Mirror correspondent David Maddock was kind enough to answer some questions for us on the summer.
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This is actually one of the best interviews we’ve got, so read it in and enjoy.1) Hi Dave, thanks for your hard work covering Liverpool this summer! How’s it been and how does it change from working as a club correspondent throughout the season? And which do your prefer?!
It is pretty much the same, just without the match reports and press conferences until the pre-season kicks in. Especially when you consider Liverpool got their business done early – a year earlier in the case of Keita, and immediately after the Champions’ League final with Fabinho.
Shaqiri was always going to happen too, from a very early stage, just that the World Cup got in the way. So it’s a question of filtering the news and trying to decipher what is happening. With, say Shaqiri, that was straight-forward, but obviously Fekir and Alisson ended up rather more complicated, and generated a lot more stick in my direction!
And to answer your second part, the summer is probably more enjoyable…because you finally get a weekend off once in a while.
2) How do you rate our business and which player excites you most?
Business is good, because I believe Keita could eventually be one of the stars of the Premier League. He has pace and strength, an audacious turn and some goals in him. It will still take time to settle, but for me as a midfielder he could eventually have the same sort of impact of a Pogba – and with perhaps a little more consistency.
Alisson was a big one, because it showed Liverpool were prepared to address a real problem in the boldest of manners. In the past they have fudged, and ended up with a sticky brown mess. But Alisson following on so closely from van Dijk, clearly illustrates they know they are close to a top class, winning team, and are prepared to spend the money to get there.
A bit of caution though. Coutinho and Can have gone, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could be out for a year (though I still suspect he will be back sooner). They have only brought in two midfielders to replace them, and are looking for Grujic, perhaps, to fill the third spot. So in terms of additions, it’s only a keeper and a forward – though personally I think Keita is a massive upgrade on Can.
3) Following the Virgil van Dijk tapping up scandal and eventual apology to Southampton last season, there seems to have been less transfer information given to club journalists – with foreign outlets breaking the news on occasion this summer.
The club also seemed to feed some misinformation (specifically that Danny Ward would be no.1 – only for Alisson to be purchased days later) for its own benefit.
Do you feel the landscape has changed? Or are we barking up the wrong tree entirely?
No, I don’t think it has changed. The club has still been giving out information, and I don’t believe they have fed false information – just offered it as things stood at the time. Take Alisson. I’ve been battered for that, and rightly so. But at the start of pre-season, there genuinely was no chance of Liverpool getting him on the terms set by Roma, who were adamant they wouldn’t budge. So the club said Klopp would back Karius, as the concussion suggested he deserved a second chance. He DID back Karius, incredibly strongly. But the first couple of pre-season games suggested that was never going to work.
Plan B was Ward. And honestly, I’ve had the conversation again in the past few days. If things hadn’t changed with Alisson, Ward would be number one now, going into the season, because Oblak aside – and he was even more expensive – there was no one else Liverpool wanted. Within days of Klopp backing Ward – and he really did, believe me – Roma’s price dropped by more than £20m. That’s a hell of a climb down, and Liverpool couldn’t really have believed it would happen, especially with Real Madrid and Chelsea definitely in the equation. They’ve paid £50m, plus add-ons. That’s a lot different to £75m, or the £85m+ it would take to get Oblak.
The second part of the equation, of course, is the thing a lot of fans don’t seem to be able to work out about football. Put simply, you don’t advertise your weakness, because that just means you get worked over financially. So when Klopp said he was prepared to go into the season with Ward, he really was. Because if he wasn’t prepared to do that, Liverpool would have no other option but to meet Roma’s asking price of £75m, or pay even more to break Oblak out of his contract. It worked, and as a journalist, you have to accept that sometimes a football club can say one thing, and genuinely mean it, and then days later the situation changes. If saying that Ward would be number one meant Liverpool got Alisson…then you’re welcome! In fairness to Liverpool, they never really intentionally misdirect like a lot of other clubs, but it obviously still happens.
4) Jurgen Klopp has gone from wanting Nabil Fekir as a priority to deciding he no longer needs a shiny new playmaker. Why do you think this is?
He does need a shiny new playmaker, and he knows it. As I said, they have lost three midfielders, and only brought two in, and at the end of last season we saw how short they were in that department. It’s just that the one he wanted isn’t available…not at the price Liverpool are prepared to pay, anyway. I think the whole media has been consistent in saying there is no Liverpool interest in Fekir on the terms originally agreed with Lyon, before the failed medical. Despite saying Fekir still wants Liverpool – which he did – I did maintain that fact. Klopp has demonstrated he is fully prepared to go into a season without the player he has identified, rather than sign a second rate, unwanted second choice. He did it with van Dijk. He actually did it with Alisson – hence the suggestion direct from him he’d back Ward. And in the case of Fekir, there’s no one else he wants in that position, so he’ll wait to see if things change, or he someone else comes along. Like Pulisic, perhaps? But again, not at any where near the price being quoted.
5) You will have seen Curtis Jones first-hand this summer. We’re really, really excited about him. Will he play first-team minutes this term?
He will, but probably in the cup competitions. No doubt Klopp likes him, but he was a huge fan of Woodburn, and found it hard to give him minutes. The same with Grujic. It’s SO hard now to blood kids in the Premier League. Even Trent got battered a few times last season, Man United away for one. Jones need something special to happen to see a lot of game time this season.
6) The transfer window shuts in a day’s time… If you were Jurgen Klopp, which player would you look to bring in – realistically or unrealistically?
Unrealistically, easy. Messi or Mbappe!
Realistically, as of Wednesday night, Liverpool were adamant – ADAMANT – there would definitely be no incomings. Don’t shoot the messenger. But they were adamant there was no bid for Alisson and it was improbable the situation would change. It did change. So who knows. I think they need a number 10, someone who can create when the 27 per cent possession sides like Manchester United mass every player behind the ball deep in defence. They need a playmaker to unpick these one-dimensional opponents. Fekir without the knee problem was an inspired signing. The few minutes he had at the World Cup, he looked class. There’s no chance of that deal anywhere near the previous terms. But who knows, maybe next summer Lyon will let him go on a deal that reflects the potentially serious problem he has. Or maybe Pusilic is available then. Or they find another one. In the meantime, Keita, Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge can provide an alternative, and perhaps Adam Lallana returns to his previous levels. They still have a hell of a squad.