Jurgen Klopp admits Liverpool’s summer transfer plans have been scuppered by the coronavirus crisis – but insists the Reds already have a squad capable of building on their remarkable recent success.
No sooner had Liverpool’s first league title for 30 years been confirmed last week, than thoughts began to turn towards the future, and whether they will be able to defend their crown.
Klopp has already suggested there is more to come from his side – a scary thought given they have lost just two of their last 70 league games, sit 23 points clear of their nearest challengers and are on course to set a new record points total for an English top-flight season.
Liverpool had planned to strengthen their squad with at least two high-calibre signings this summer, but have been forced to reassess as they wait to discover the full impact Covid-19 will have on football.
Chief executive Peter Moore warned in April of “a massive downturn in revenue” and “unprecedented operating losses”. Liverpool recorded a pre-tax profit of £42 million in their most recent accounts but shelved a planned £54m move for Timo Werner, the RB Leipzig striker, due to concerns over the financial viability of the deal.
Klopp, speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, admitted it was unlikely that there would be a major spending spree from the newly-crowned champions, insisting that they would instead look to work with what they already have, including a hugely-talented crop of youngsters.
He said: “Covid has of course influenced both sides with ins and outs, that is completely normal.
“It's just not likely that it will be the most busy summer in the world. But maybe at a later point in the year, if the transfer window is still open and we know more, then maybe something could happen.
“I am very confident that we can keep the team together, but all the rest of the planning is ongoing without knowing. We have no idea at the moment. I don’t know when the new season will start. Nobody knows how the future will be, which is very strange.
“Three months ago nobody knew anything about how it would be and now we act a little bit like everything will be fine again. It is a little bit early to guess that.
“And in football now we get confronted with how much do you want to spend? How much can you spend if you don’t know how much you can have? That is exactly the situation.
“We all will pay a bill in the end. It’s not only football. Hopefully it is over soon but nobody knows exactly how big the bill will be.
“I think it's completely normal that this is a moment we wait a little bit longer with some decisions or just say 'we pause and try it again like this'. We should not start taking for granted it all will be fine.”
Klopp’s words, naturally, will disappoint those who had hoped to see Liverpool embark on an ambitious spending spree ahead of next season.
There was dismay among supporters when Werner, seen as an ideal fit for the Reds’ system and a player with the potential to develop into one of the world’s top forwards, moved to Chelsea earlier this month, while fans had also been excited to see the club linked with the likes of Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz, pre-coronavirus.
Klopp, though, is staying calm.
“This squad... look at it,” he said. “It is not a squad you have to change now and say 'OK, we need this position and this position'.
“If you are a football supporter, you still want a backup for him and him, of course. Even if you are completely happy with the first XI, you still want backups for everyone.
“We don't have a first XI, I’d say we have a first 16 or 17, where they can all play to the same level. But this is what we have to use, 100 per cent. And what we want to create are transfers internally.”
He added: “So now we have the first glimpses of Neco Williams. He would not be here in this position if we were not convinced.
“All these boys, Curtis [Jones], Harvey [Elliott], Ki-Jana [Hoever], Sepp [van den Berg], Yasser [Larouci], Leighton [Clarkson], Jake [Cain], all these boys have done really well. And a few I don't know yet but I will know them soon.
“We cannot spend millions and millions and millions because we think it is nice to do. We want to strengthen this squad, and this squad is strong. The problem with a strong squad is how do you improve a strong squad on the transfer market?
“It works with money, obviously. That is possible. But it never works only with money. You have to be creative and we try to be creative. We try to find solutions internally.
“There is still a lot to come. We have three or four players who can still make big, big steps, who are not in the first 12 or 13 so far. That is the pressure we make as well, internally.
“We have had these discussions throughout the last four-and-a-half years. You asked me if I will find solutions in the transfer market and you are right, we did that, 100 per cent. We did smart business, brought good players in and then did something on the training pitch, and that is not finished yet.”
In a wide-ranging chat with reporters via Zoom from the Reds’ Melwood training ground, Klopp also opened up on his relationship with Fenway Sports Group, including a revelation about his first-ever direct contact with the club owners.
“The relationship was exceptional from the first day,” he said. “The first meeting was in New York [in 2015] that’s true. But the first phone call with Mike [Gordon, the FSG president] was before that, three days before maybe, I don’t know.
“I was still in bed! It was a nice day, I remember that, but I had nothing to do. I had time off and my phone started to ring.
“I knew that Mike, or someone from FSG, was going to call. I didn’t know Mike at that point. But we had a one-hour talk on the phone. I obviously convinced him in a way that he wanted to meet in New York to bring the deal over the line. That’s how it started.
“From that moment on, we had a very, very good relationship on a professional basis and a personal basis as well. With Mike, we work closely together – that’s how it is. But it’s Mike, Michael [Edwards, the sporting director] and myself. We pretty much are the transfer committee!
“They were my first owners, so I can’t compare them. They are the best owners I ever worked with for sure! That’s cool."
He added: “There is no problem if it doesn’t happen, you don’t need to have a personal relationship maybe in this business. But we have worked brilliantly together and we have a very good relationship. That makes it pretty special.
“First and foremost, they wanted to support us. Maybe not always at first with money but with a lot of trust and faith in the things we do. That was apparent from the first second. It was always clear.
“We finished eighth in 2016 – ninth would have been the worst ever, right? – but there was never doubt, not from that side. I’m pretty sure there was doubt from the outside. But from the owners’ side, there was never. They wanted to give us time.
“They saw the little steps and that helped massively. We could make it, step-by-step.”