Claims Liverpool reached the end of an era against Real Madrid are somewhat late – but this summer will say much about FSG.
It’s almost as though most people haven’t been paying much attention to Liverpool this season.
The fallout to the record-breaking Champions League humbling at home to Real Madrid has seen the great and the not-so-good line up to opine on what’s happened to the Reds this season.
But their suggestion the 5-2 defeat in the round of 16 first leg signifies the end of the era is incorrect.
That particular boat sailed once the final whistle went in the most recent previous meeting with Real back in Paris last May. And Jurgen Klopp had already hinted heavily before then at the transformation that was to come.
Still, it nevertheless has come as a surprise to many, perhaps shielding the painful reality that has long dawned on Liverpool supporters who have had to adjust their expectations accordingly throughout a season that has offered little in way of encouragement.
The problem has been too many of the players signed to affect the change required have, for various reasons, been unable to do so, leaving Liverpool overly reliant on those who have gone to the well perhaps now too often.
Take Tuesday’s game. Ibrahima Konate, Thiago Alcantara and Luis Diaz – all bought since the Premier League title win in 2020 – were unavailable, so too youngster Calvin Ramsay. Diogo Jota, another such signing, is recovering from injury, while Darwin Nunez was hampered slightly by a shoulder issue and Cody Gakpo hasn’t been at the club two months.
Yes, Real had a handful of players missing. But there’s little doubt the inclusion of Konate, Thiago and Diaz would have made a difference to the eventual scoreline.
Liverpool are further down the line than the naysayers may believe. The transformation, though, evidently needs accelerating considerably given events of the last six months.
Regardless, the Reds aren’t in the same situation as they were back in 2015 when Klopp took over from the sacked Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool boss later sent a text message by Fenway Sports Group apologising for the squad he had inherited.
That playing staff needed a radical overhaul which took time in completing, Klopp requiring six transfer windows before he assembled a squad capable of challenging for both the title and the Champions League in the same season in 2018/19.
Liverpool are approaching matters now from a much healthier position, even if it may not seem that way having seen Klopp’s side stumble their way through the opening weeks of 2023 before unravelling in spectacular fashion during the second half against Real Madrid.
And Klopp will hope there is no reason for FSG to fire off an apologetic message any time soon. While not a make-or-break summer, the forthcoming transfer window will be one that shapes the Reds squad more than any since the 2018 close season in which Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri were all acquired.
That cost FSG around £175million, raised in part through sales that summer and the leftover cash brought in from the £142m sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona. This time around, two midfielders and a centre-back would be regarded the bare minimum.
While the situation is different given Liverpool don’t possess the desire to cash in on one of their most prized assets, the onus is on FSG – particularly given their recent revelation they will remain as owners for the foreseeable – to bankroll the ongoing rebuild. While Julian Ward, the outgoing sporting director, will oversee the preparations of what will come in the summer, appointing the right replacement to ensure as smooth a transition as possible will be crucial.
It won’t be done in one window this summer. But everyone at Anfield now knows the wait for the next era cannot go on for too long. Having been accused of standing still in the transfer market in recent years, now Liverpool have to again show why their recruitment was once the envy of the Premier League.