‘If he ends up leaving…’ – Paul Merson names two players Liverpool ‘have to keep’ this summer

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Paul Merson has named two players in particular who Liverpool simply ‘have to keep’ at the club for Arne Slot’s first season in charge.

The Feyenoord boss is set to take over from Jurgen Klopp as the 56-year-old steps aside at the end of this campaign, while rumours of a potential move to the Saudi Pro League for Mo Salah this summer have resurfaced.

In his weekly Premier League predictions column for Sportskeeda, the Sky Sports pundit wrote: “I think Mohamed Salah goes to Saudi this summer and Arne Slot will have a huge task on his hands to replace the Egyptian’s goals, if he ends up leaving.

“A lot of coaches and backroom staff from the Jurgen Klopp era will also be on their way out, so the Dutchman has his work cut out for him. 

“They have to keep Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, though, as these two players form the spine of their backline.”

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No player or manager stays at a club forever, and Liverpool have survived the exits of many past legends to continue challenging for (and winning) major silverware.

However, if on-field leaders of the calibre of Salah, Van Dijk and Alisson were to depart not long after Klopp goes, the loss of so many influential figures in a short space of time could have a major destabilising effect.

The centre-back and winger both see their respective contracts expire in June 2025 as things stand, so their futures are more pressing than that of the goalkeeper, whose current deal runs for a further two years.

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The transformational effect of the Dutch defender and Brazilian stopper arriving at Liverpool within seven months of each other can’t be overstated, with the Reds conceding more goals in the first half of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign than they did in the entirety of the following season, by which stage both had been signed.

Conversely, the two of them leaving in close succession would deprive Slot of two of the most trusted and talismanic members of the squad that he’s set to inherit, and attempting to replicate that pair in a short timeframe would be incredibly challenging.

The good news is that Van Dijk is reportedly set for contract talks over the next fortnight, so there’s a strong chance that he and Alisson will both still call Merseyside home for another while yet.

READ MORE: The evolution of Liverpool’s starting XI under Jurgen Klopp

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