The rhetoric surrounding Liverpool in the transfer market is that the club badly need an elite young forward to provide initial competition for, and then replace, Mo Salah (29), Sadio Mane (29) and Roberto Firmino (30).
We’ve got Diogo Jota (25) as a short and long-term option, but with the assumption Divock Origi will eventually move on and the evidence suggesting Taki Minamino will not become a world-beater, a new forward is at some point soon a necessity.
But in reality our best midfield options are also ageing and we might need a similarly large financial outlay on a new performer for Jurgen Klopp’s key central roles, too.
Captain Jordan Henderson (31), Thiago (30) and Fabinho (28) make up our best midfield, but two are the wrong side of 30 and all three pick up injuries.
We have talented youngsters in Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Tyler Morton coming through, with the squad options of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita – but just like with the forward line – a big transfer in this position would be hugely beneficial.
Perhaps that’s why legitimate links to Jude Bellingham have arisen, with James Nursey in the Mirror stating unequivocally that Liverpool are favourites for the £90m-rated teenage sensation – who’s already a starter for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and the England national team.
18-year-old Bellingham is a player on the club’s radar – but that much is obvious. Every youngster of such status will be carefully watched by our scouts. With Bellingham though, you feel a few pieces of the jigsaw are coming together.
He’s regularly stated his favourite former player and idol is Steven Gerrard, while declaring Jordan Henderson his inspiration in the England side. Liverpool’s captain even recently poked the fires of a potential transfer via Instagram, which is unlike him.
FSG don’t often spend big money, or any money at all, but they have shown they’re willing to shore up a position for the next decade via an extortionate price-tag in the past.
We made Alisson and Virgil van Dijk the most expensive goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet by signing them, remember. It will have been four years since the Alisson deal next summer, and perhaps it’s time for FSG to guarantee an elite proponent of the team once again. Bellingham would seemingly fit the bill, although the reality is we probably need a similar outlay on an attacker.
Signing Nat Phillips in January is a complete no-brainer
If you’re West Ham, Newcastle, Burnley – or dare I say it – Everton – you’d be absolutely mad not to go all out for Nat Phillips in January.
The man is 100% available, the perfect age at 24 and proven himself utterly reliable on the biggest stages.
His partnership with Rhys Williams, now a backup at Swansea, at the end of last season, got us into the Champions League – the competition whose Group of Death we’ve just waltzed through. We shouldn’t forget the massive contributions of both, who many Liverpool fans hadn’t even heard of before last season started.
Phillips has been hard done by this term, given just 45 minutes of football before his start at the San Siro midweek – but you wouldn’t have known based on his composed, physical performance. Nat pocketed Zlatan Ibrahimivoc, highlighted by a Cruyff-turn in his own area to evade the giant Swede, evoking memories of two centre-backs who used to own that stadium; Baresi and Maldini!
Liverpool will likely ask for around £15m for Phillips, but based on what I’ve seen, that’s very good value. He’s as good in the air as anyone I’ve seen, and for sides who sit deeper than we do, his lack of pace will be less exposed. He deserves his move, but we’ll miss him.
What has happened to the quality of European football?
What’s happened to European football? Let’s be honest – that Liverpool performance on Tuesday was impressive – but AC Milan were diabolical. This is the side that currently tops Serie A with 38 points from 16 games. Liverpool put out a second-string bar three players, in a match we didn’t even need to get a draw, and completely dominated them in their back-yard. It was a far cry from competing against AC Milan back in the day, when their stellar names dwarfed ours and we were enormous underdogs on every occasion.
FC Porto, who top the Portuguese table, undefeated, were similarly awful. We’ve had bigger tests from Brighton and Brentford this season. Atletico Madrid, La Liga champions, are simply elite at the art of shithousery – they’re not a good football side – and we showed that both home and away.
Manchester City topped their CL Group. So did Manchester United, for goodness sake. Chelsea only came second to a Juventus side they battered 4-0 at Stamford Bridge because they took their foot off the gas.
Bayern Munich are a really good side, and PSG have Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe… but the rest? They look genuinely poor, and it suggests a gulf between the cash-rich Premier League and the rest of Europe is growing. Stalwarts Barcelona didn’t even qualify, of course.
The best managers all work in England, and the best sides are now pulling away from the rest. It’s no wonder the biggest European teams are still pushing for a Super League in which they’ll be able to compete financially – but that one is dead in the water. Maybe in some form it wasn’t the worst idea after all!?
So, what does it mean for Liverpool? Well, in many ways it’s unlucky, as in no other time in history would a Liverpool side this good potentially finish third domestically, but it does make us one of the favourites for the Champions League – and importantly means Europe’s former behemoths are no longer realistic destinations for our best players.
Salah isn’t heading to Spain or Italy, is he? Maybe the board knows this, and this is a reason they’re playing hardball with his contract. Let’s hope they see sense and reward him for his unrivalled brilliance so we can celebrate five more years of Mo by Christmas.