If you can’t smile as a Liverpool fan right now, there’s nothing that will ever please you.
The skies over Anfield could hardly look brighter. The Reds are flying, in the hunt for an unprecedented ‘quadruple’ and being talked about as potentially the greatest English club side of them all.
And if that’s not enough to get the pulse racing and the mind wandering, then how about this week’s news that Jurgen Klopp, the club’s leader, its figurehead and its most important asset, has signed up for the next four years?
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“The best thing I could ever wake up to,” read the message which landed in this correspondent’s inbox, shortly after news of Liverpool’s intention to offer Klopp a new deal had emerged on Thursday morning.
Within a few hours official confirmation had arrived, Klopp signing a two-year extension which will keep him on Merseyside until at least 2026. “I’m in love with here and I feel fine,” smiled the German, a nod to his new Beatles-inspired song from the Kop.
Bad news for Liverpool’s rivals, for sure. How they would love a manager like this one. But for Reds fans it is further proof, as if it were needed, that this really is a golden era, one that will now stretch to a decade and beyond.
Like a lone black cloud on a beautiful summer’s day, the prospect of Klopp walking away in a little over two years from now had already begun to loom large on the horizon. Even as Liverpool have enjoyed success - and they could be about to enjoy the kind of success most could only dream of - the question has stood out: what happens in 2024, and how on earth does the club even begin to think about life after Jurgen?
No need to worry about that now. Klopp had always insisted that nine years would be enough. “The plan at the moment is to do 2024 and [then], thank you very much,” he said as recently as last month - but his stance has softened significantly in recent weeks, and once Liverpool got wind of that fact they moved swiftly.
Klopp’s relationship with owners Fenway Sports Group, and Mike Gordon in particular, is strong, and so negotiations were pretty straightforward. “I didn’t need too long to answer,” Klopp confirmed. His assistants, Pep Lijnders and Peter Krawietz, have also penned new deals.
Gordon believes the 54-year-old’s commitment represents “a big statement” for the club, adding that, “we cannot rest or consolidate…it is beyond thrilling to know that Jurgen will lead us into this new era.”
That “new era” he speaks of is starting to really take shape. The short-term may be paved with gold (or rather silver), but the long-term is looking pretty sweet as well.
Liverpool now have their manager and coaching staff in place, and they have a new sporting director, Julian Ward, ready to take over the reins. If Ward’s future dealings are as good as his last one, the signing of Luis Diaz, then happy days most certainly lie ahead.
Many fixtures of this great team - Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson - are tied down to long-term contracts, while the ones who may well form the next one - Diaz, Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate, Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones and the soon-to-arrive Fabio Carvalho - are already in the building. Liverpool’s academy, under the guidance of Alex Inglethorpe, is thriving too, and soon Anfield’s capacity will be expanded to beyond 60,000 with the extension of the Anfield Road stand.
As Klopp put it: “We are a club that is constantly moving in the right direction.”
There are still a few loose ends to take care of, of course. The futures of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, in particular, need sorting. Liverpool would like to keep both, and it will be interesting to see whether progress is made now that Klopp has signed up for the immediate future.
Salah, for example, has repeatedly suggested that his decision will not come down to money, and that there are other factors to consider. Has the Egyptian been waiting for some reassurance over the identity of his manager? We shall soon find out.
In terms of recruitment, Liverpool have tended to get pretty much all their big decisions right in recent years. The impact made by players like Salah, Mane, Robertson, Van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Diaz, Jota and Thiago Alcantara means there is huge confidence in the club’s recruitment team, led by Ward and which features key figures such as Dave Fallows, Barry Hunter and David Woodfine.
Not so long ago, Liverpool were a club which lived in fear of losing its biggest assets. The likes of Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho all jumped ship during FSG’s early years, but under Klopp the Reds have been able not only to retain their key players, but to add to them, creating comfortably the deepest, strongest squad in Anfield history.
Their transfer policy is unlikely to change dramatically once Ward has officially replaced the outgoing Michael Edwards this summer. FSG will always operate in a certain way, with value and sustainability in mind. There’s a reason Liverpool are not in the market for Erling Haaland this summer, for example, and it has nothing to do with the attractiveness of the club.
Still, new arrivals are expected. A midfielder is likely, with Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni among those admired, and a right-back too if, as anticipated, offers arrive for the young Welshman Neco Williams, who has been excellent on loan at Fulham.
Beyond that, decisions will need to be made not only on Salah and Mane, but on Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, all of whom are out of contract in 2023, and on James Milner, whose deal expires this summer. The smart money is on Keita staying, and for the 36-year-old vice-captain Milner to receive a one-year extension.
The best news, though, is that as Liverpool make those key calls, and as they go after the kind of glory everyone else wants, they do so from a position of strength, as a happy and united club.
They’ve already made the biggest and best signing they could make. Klopp is staying, and the supporters are smiling.
Now to go and finish the season in style. And who would bet against them doing exactly that?