Sunday 22 April 2018

Brendan Rodgers given Anfield backing as Reds get ready for summer spree

Following talks with the club's owners it was confirmed that Brendan Rodgers will remain Liverpool's manager
Following talks with the club's owners it was confirmed that Brendan Rodgers will remain Liverpool's manager

Chris Bascombe

Brendan Rodgers has been given the go-ahead to revive his and Liverpool's fortunes next season following talks with the manager's hierarchy.

Rodgers met chairman Tom Werner and Fenway Sports Group president Michael Gordon yesterday and, as expected, the primary focus was how to reshape the side to achieve his targets next season, formulating a "comprehensive plan for improvement".

After two hours of talks it was confirmed that Rodgers was still in charge, although it remains to be seen if there will be any changes to other personnel behind the scenes.

No details regarding Liverpool's plan of action have been revealed, but the club want to return to the Champions League and get back to the stylish, attacking football that led to a title challenge in 2014.

Rodgers will certainly be backed with several signings in order to achieve those ambitions, the first of which is expected to be James Milner.

The conversations with Werner - who flew to England on Monday - have been described as "positive, good and productive", with Liverpool reiterating that Rodgers' position was never under threat. The club have delivered that message consistently despite a disappointing campaign.

Rodgers spoke openly after Liverpool's calamitous final-day defeat against Stoke City, admitting it was inevitable that serious questions would be asked about his role, but even then his bosses moved to quell suggestions that the outcome of an end-of-season review would end in dismissal.

Privately, club sources persistently dismissed claims that Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti were under consideration to replace Rodgers.

Although Rodgers will have faced some difficult questions regarding Liverpool's performance, the will remains to see him continue and develop as a coach at Anfield.

Rodgers can now press ahead securing reinforcements, with deals for Milner and Danny Ings agreed in principle. Providing there are no late hitches, both will officially join the club on July 1.

Liverpool will also try to secure the signatures of Aston Villa's Christian Benteke and Southampton's Nathaniel Clyne, but are braced for a summer of resisting several bids for winger Raheem Sterling.

Werner has several departmental meetings to attend for the rest of the week, ahead of attending the Premier League shareholders meeting in London tomorrow.

It is likely that much of the conversation between Werner and Rodgers concentrated on the kind of players required to challenge at the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool's transfer strategy has focused on emerging players - an express desire to identify and nurture potential being part of the Fenway Sports Group blueprint - to complement those who can perform in the first team immediately.

The younger recruits from last year struggled to adapt, while those it was hoped would add experience and instant quality, such as Adam Lallana, Mario Balotelli, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert, also made little impression.

Liverpool must address the issue of why they have been unable to attract players from existing top-level Champions League clubs and have often missed out on targets to rivals such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

That makes Milner's acquisition significant. It is a long time since Liverpool signed a senior player from a Champions League club in England, especially one whose current club do not wish to lose him and are actively trying to retain him.

But the pursuit of Benteke looks likely to drag on. His release clause is £32.5m but there will be serious consideration given as to whether the Belgian is worth that much. Liverpool rate him nearer £20m.

Benteke has said he wants to play for a club playing in European competition and it is believed that he is keen to speak to Liverpool if they make an acceptable bid.

The difference in the clubs' valuations is a stumbling block at this stage.

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