Why Klopp shouldn’t be panicking as Liverpool’s Naby Keita chase drags on

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Four out of five of the Premier League’s biggest summer signings were only completed in August, so the Reds boss may have to play the waiting game


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Jurgen Klopp is a stickler for preparation, and so as he reports back to work at Melwood on Wednesday, he’ll have forecasted the incomplete status of Liverpool’s major transfer business.

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It is not the situation he ideally wanted to be welcomed back into, but one he knew was very probable given the elite bracket of players the club were centering their recruitment drive on.

GFX Jurgen Klopp quote transfers

“I wish we could bring in the players tomorrow but, unfortunately, that isn't really likely,” the Reds boss admitted after the post-season friendly in Sydney.

“The best scenario is always to have them in before pre-season, but I’m not sure it will happen this time with all the different players. We will see.

“That’s not even a big problem because we are fit and healthy and have already a really strong squad.

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"That means we could even start [the season] with this squad and bring in the new players later, but that does not mean I would prefer this. I would like to have them as soon as possible, but we will see what happens.”

Klopp already has one primary target secured with Mohamed Salah joining from Roma in a club record £36.9 million deal, which could rise by another £7m. It is undoubtable that the Egypt international, who will report for pre-season later this month, enhances the quality of the squad and will further the 50-year-old’s authoritative vision.

HD Mohamed Salah Liverpool

Under-20 World Cup winner Dominic Solanke, who was the Golden Ball recipient at the tournament in South Korea, is another addition set to be unveiled soon much to the chagrin of Chelsea. They will receive only a training compensation fee, expected to be set by a tribunal, for a player they packaged as their young superstar.

Both are great pieces of business - one striking, one quite shrewd - but that has been it. There are no ticks next to three key positions that need boxing off: the heart of defence, midfield and left-back.

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The latter looks the easiest to complete with Hull City’s Andy Robertson under consideration and enthused by the prospect of moving to Anfield after many of the club's other options have fallen away. 

Naby Keita - effectively two players in one given his offensive and defensive excellence - is wanted to energise the centre of the park, but RB Leipzig have told the 22-year-old as well as stated publicly that he is not for sale. A bid that surpasses the Bundesliga transfer record of €75m (£66m) could tempt them into altering their position.

GFX Naby Keita stats

The Guinea international is open to an exit to fulfil the career trajectory he has envisioned for himself, but is also not at the stage where he would force a move: Die Bullen finished second in Germany’s top flight last season, have an exciting squad, an enterprising approach, Champions League football and plenty of ambition.

What they are missing is status - gravitas in the football landscape - which is the very element they are trying to add, and feel selling off core members of their squad would be detrimental to that goal.

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A formal offer would only be submitted once there is confidence that the player wants to move, and importantly, that his club are open to doing business.

Why wasn’t a bid put in for Virgil van Dijk, who had expressed a willingness to work under Klopp, then?

HD Virgil van Dijk

The common thought is that Liverpool’s public fist-bumping over the centre-back’s decision amid interest from Chelsea and Manchester City is why Southampton have taken an extremely hardline stance over the situation, which saw a public apology and the now removed threat of Premier League punishment for tapping up.

While that certainly did aggravate the south-coast club, they were already tired of being part of a long-running joke.

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There’s only so many players they can sell to the Reds, and they’ve sold so many recently.

Prior to 2014, the Anfield side had only transferred in four players from Southampton - one of which was on loan - during their entire history.

Since then, Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert have made the switch: five in the space of three summers.

HD Sadio Mane

Saints wanted to swing the middle finger to six in four.

Their position on Van Dijk was that he isn’t for sale, most especially not to Liverpool. The Reds, as per their statement, “have ended any interest in the player,” but of course, their admiration of him and vice versa doesn’t automatically disappear.

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The Dutch international has reported back for pre-season and it remains to be seen whether he accepts that his future is at St Mary’s or if he struggles to shake off the desire of wanting to advance his career elsewhere with City and Chelsea still both in the market for a pedigreed centre-back.

If negotiations take place with Southampton, but the 25-year-old remains intent on joining Liverpool instead, he could request that his club reconsider their approach and accept a record-breaking bid for a defender from the Reds.

With such difficulty in securing their two main targets for the summer, should Klopp be panicking?

While the recruitment team will no doubt be putting shifts in on alternatives, the manager has been unequivocal on bringing in the right players - the ones he believes will genuinely uplift Liverpool.

Paul Pogba Manchester United League Cup

Those are the kind not usually easy to land: four of the five biggest signings in Premier League history have only been completed in August.

Paul Pogba and John Stones officially moved to Manchester United and City respectively on the 9th of the month. Angel Di Maria switched to Old Trafford on the 26th, with Kevin De Bruyne leaving Wolfsburg for the Etihad on August 30.

The exception was Raheem Sterling’s acrimonious exit from Liverpool to City, which was dusted off on July 14. Even that saga seemed to drag and drag some more, with the infamous BBC interview conducted on April 1.

The league’s blockbuster buys have historically taken time to get over the line and a look at the current business of the entire top six further ratifies that.

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City’s efforts for Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy and Chelsea’s push for Alex Sandro from Juventus, for example, have also been exhausting thus far.

Shopping at the top end, even when you’re ready to sanction eye-watering fees, is complex.

Klopp will have not wanted to play the waiting game, but given the calibre of players Liverpool are after and the valuations they command, he’ll definitely have been prepared for it.

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