Jürgen Klopp has said Liverpool will be a more attractive proposition to transfer targets this summer and positive talks have already taken place with potential recruits.
Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, will invest heavily in Klopp’s squad before next season regardless of Champions League qualification, although the team are on course for a return to the European elite with five matches to play.
The Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk, Bayer Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt and Leipzig midfielder Naby Keïta are among those on Klopp’s wishlist. Liverpool are likely to face fierce competition for all three but unlike last summer, when defeat in the Europa League final left the club without European football and Mario Götze prevaricated over a move to Merseyside, Klopp believes the progress and relative youthfulness of the team make Anfield an easier sell to any target.
The Liverpool manager, while not discussing individual approaches, said: “I think it will be [easier to attract players]. I think that Liverpool at this moment is a really interesting project for players. We cannot say 100% that we will play Champions League football next year but it’s a young team, it’s a fantastic club and it’s a good situation where we really can see the progress of the team.
“I would say together with Tottenham the average age of the team is such that there’s still a lot to come. They are obviously a few steps ahead but they have played longer together. We feel in a good way and, if a player wants to be part of this way, then it’s easier to make this decision this year than last year. But actually not a lot of players told me last year: ‘I don’t want to be part of this, but let me see what happens next year and then we can talk again.’ It’s more my feeling than anything I could say about what a player thinks. But the talks we’ve had so far are very positive. That doesn’t mean it will all work out but they are really positive and they all see the progress. That’s good.”
Klopp believes recent, crucial away wins at West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City provided evidence of Liverpool’s progression this season, describing last Sunday’s 1-0 victory at The Hawthorns as an “adult” performance. The Liverpool manager had said before Bournemouth’s visit to Anfield on 5 April that his team needed to learn to win ugly and not rely solely on their attacking quality.
Asked to elaborate on the “adult” theme, he explained: “They were doing the right thing at the right moment, without waiting for a very special moment. It’s always easy to be confident with the qualities the boys have and it’s always easy when you have a perfect start – the first five minutes, really good, next five, even better, and so on. You can build on this all the time.
“But you need to accept there will be holes in a game, moments when it doesn’t work, and that’s really important. In that situation stay in the game, do the right thing, play the right pass. That’s what I thought was really good last weekend. Apart from the Phillips chance, when I think Joël [Matip] slipped and Simon [Mignolet] had to make the save, I can’t remember any chances for them apart from set pieces. Even then, they did not have real chances. There were four or five set pieces late on. There was the highest concentration from us. That’s how it should be. That’s why games end a lot of times 1-0.”
Liverpool host Crystal Palace on Sunday looking to extend a seven-game unbeaten run and strengthen their hold on a top-four finish. Klopp claims it is a sign of his team’s growing maturity how they closed the game out against West Brom compared to conceding an 87th-minute equaliser to Bournemouth’s Josh King in their last home fixture.
He added: “Sometimes you have to make real mistakes to learn. I wouldn’t say Bournemouth was a real mistake but it felt like that after the game. It was so useless for us. We didn’t play as safe as possible with all the passing. If they defend deep, we could pass the ball from one point to another, but if they don’t want to attack that’s not our fault. We gave them an opportunity to get back into the game and that makes no sense. I want everybody to realise that we don’t necessarily start managing a game from the first minute. That’s not how it is. You need to come into a game and when you are in a game, you need to keep it going. At the end, to manage a result in the last five or 10 minutes is an important part of football.”