Wednesday 13 December 2017

Jurgen Klopp stays patient in hunt for top Liverpool targets

Jurgen Klopp led Liverpool to a top-four finish last season
Jurgen Klopp led Liverpool to a top-four finish last season

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he is remaining patient in an increasingly difficult transfer market as the club have done a lot of work behind the scenes.

Some of that work appears to have gone to waste after they were forced to withdraw their interest in defender Virgil van Dijk and apologise to Southampton after Saints complained about an alleged "tapping up" offence, although a Premier League investigation has not discovered any wrongdoing.

They have, however, signed Roma winger Mohamed Salah for £34.3million and 19-year-old Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke, who is expected to initially join the under-23 squad, for a fee to be decided by a tribunal.

Meanwhile near-neighbours Everton have raised the bar on Merseyside by spending close to £100m on six players.

Arguably the Reds are targeting higher-profile players - with RB Leipzig's £70m-rated Naby Keita a player of interest - and Klopp said those type of deals usually take time.

"Yes, it will be a difficult one, maybe it's getting more and more difficult, especially in England," he told liverpoolfc.com when asked about the transfer window.

"But we have made a lot of good things so far. If you cannot see it so far, you can imagine we have done a lot of things behind the scenes.

"Sometimes you need to be patient and that's what we are in at the moment - to wait for the right moment and then we will see what happens."

A large group of players - including the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and James Milner - returned to the Reds' Melwood training complex on Wednesday for pre-season training.

And while the quest for signings continues, with the centre and left of defence also in need of strengthening, the German knows he has to get the majority of his players up to speed quickly with a crucial two-legged Champions League play-off - as a result of their fourth-placed finish - to face soon after the Premier League season kicks off.

"We all know in a few weeks we have these qualifiers and there will be pressure on the game," he added.

"But now we have the time to prepare for this and we have to use the basis we created last year - it was not too bad.

"We all know it could have been maybe a little bit better but it could have been much worse.

"We are now one of the top four teams in England so now we want to keep this situation and work with it and improve.

"The squad will be stronger this year than it was last year. That's a real reason for real optimism."

Salah will, along with Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet and Georginio Wijnaldum, come back later than the others as a result of their recent international commitments.

But with their first pre-season friendlies just a week away, first at Tranmere next Wednesday, and then at Wigan two days later, the focus is on getting the current group ready for action.

"It's important for us to know from which point we can pick them in the next few weeks. They all look pretty much in a good shape," Klopp said.

Defender Joe Gomez is one of those back in for training and he is looking to make up for lost time after missing almost two seasons, playing just three first-team matches in January after recovering from a serious knee injury.

"I've had a lot of tough periods and stuff but I'm in a good place mentally and physically. I just see it as a fresh start now to go again and attack this season," said the 20-year-old.

One youngster who will be missing pre-season is Rhian Brewster, whose rapid progress last season saw him promoted from the under-18s through the under-23s to a place in Klopp's squad, as he is likely to be out for eight weeks with a broken foot.

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