Liverpool are set for major surgery this summer, with key players leaving the club, and a major arrival already confirmed.
The 2022/23 post-mortem is likely to force Jurgen Klopp’s hand as he prepares to rebuild his squad and make Liverpool genuine Premier League title contenders once again. Despite a late resurgence, most Koppites, and indeed Klopp himself, will say that last season simply wasn’t good enough.
It’s a far cry from Klopp’s rallying call after Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid last year. “Where is it [the final] next season? Istanbul? Book the hotel,” a defiant Klopp said back in May 2022. But, The Reds largely flattered to deceive in a trophy-less season (Community Shield aside) that also failed to deliver a top-four finish.
“This has not been a historically good season. We’re absolutely not happy with it, we made mistakes and were not consistent enough,” Klopp said last month. The German will not want a repeat of that, which could see a complete overhaul of his squad, with plenty of incomings… and outgoings.
James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita are already out of the door — but could anyone else join them? Assessing some of Klopp’s more peripheral figures, we’ve weighed up whether Liverpool should sell, keep or loan them.
Roberto Firmino next club odds with Sky Bet
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Joel Matip is in the final 12 months of his contract at Anfield, so there is plenty of uncertainty over his future. The Cameroonian has been an excellent stalwart for Klopp since joining Liverpool from Schalke on a free transfer in 2016. However, despite spending seven seasons on Merseyside, Matip has only ever once managed more than 30 Premier League games in a single campaign: 2021/22. Last term, he managed just 14 league appearances.
That said, he remains a classy and industrious centre-back who knows Klopp’s system well and has a crucial understanding with Virgil van Dijk, whom he partnered in Liverpool’s Champions League final victory in 2019. It will certainly be in Liverpool’s interests if Matip hangs around for the duration of his contract, upon which time (next summer) he will be 33. With Ibrahima Konate’s injury track record, Matip’s presence in and around the squad will prove invaluable.
Liverpool fended off stiff competition to sign Fabio Carvalho last summer from Fulham, with the Portugal U21 international moving from the capital after inspiring The Cottagers to Premier League promotion. His showreel of flicks, tricks and pirouettes in the Championship made him hot property last year, and Liverpool won the race for his signature.
However, the playmaker had a few teething issues in his maiden Anfield season, struggling to adapt to Klopp’s high-pressing demands and find a suitable role in his system. Nominally a No.10 who operates ‘in the hole’, Klopp’s set-up doesn’t tailor for old-school enganche, which has often left Carvalho looking like a square peg in a round hole.
Still, at just 20 years of age and with an obvious abundance of talent, he could yet be moulded into something akin to Philippe Coutinho’s transformation into an inside forward, or even as a No.8 further back — or as a false nine, a la Firmino. The possibilities are endless, but he needs game time. Klopp won’t want to mess around with experiments in 2023/24, so a loan move could suit all parties.
And it appears he is now on the brink of joining RB Leipzig on loan, a move that could help sweeten the possibility of Liverpool moving for Dominik Szoboszlai, whom they have been heavily linked with.
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Another peripheral figure who has seen his career beset by injuries. On his day, Gomez is tenacious, aggressive and firm. Off it, he can often look like a cat on a hot tin roof. When he first burst onto the scene, Gomez was one of the most promising defenders in England, combining sophisticated defensive play, with athleticism and a drive that saw him quickly capped by England and firmly established in Liverpool’s XI.
In the intervening years, though, Gomez has suffered from set-back after set-back and regular visits to the treatment table. He remains a very talented player, and at 26, he could yet rediscover his once burgeoning form and reputation — and it’s because of that, that he is certainly worth keeping. A quality utility man and factotum who can function in various defensive roles, Klopp will see his versatility as key to tackling another congested schedule in 2023/24.
A tidy and very solid centre-back who came through Liverpool’s academy and hits the homegrown quota, Nat Phillips certainly offers plenty to Klopp in terms of ‘squad depth’. However, he will never truly muscle his way into the German’s backline, nor will he sit ahead of Matip or Gomez in the ‘back-up’ pecking order. At 26, Phillips may feel that now is the time to fashion his own career away from Anfield and make a name for himself as a consistent first-teamer. He has been recently linked with Leeds.
The pony-tailed Greek was never going to supplant Andy Robertson, but he has proven very effective and functional when called upon — and that is exactly why Klopp signed him. There really isn’t any need to get rid of Tsimikas if the player himself is happy to play second fiddle to Robertson. He still managed 26 and 28 appearances in 2021/22 and 2022/23 respectively across all competitions, so it’s not like he’s been left in the lurch.
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Sepp van den Berg
Following his move from PEC Zwolle in 2019 as a ridiculously talented teenage defender, Sepp van den Berg has had to be patient for opportunities at Anfield. After two very fruitful loan spells at Preston in 2020/21 and 2021/22, the 21-year-old was sent out on loan to Schalke last term to see how he would fare in one of Europe’s top five leagues. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious ankle injury and missed most of the season, so it remains to be seen how good he actually is.
As such, Liverpool may find it worth sticking rather than twisting, but sending him back out to a club of similar standing to Schalke pre-relegation, a.k.a. a middling top-flight club.
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Adrian’s contract expires this summer, so there is a strong argument to retain the services of ‘cup keeper’ Caoimhin Kelleher, but there have been strong reports that the Ireland international is ready to leave Anfield and forge his own career away from the shadow of Alisson. Several Premier League clubs have been credited with an interest in him, including Brighton, so Liverpool may have little say in his future if he wants to leave.