Tuesday 16 July 2019

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp can't bear to look at past as Alisson arrival marks new future at Anfield

Liverpool's Loris Karius (right) speaks with manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool's Loris Karius (right) speaks with manager Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp is determined not to dwell on the defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Photo: Reuters

Simon Hughes

In cold reflection after the draining heat of Kiev, there was no deeper analysis - no poring over what went wrong. Instead, seemingly, there was only swift conclusion. Jurgen Klopp would reveal yesterday that he had not reviewed the Champions League final in too much detail, "Only scenes… there is no reason for that to be honest…"

He was not hurting. "No. I'm not sure how it would be if I watch it back, maybe in a few situations I would get angry or upset but it doesn't hurt anymore."

When your team lose their best player after a quarter of the game, when your team concede from an overhead kick delivered by a substitute introduced only minutes before; when your team - or your goalkeeper - throw in another two, you sympathise with Klopp and realise why there is little point in agonising over what else could really have happened: how it could have ended any differently inside those 90 minutes.

As Klopp spoke, Liverpool were negotiating Alisson's travel arrangements from Sardinia to Merseyside via Rome. The Brazilian goalkeeper will replace Loris Karius in the next 48 hours should he pass a medical at Melwood - should Chelsea, indeed, not suddenly match Liverpool's offer and manage to convince him Stamford Bridge is a better place to be right now.

Sympathy

Klopp's sympathy with Karius is genuine because he thinks concussion may have played a role in a night that will probably define him. He is compassionate. Yet he remains a football manager with consistent views and even before Kiev, Alisson had been identified as a primary target. A Liverpool victory there might not have protected Karius, whether or not he was at the centre of a dreadful plot.

It had not escaped Liverpool's notice that aside from respective statuses in their national teams as well as physiques, Alisson stops more shots than Karius. His distribution is statistically better. He also keeps more clean sheets.

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The world-record fee (€75m) that Liverpool are willing to pay reflects the importance of the position. It is true that Klopp could have recognised this earlier and signed someone instead of Karius two summers ago. Yet Pep Guardiola signed Claudio Bravo before Ederson. And nobody with a passing interest is really agonising over Manchester City's 2016/'17 season now.

It is unlikely Alisson will be joined by Nabil Fekir, the French World Cup winner who almost moved to Anfield at the start of June only for his own medical in Paris to raise issues that neither Liverpool nor Lyon could resolve.

From here, it is also unlikely that we will see the sort of scramble that happened in the final days of last summer's transfer window when Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were secured, albeit with Keita only arriving 10 months later.

It was announced by Liverpool yesterday that Oxlade-Chamberlain will almost certainly spend all of the forthcoming campaign recovering from the "multiple ligament" injury that he suffered against Roma in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final in April.

The midfielder knew about the horror of his rehabilitation then but decided to keep the news away from everyone but his manager, Liverpool's medical staff and his family because he did not want to distract from the excitement building around the club.

Liverpool missed Oxlade-Chamberlain in Kiev, just as they missed a fully-fit Emre Can and a fully-fit Adam Lallana. Though Can has since left for Juventus, Liverpool's midfield now looks a lot stronger than it did in May when there were only three players to really choose from.

By the time they face West Ham United on the opening day of the season as many as six could be competing for three positions depending on how those returning from World Cup duties react.

Klopp believes there is more than just one thing that points towards the progression under his guidance at Liverpool even without the trophies to prove it.

One relates to the fact that this has been the first window since 2013 when there hasn't been a genuine discussion about one of Liverpool's most influential players leaving and instead, better ones are wanting to join.

"There was always a lot of change, but in both directions," he said. "Now it is more in one direction…"

His mind would drift back towards Kiev and the month before that. These memories mean Liverpool's players know as much as he, an improvement in competition is necessary if City are to be challenged simultaneously with pursuits in Europe.

"We had the situation where we had 12 players," he reflected. "They know we need the depth in the squad. They know it. It is not like they say, 'bring in another midfielder, why? We are all still here'. They know we need the quality and they know that if we win something here then we will win it with 25 players. That is exactly how we all feel."

© Independent News Service

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