As we edged towards the final 25-minutes of the Europa League quarter-final 2nd leg against Borussia Dortmund, few supporters would have been backing Liverpool to beat the Germans with any genuine belief.
Then of course we had one of those European nights for which Anfield is renowned, as the Reds stormed back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 in a pulsating game and secure a semi-final tie against Villarreal.
It’s been some start to Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at Anfield, with Liverpool coming within a penalty shoot-out of winning the Capital One Cup and now with a fighting chance of securing entry to next season’s Champions League via the Europa League. Yes, Premier League form has been patchy, but there have been some memorable performances on that front too.
Klopp didn’t get involved on the recruitment front in the January transfer window (beyond the Steven Caulker loan), but speculation is rife as to big money arrivals in the summer. No doubt there will be a few faces for next season, but it might be less than some anticipate.
The question is who is deemed surplus to requirements in the current squad? There are barely a handful of players who are out of contract at the end of the season – Kolo Toure; Jose Enrique; Lloyd Jones; Joe Maguire; Jordan Rossiter; Joao Teixeira and Jerome Sinclair.
So who else is heading for the exit? It’s difficult to envisage Christian Benteke still being a Liverpool player next term. His game simply isn’t suited to Klopp’s style of play and he has become an increasingly peripheral figure in recent months. Adam Bogdan might regard being Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper as being detrimental to his international career too.
Others that might be on their way could well be largely limited to players currently or recently on loan. There’s unlikely to be much of a clamour for the return of Mario Balotelli, while it’s difficult to see where Andre Wisdom, Tiago Ilori and Luis Alberto would feature. Lazar Marković’s loan move to Fenerbahce has been hampered by injuries, but Klopp might be tempted to take a look at him before opting to discard a player who cost £20 million.
Some of those that recently seemed destined for the exit now appear to have renewed hope. There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Joe Allen’s future, but he seems to be winning Klopp over. Dejan Lovren has come in for a fair degree of criticism during his Liverpool career, but his stoppage-time winner against Borussia Dortmund almost instantaneously elevated his standing.
Dortmund under Klopp tended to bring players through the ranks, with a minimal number of new signings every summer. Many of the existing Liverpool players have bought in to Klopp’s philosophy and team spirit is excellent. He won’t want to risk losing that.
If Dortmund is anything to go by, he’ll also be keen to ensure that there are opportunities for the likes of Sheyi Ojo, Kevin Stewart, Brad Smith and Cameron Brannagan. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Danny Ings and Joe Gomez will return from long-term injuries next season, like a couple of proverbial ‘new signings’.