win it.

“It’s a part of the game that players believe they can do, but when you get someone who can actually dribble, obviously the best is Messi, who can run at defenders and be able to chop and change on a dime, and Salah can do this, you just can’t stop it.

“That’s the key with Salah – he drives at people, he’s chopping, turning, dribbling and people just don’t know how to deal with him.” he finished.

Only Barcelona megastar Lionel Messi and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo have won the prize over the past decade, so Salah will have his work cut out beating those two to it this year.

Salah will not be available for sale


Liverpool will refuse offers for Mohamed Salah this Summer.

That’s according to The Times, who are reporting that only Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid and Barcelona can afford the kind of money it would take to change the situation.

Brazil international Neymar made a move last Summer which changed the landscape of the transfer market and that has seen Salah’s value rise massively after his impact at Anfield this season.

Paris Saint German paid Barcelona around £200m to sign Neymar and that saw player prices rise dramatically – including that of Philippe Coutinho, who swapped Anfield for the Camp Nou in a deal worth a reported £145m in January.

Liverpool paid what now looks a modest fee of £37m to bring the Egypt international back to the Premier League from Serie A club AS Roma before Neymar made his move and it is looking a better deal with each goal.

Salah has now scored thirty-six goals so far this season, following his four goal haul in Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Watford at Anfield and that has seen interest in his services increase.

The article reports that both Manchester City and Manchester United know that Liverpool would point blank refuse to do business with them if they made a move for Salah, so he would not be staying in England should he leave the club.

But it looks highly unlikely that the twenty-five year old will be pushing for an exit after just one season with the club – and Jurgen Klopp would not be keen on letting another star player walk out of the door.

A report from ESPN also claims that Salah has no release clause in his contract.

Their Liverpool correspondent, Glenn Price, has written that “a source” has informed them that there is no release fee set in his deal with the club.

Liverpool’s free transfer signings


Liverpool could lose Germany international Emre Can on a free transfer at the end of the season if the midfielder decides against signing a contract extension with the club. Everyone connected with the club would be disappointed to see a player of his value, reputation and potential make an exit with the club recouping nothing for his services. But we have been the beneficiaries of free transfers in the past.

So here we take a look at what happened when the club signed players on freebies…

Markus Babbel

When the club completed the signing of Markus Babbel from Bayern Munich on a Bosman free transfer back in 2000, it was seen as quite the coup. He had attracted bids from Real Madrid and Manchester United before making the move to Anfield. Some thought his best years were behind him, but he went on to be a key component in Gerard Houllier’s treble winning side of 2000/01. He added those trophies to the four Bundesliga titles, two German cups and UEFA Cup he had won with Bayern. He was also a part of the German national side which claimed the European Championship title at Euro 96 in England. He would have gone on to make many more appearances for the club had he not contracted the debilitating Guillan-Barre syndrome in 2001. It left him in a wheelchair for a while and put the skids on his Anfield career. He never recaptured his best form and was loaned to Blackburn Rovers before returning to German football with VfB Stuttgart. A contender for the best right-back the club has had during the modern era.

Jari Litmanen

The Finland international grew up supporting the club, but didn’t manage to realise his dream of represting Liverpool until signing in January 2001 on a free transfer from Barcelona. He had made his name as the star player in the great Ajax side of the nineties before leaving them for the La Liga giants on a Bosman deal in 1999. Roy Evans had tried to bring him to Anfield previously, but wasn’t afforded the required funds to get the deal done. Gerard Houllier subsequently attempted to bring him in when his Ajax contract expired, but was beaten to the punch by Barcelona. Louis Van Gaal was in charge at the Camp Nou at that time and the two were reunited when he followed his former coach to Spain. But things took a turn for the worse when Van Gaal was sacked and Litmanen was dropped from the team. He was able to finally head to Anfield less than two years after joining the Catalans. But things didn’t turn out as he would have hoped, despite a promising start. Houllier opted to use him sparingly, despite heralding him as a “world class” talent upon signing him. Litmanen decided to call it quits and headed back to Holland to rejoin Ajax in 2002.

Gary McAllister

The Scotland international arrived at the club in the Summer of 2000 at the ripe old age of thirty-five. It was a surprise deal to most onlookers as he left Coventry City to move to Anfield, but few doubted it was the right thing to do when he left just two years later to become player-manager of his former club. McAllister added experience, nous and class to a young Liverpool side in need of just that. It was a masterstroke by Gerard Houllier to bring the veteran midfielder in and it paid off for the Frenchman. McAllister made a big contribution as Liverpool won three cups and qualified for the Champions League for the 2001/02 campaign. His last ditch free-kick at Goodison Park to seal a 3-2 win over Everton will go down in folklore, along with his penalty against Barcelona to beat the Spanish side in the UEFA Cup semi-finals. He had a short lived spell as a coach at the club under Brendan Rodgers in 2015 and will forever be remembered as a legend at Anfield.

Joe Cole

The England international arrived at Anfield in the Summer of 2010 soon after Roy Hodgson was appointed to succeed Rafa Benitez as manager. Many supporters had high hopes for the former Chelsea midfielder, but the tone was well and truly set when he was sent off against Arsenal in the opening Premier League match of the season. He never looked capable of recapturing his best form and had a similar fate to that of his manager when he was loaned to French club Lille a year later. He ultimately left to make a permament return to boyhood club West Ham United in January 2013. Few were sad to see his Anfield career come to an end.

Craig Bellamy

The Wales international had already played for the club when he came back from Manchester City on a free transfer. Kenny Dalglish, who was having his second spell in charge of the club, decided it made sense to re-sign the striker on deadline day in August 2011 and it proved a good decision. He scored the goal which sent the club to the 2011/12 League Cup final when he notched against former club City at Anfield. He also provided the assist for Andy Carroll to head the winner against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final. Liverpool won the League Cup final, but were beaten in the FA Cup by Chelsea. Cardiff City were the beaten finalists in the League Cup and Bellamy went on to return to the Welsh club at the end of that season.

Kolo Toure

The Ivory Coast international centre-back was another free transfer signing from Manchester City. He arrived at the club in the Summer of 2013 following the retirement of Jamie Carragher to add some experience to the defence. He signed a two year deal and later signed a one year extension to continue his spell at Anfield into the 2015/16 season. The sacking of Brendan Rodgers didn’t mean an end to his time at the club, as Jurgen Klopp kept him around until the end of that season. Toure was drafted in to start the Europa League final against Sevilla, which the club lost 3-1, following Mamadou Sakho’s suspension. But the veteran defender was the best player that night and did not deserve to be on the losing side. He was, however, subsequently released and followed Rodgers north of the border to sign for Celtic, where he is now a coach following his retirement last year.

Boudewijn Zenden

Holland international Zenden arrived at the club on a free transfer deal in the Summer of 2005 from Middlesbrough. He had impressed for the Premier League club following a spell with Chelsea and went on to play in the 2007 Champions League final for the club, which resulted in a 2-1 loss against AC Milan in Athens. His contract was not renewed after that game, however, and he went on to sign for Marseille on a free transfer before returning to English football for a brief spell with Sunderland.

Robbie Fowler

This will probably be the free transfer signing most Liverpool will remember the most fondly. One of the biggest fan favourites the club has ever seen, Fowler left to join Leeds United in 2001 following a strained relationship with manager Gerard Houllier. Few thought that he would ever return to the club, especially as his goalscoring form had declined after joining Manchester City from Leeds. But Rafa Benitez decided to bring him back to the club in January 2006 and the decision was met with jubilation by supporters. He made a false start on his second debut against Birmingham City when he had a goal ruled out for offside, but he finally got off the mark a month later in the 5-1 midweek win at Anfield over Fulham – the same club he scored his first goal for the club against. He went on to score goals against West Brom, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers to help earn a one year extension to his contract. He only made six league starts in his final season with the club, though he did score his first Champions League goals for the club in a 3-2 loss against Galatasaray. He captained the side on his final appearance against Charlton Athletic in May 2007. He signed a two year contract with Cardiff City that Summer.

James Milner

Milner was another player to join on a free transfer from Manchester City when he signed in the Summer of 2015. He decided to call time on his spell at The Etihad in order to seek more regular football, particularly in the centre of midfield, and was given assurances by Brendan Rodgers that he could get this at Anfield. The Northern Irishman was subsequently sacked a matter of months later, but successor Jurgen Klopp has kept the former England international as part of his squad and he remains vice-captain to skipper Jordan Henderson to this day. He has since scored against City and been booed by his former supporters, which didn’t seem to bother him in his celebrations. What the future holds for the thirty-two year old remains to be seen. He is on relatively high wages for a player of his age and standing at the club, but his versatility and work-rate remain useful traits for Klopp to utilise.

Can Lallana reclaim a place in the team?


Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana looks to have a tougher task on his hands to hold down a spot in Jurgen Klopp’s team going forward.

The England international is still coming back from an injury that has wiped out most of the season for him and he will be hoping to get enough football under his belt to claim a place in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI at the World Cup. But he won’t be the only midfielder at Anfield with that aim. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined the club from Arsenal last season and has improved his form a great deal since his first few appearances for the club. Not only does he represent an obstacle to Lallana at club level, but he is also a rival for a place in the national side. Lallana will also see RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita arrive on 1st July and the Guinea international is certain to start next season as a first-choice midfielder in Klopp’s side. That will only mean increased competition for a place in the team and Lallana could see his standing in the squad drift from being a regular to a more peripheral role. The former Southampton man was a key player for Klopp during the 2016/17 season, in which he contributed eight goals and seven assists in the Premier League. But he has suffered a fairly serious injury since then and is in danger of becoming yesterday’s news.

The 0-0 stalemate against Porto was a fine example of how Lallana could struggle next season. He was utilised in a more advanced position, similar to the one he initially played for the team after signing, and he looked too slow for that role. His best hope is to make a claim for himself to return to the side in the link position between attack and midfield, which Philippe Coutinho occupied until his exit in January. But Lallana doesn’t appear to offer enough creativity or goal threat to be a genuine long-term contender. His goal return and assist contribution last season was decent, but it was his energy and pressing which was most valuable to the team. Klopp has tweaked the way he sets out his side since the Brazilian joined Barcelona and there is less of a gap where the playmaker used to ply his trade. Lallana was never going to be a like for like replacement, but he had the chance to stake a claim for the spot in the side and it hasn’t so far worked out for him since he came back into the side. Perhaps his frustration with his situation was shown when he was sent off for manhandling an opponent while playing for the under-23 side to gain some sharpness.

That dismissal could also have been due to frustration with his lack of mobility. Lallana has never been a fast player, but he turns thirty in May and that is never going to be plus in his favour with Klopp. The German has always tended to keep the average age down in his squads and the current one is no exception. At twenty-six, Virgil Van Dijk is a relatively old signing for Klopp, especially when considering the price tag. But he has almost four years on Lallana and hasn’t reached his peak yet. It could be strongly argued that Lallana has gone past his now, especially in this system, and he may never again be a first-choice player at the club. He will become one of just four players in their thirties in the squad in May, along with James Milner, Ragnar Klavan and Simon Mignolet – and none of those look assured of anything more than a potential future as bit-part players at Anfield. Links to Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi won’t bode well for Lallana either, given the fact the Nigeria international is just twenty-one years of age. All of this doesn’t mean that Lallana will be sold this Summer, far from it, but it shows that he is likely to see his game time reduce going forward and he will take on a role similar to that of Milner.

The midfield has been highlighted as the area which needs to the most improvement in the Summer. And many will agree with that sentiment. Emre Can looks increasingly likely to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season and Lallana won’t be able to offer cover for the German. They play different roles and if Can does end up moving on, another player will likely be signed to cover the loss. Lallana is more likely to be competing with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita and Wijnaldum for a slightly more advanced midfield role. He is likely to lose out in the battle with those younger players, particularly the first two, for starts next season. He hasn’t made a big claim for a place of late, with no goals or assists contributed so far this season. His biggest input to the first-team so far this season was winning the penalty against Everton at Anfield in the FA Cup third round win. Aside from that, it’s hard to pinpoint many moments where he has positively impacted on a game for us.

In his defence, he has been coming back from injury and is still looking for match sharpness – and the level of performance expected here is physically demanding. But maintaining that lack of impact is only going to go against him in an era where hitting the ground running is a major asset for a player. Klopp has shown a lot of faith in Lallana and is unlikely to give up on him any time soon, but he will need to start repaying that faith with some goals and assists before the season is over. We are still in a fight for a top four spot and have a huge tie coming up against Manchester City. David Silva has shown that a lack of pace and mobility is not an immovable obstacle. The Spain international is thirty-two years old now and is an integral part of one of the most mobile and intense sides the Premier League has seen. So precedent is there.

Many supporters started the season with Lallana in their own first-choice sides for the campaign, but many would now favour a midfield trio without his presence. That of course shows how fickle football fans are in the modern era, but the game moves faster than ever and it isn’t without reason that he would now be a backup player in the minds of many a Red. Ultimately it is only important what Klopp thinks, but Lallana isn’t starting many games and looks well short of the level required to do so regularly. Perhaps his manager has afforded him the rest of the season as a sharpening exercise and will use him more next season, but the odds of that aren’t favourable.

While it is clearly a shame for Lallana, on a personal level, that the team has evolved and his place in it is under scrutiny, it is of overall benefit to the club that Klopp has not allowed things to stand still. Long may the improvements continue and debates over who should play carry on. It’s always better to have options than teams which pick themselves.

Keita relishing Liverpool move


RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita is looking forward to making the move to Anfield.

The Guinea international will head to Liverpool on 1st July following an agreement for the move to happen last Summer and he has spoken about his excitement at becoming part of the squad at the club.

And the twenty-three year old is anticipating the opportunity to play under Reds manager Jurgen Klopp next season.

“He’s doing a good job in Liverpool, you can tell. I look forward to the cooperation.” he told Bild.

“My adviser Björn Bezemer speaks French, the contact was with him.

“The city, the people are really nice.

“And the typical German characteristics: Punctuality is definitely typical German, meticulous work also.” he finished.

Keita scored and assisted goals in Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich at the weekend, to give further indication of the qualities he will bring to Anfield.

Firmino not feeling extra pressure


Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino has spoken to website Goal about a plethora of matters around the club.

The Brazil international was asked in the interview if he felt that the scoring form of Mohamed Salah has put additional pressure on his shoulders to get more goals for the team.

“No way! We have very good chemistry here at Liverpool.” he said.

“Many speak of the strength of our attack, which also has Mane, but we have a team full of great quality that is effective in attack.

“We have to think collectively. The more players score, the better. Liverpool are the ones who win in this situation.

“I just worry about playing well and helping Liverpool go as far as possible in the Premier League.

“If that is achieved by me scoring goals, even better. Thank God, the goals are coming! Winning the title is difficult this season, so we will fight to secure a Champions League place again. That’s one of the goals.”

“It’s the best moment of my career. I’m happy because things are very positive in my life; on the personal side and also on the professional side.

“The good moment our team is in helps a lot too, the team fits together very well. Klopp is a great tactician, and a great coach.” he continued.

They went on to ask him about the exit of his compatriot and friend Philippe Coutinho, who joined Spanish giants Barcelona in a deal worth around £145m in January, and Firmino opened up on the situation.

“We changed the way we played after his exit. Which team in the world would not like to have a player of the quality of Coutinho? But he continued his life at Barcelona and Liverpool remained strong, as we always were.” he said.

He was also asked about the allegation of racism made against him by Everton defender Mason Holgate following the Merseyside FA Cup derby back in January, for which no charges were brought against him by the FA.

“I always felt calm about it because I knew I had not said what they were accusing me of.” he responded.

“I have suffered racial prejudice and I know how painful it is. People need to take this issue more seriously and engage in this fight against racism.” he added.

Firmino also spoke about the impending Champions League quarter final tie against Premier League leaders Manchester City, following Friday’s draw.

“Man City have a very attack-minded team, just like ours.” he said.

“We are the two teams that have scored the most goals so far in the Premier League. City are a very difficult team to beat. They have won 26 out of 30 games and have opened up a very big lead.

“They are very agile team, the players move a lot around the pitch. City, like Liverpool, are built in the image of their coach. Pep Guardiola had some great clashes with Klopp in German football, they know each other well.

“We have great players in English football, it’s hard to select one as the outright best. That’s why it’s the most popular league with many quality teams. We can talk about the goalscorers Salah and Harry Kane.

“We also have Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan in Manchester City, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United, Moussa Sissoko and Mousa Dembele at Tottenham, Willian and Eden Hazard at Chelsea, Mesut Ozil at Arsenal.

“Not to mention Mane, Emre Can, Dejan Lovren and the many other good players we have here at Liverpool. It is a league with great stars. Virtually everyone I mentioned will be at the World Cup.

“The level is very high.” he finished.

Firmino continued his fine scoring form with a well taken flicked goal in the 5-0 win over Watford on Saturday. He will be looking to carry that on against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park when the domestic action continues after the international break.

Van Dijk reflects on start to Liverpool career


Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has reflected on the start he has made to life at the club.

The Dutchman moved to Anfield in January from Southampton in a deal worth a reported £75m and has helped to make the defence more solid and composed so far.

But the twenty-six year old isn’t sure that he’s at 100% fitness just yet after injury problems last year hampered his game time at St Mary’s.

“Do I feel settled in now? Yeah, definitely.” he is quoted by Goal.

“Quicker than I might have thought? I don’t know.

“Obviously you come here with expectations and you want to play as soon as possible and as much as possible this season and be as fit as possible and quick as possible.

“Now, I’m getting better and better and the understanding with all of the players is getting much better. I’m just playing my game and trying to help my team.

“What per cent am I now? That’s difficult. But I’m completely over the ankle problems, definitely. That was already the case when I started playing again at Southampton.

“It’s more than that, it’s also just condition-wise and the way Liverpool play you need to be spot on. That’s pretty clear right now.” he continued.

Van Dijk is looking forward to facing “very good” Manchester City in the quarter finals of the Champions League and accepts that the team need to be “100%” to come out on top in the tie.

“Everybody knows that anyone we get is going to be very hard.

“Man City is a very good team, very hard to play against and we need to be 100% or even better to beat them over two games.

“We can prepare for that when the time comes.” he finished.

Liverpool make approach for Ndidi


Liverpool have made an approach for Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi.

That’s according to Guinean journalist Alpha Balde, who has taken to Twitter to reveal the news that the Premier League club are “asking a lot” for the player to make the move.

“Ndidi approached by Liverpool.” he said.

“The player would have given his consent.

“We still have to agree with Leicester who is asking a lot.” the tweet ends.

Liverpool have been linked with several midfield players as manager Jurgen Klopp looks to reshuffle his squad for the 2018/19, with RB Leipzig star Naby Keita already on his way to Anfield.

Germany international Emre Can looks increasingly likely to be on his way out of the club, so Klopp will be on the look out for at least one more signing in that position.

It remains to be seen whether Ndidi is genuinely a target, but it would please many fans if the claim is accurate.

Klopp not too worried about Can injury


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not overly concerned by the injury that saw Emre Can come off in the win against Watford on Saturday.

The midfielder had to be withdrawn midway through the first-half thanks to a back problem, but his boss does not think it will mean his compatriot will need to sit out the international break.

“He doesn’t think, and I don’t think, it is too serious but it was too serious to continue.” he said.

“He had that problem a little bit during the week; we gave him one day of extra recovery. But he thought it would work and he trained normally yesterday.

“It was one header and maybe because of the temperature in the muscle – it is a muscle thing.

“But it should not be that serious and he will go to the national team I think, and have their treatment.

“Their game is not tomorrow. Then we’ll know more, but it should not be an issue.” he finished.