Jurgen Klopp claims he will be targeting the “highest quality” in the summer as he constructs a squad to navigate his first full campaign as Liverpool manager. Those words will be welcomed by supporters, but several players will rightly suspect they’ll be out the Melwood doors to accommodate the incomings.
The German has always maintained he wants to make his own judgements on those at his disposal rather than work off prior assessments. Over the past five-and-a-half months, Klopp and his assistants have uncovered the players who can cope with full-throttle football, those who have the capacity to learn, those who want to do everything possible to be successful at the club and those who have too little to contribute.
The next two months will help sharpen the manager’s opinions on his personnel. The 48-year-old has himself explained that things change quickly in football, but some futures already look decided.
Goal analyses the players under threat when Klopp’s reconstruction gets underway…
At the turn of the year, the Reds boss was unequivocal: he was “completely satisfied” with his goalkeeping department. Time and a series of errors from both Simon Mignolet and Adam Bogdan altered that line of thought. The latter is a certainty to depart, and Liverpool cannot repeat the mistake of hiring a mediocre understudy to the Belgian rather than an authoritative goalkeeper.
Mignolet should be not be guaranteed to start next season as the club’s number one. Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen would be the ideal recruit for Liverpool if they can convince the 23-year-old his future would be best served on Merseyside under Klopp, and if they can negotiate an agreeable fee with the Spanish giants.
With Joel Matip already secured to strengthen the club’s rearguard and Leicester’s left-back Ben Chilwell a primary target, exits are inevitable in defence. Even before Martin Skrtel’s demonstration of how not to be a centre-back against Southampton on Sunday, the 31-year-old’s time at Liverpool looked to be up. His performance at St Mary’s confirmed a widely held thought at the club: he has gotten away with far too many clumsy displays for far too long. Skrtel will not be a starter next season and Liverpool will be open to offers for the Slovakian.
Also in the heart of defence, Dejan Lovren has emerged as the man most likely to partner Matip in 2016-17, but Mamadou Sakho is hugely popular on the terraces and within the dressing room. Neither would be happy with a bit-part role, and it will be interesting to see how Klopp solves this conundrum. Kolo Toure’s contribution has been appreciated and his influence noted, but at 35 and out of contract in the summer, the Ivorian could be kept on in a different capacity at the club.
While there are question marks over Alberto Moreno, he is young, energetic and talented. Klopp seems set to stick rather than twist with him. Jon Flanagan has signed a new three-year deal, while the versatile Joe Gomez will be eased back into action after rupturing his ACL in October.
Loanee Steven Caulker will return to QPR at the end of the season and it'll be bye-bye Jose Enrique. Tiago Ilori will be looking for a new club, while Brad Smith must decide whether he wants to be a squad player or start elsewhere.
Serbian starlet Marko Grujic will be a new option for Klopp in Liverpool’s midfield next season, and the manager is also hugely keen on recruiting Poland international Piotr Zielinski. Joe Allen will seek the opportunity to be a starter rather than a substitute. Lucas, Liverpool’s longest-serving player, will not be afforded many minutes next season but is expected to be given the option of staying on. His contribution extends beyond the pitch and his experience is valued.
Joao Teixeira will move on and James Milner may need to get accustomed to not operating in his preferred central midfield role. Captain Jordan Henderson has been linked with Tottenham, and while he has been average at best since returning from a heel injury, he is an important element in midfield and at the club. Kevin Stewart was rewarded with a new contract after impressing Klopp and Emre Can is thriving in his box-to-box role.
Adam Lallana is integral to Liverpool’s high-intensity game and will remain, while interest in Philippe Coutinho will be expected. Klopp has stated he will not keep any player that wants to leave, but the Brazilian is a match-winner and the Reds need to stop the trend of their premier talents taking off at the end of every season.
The possibility of a reunion between Klopp and Mario Gotze continues to increase and Liverpool could do with a sprinkling of star quality. Attack is a department the manager feels he is well stocked in, but there will be some shuffling. Christian Benteke is a good striker, but not a stylistic match for Kloppball and while Liverpool will take a financial hit on his sale, he should exit. Ditto Mario Balotelli, who is on loan at AC Milan, but neither fits in nor is wanted back at Melwood.
Jordon Ibe has been starved of minutes recently and may need to continue his development elsewhere while Jerome Sinclair will be off. Lazar Markovic, who has spent the season at Fenerbahce, will have the chance to revive his Reds career during pre-season. Other wide options will be assessed in the market.
Divock Origi is developing brilliantly under Klopp, while Danny Ings has all the qualities to be effective under the 48-year-old. Roberto Firmino has proved an effective forward with defensive bite and Liverpool hope they have already conquered the worst of Daniel Sturridge’s setbacks.