‘The money doesn’t interest me. It’s enough that I have the first and the last word — in the middle, we discuss.
‘We want to discuss good players on the highest level but I’m not a genius. I need other people to get the perfect information’ – Jurgen Klopp – October 9, 2015.
When looking at the squad Liverpool have assembled, the one that is propelling them to a shot at history, it is important to go back to the beginning.
The first day Klopp was put in front of the cameras, he had been warned to expect questions about ‘The Transfer Committee’.
It’s easy to forget, such has been the success of late, that seven years ago mention of it was greeted with incredulity.
The January signing of Luis Diaz is indicative of Liverpool’s successes in the transfer market
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has built a versatile squad capable of challenging for the quadruple
Liverpool’s recruitment had been more miss than hit, with the perception that too many people behind the scenes had opinions and the finance wasn’t there to match ambitions.
The assumption, given that transfers had been a thorny issue for Brendan Rodgers, was that Klopp would get frustrated with all the voices and opinions.
On that first day at Anfield, though, he planted the seeds for recovery, and unity would be the theme. ‘To make a transfer, you think so much about it — will the player fit?’ Klopp explained after signing his contract extension last week.
‘Will they help us? Can we help the player to make the next step? And will the player help us to take the next step? That is the main thing you have to sort.
‘Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it does and the player can have an impact. That is what we tried to do and will continue to try to do. That is what I understand was the transfer committee: people who work in the same direction.’
The results have been spectacular. Liverpool are chasing an unprecedented quadruple because of the depth they have assembled and the evidence for how far they have come, even during the Klopp years, can be seen by looking at the squad he picked for the 2018 Champions League final in Kyiv.
On the bench were — among others — Nathaniel Clyne, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno and Dominic Solanke. When Mo Salah’s shoulder was dislocated by Sergio Ramos, Klopp’s only solution was to put on Adam Lallana, who had played just 16 minutes in the previous two months.
Look at them now. Klopp finds himself grappling with who to omit from his matchday 18 and his options are game-changing: look no further than Luis Diaz’s jet-heeled 45 minutes against Villarreal, splashing through the puddles to set up another date with Real. So how have they done it?
Sporting director Michael Edwards (left) has been instrumental in several brilliant transfers
There have been several sliding doors moments along the way. For instance, in the January after Klopp signed, Liverpool wanted Alex Teixeira, a Brazilian winger who had been flying with Shakthar Donetsk. They bid £25million but it was rebuffed.
Had the move been successful, they could not have afforded a move for Southampton’s Sadio Mane in summer 2016.
There are other cases of what might have been. Liverpool were sweet on Ben Chilwell, when he was a teen at Leicester, but couldn’t agree personal terms. Roma’s Emerson Palmieri was another left-back target but he was injured in 2017. They went for their next option: Andy Robertson.
What might have happened if Julian Brandt, the left-footed Bayer Leverkusen wide forward, had agreed to play on the right side of Liverpool’s attack? Klopp was a fan of Brandt but the Germany international was reluctant to play on his unnatural side.
At the time, Liverpool had around 16 options to play out wide but Dave Fallows, head of recruitment, and chief scout Barry Hunter had been following Mo Salah for years, having recommended Liverpool buy him in January 2014.
They were adamant, as was sporting director Michael Edwards, that Salah would fit Klopp’s style.
It was in some way fitting, as he was presented with the Footballer of the Year award this week, that Edwards and Hunter were part of a club delegation celebrating with him. Klopp walked away from a deal for Julian Draxler, who went to PSG, when the German asked first what he could expect to be paid in England.
The acquisitions of forwards Sadio Mane (left) and Mohamed Salah (right) have been excellent
Andy Robertson was Liverpool’s third choice after Ben Chilwell and Emerson Palmieri
Klopp has always been happy to cut his loth accordingly, only buying players if the moment was right. The tale of selling Philippe Coutinho to raise the revenue for Virgil van Dijk and Alisson has been well told.
But a more recent example of this trading came last summer when they sold Harry Wilson (£12m to Fulham), Marko Grujic (£10.5m to Porto), Xherdan Shaqiri (£9.5m to Lyon) and Taiwo Awoniyi (£6.5m to Union Berlin) to buy Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.
Trading smart has been the way forward and that won’t change when Edwards leaves.
Julian Ward, his successor, is highly regarded by Klopp, with whom he plays paddle tennis.
Klopp called it right that October day in 2015 with so many things but particularly over transfers. He was surrounded by people who could help him get the right information: the results of this long-term plan are close to fruition.
Klopp was a fan of Julian Brandt but the Germany star was reluctant to play on the right side