Neil Jones has suggested that Liverpool are currently facing a dilemma not seen since the final days of Philippe Coutinho’s time at Anfield.
The Brazilian playmaker left for Barcelona in January 2018 in a £142m deal (BBC Sport), having been a crucial presence for the Reds prior to his mid-season departure.
Jurgen Klopp is facing a similar crossroads now with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, two stalwarts of his current team, both being linked with moves to Saudi Arabia. The former has been the subject of a £40m offer from Al-Ittihad, while the latter has a £20m asking price amid interest from Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq.
In his latest Empire of the Kop Substack column, Jones equated the prospective departures of the midfield duo to Coutinho’s exit in terms of them being players Liverpool either have lost or could lose reluctantly.
He stated: “That’s the fascinating part of it for me. I wrote a piece on my Substack page this morning. Not since Philippe Coutinho left about five and a half years ago have Liverpool lost a player they wanted to keep.
“But the money was that good that you couldn’t argue that by the end once they’d spent the money it was a bad thing. It clearly went well for Liverpool, as they were able to finish off their team.
“The money for Fabinho and Henderson is decent for their age but it’s not game-changing in terms of allowing Liverpool to get whoever they want.”
During the 2010s, Liverpool became accustomed to seeing their best players cherry-picked by other clubs, with Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and indeed Coutinho all departing Anfield for what they may have thought were bigger and better things.
However, given the success Klopp has enjoyed at the club, the Reds are no longer seen as a stepping stone towards an apparently upward move elsewhere, instead being a side who allows players to leave on their terms rather than someone else’s.
Jones’ point about the potential fees for Fabinho and Henderson being incomparable to the Coutinho windfall which effectively funded the landmark signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson is also a pertinent one.
If Liverpool receive £60m for the midfield duo, it could be put towards one marquee addition this summer, or maybe two strong squad acquisitions, but is very unlikely to be as transformative as the coups of the Dutch defender and Brazil goalkeeper.
In the increasingly plausible event that the two midfielders are sold, it’s imperative that the Reds use the money just as wisely as they did when they parted with the Brazilian playmaker in the first few days of 2018.