One 24-year-old Liverpool player has appeared to affirm his commitment to the Reds for the remainder of the season, but also hinted at a possible summer departure.
Liverpool’s first piece of January business is done, with Cody Gakpo signed from PSV Eindhoven, but there may be a few outgoings too before the month is out.
Fifth-choice centre-back Nat Phillips stands out as seemingly the likeliest to be sold, depending on the fitness of his peers.
The window could mark the last opportunity for Liverpool to cash in on out-of-contract stars like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta, but the Reds are probably too short in midfield to let them go mid-season.
Another whose future is uncertain is deputy goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher, whose hopes of getting further game time in the Carabao Cup have been dashed by the exit at the hands of Manchester City.
Listen, I think we’ve obviously only just come back into the middle of the season,” the Irishman said this week (via ECHO). “So we’ll just see what the season brings and then after that we’ll see, we’ll see what happens after that.
But I think at the moment, for now, I just have to be focused on trying to be ready for Liverpool.”
Kelleher has appeared to rule out a January exit, then, but might well be open to a move away from Anfield in the summer.
In truth, it’s long felt like that day would come. At some point, Kelleher must serve his own ambitions, because he’s simply too good to spend his career as a number two, even at a club like Liverpool.
It’s one thing accepting a back-up role when you’re an emerging young player, but Kelleher is now 24 years old, and he may now be feeling a sense of waste.
The Cork native is one of the Premier League’s premier penalty specialists, having already won four shoot-outs with the Reds — more than any other goalkeeper in the club’s history — but he’s so much more than that too.
Kelleher is also an excellent shot-stopper who’s composed and precise with the ball at his feet.
He will have seen the success number two keepers have enjoyed when moving away from big clubs, chiefly Emiliano Martinez, whose decision to leave Arsenal has transformed his career.
It’s fair to say Ireland won’t be winning the World Cup like Argentina, but more to the point, Martinez has shown Kelleher that there’s a path to consistent Premier League football and to building his own reputation. Indeed, even before tasting glory in Qatar, Martinez earned a nomination for the Yashin Trophy while at Aston Villa.
Liverpool should be able to bank a healthy sum for Kelleher for a number of reasons. He’s homegrown, he’s only just entered his mid-20s, he’s under contract for another three-and-a-half years and, most importantly, his stock is rising all the time.
But the problem is that it will be difficult for the Reds to find a replacement of comparable talent for a reasonable price.
There’s no immediately obvious in-house successor waiting in line — Marcelo Pitaluga has shown promise but having only just turned 20, almost certainly isn’t yet ready — so they’ll probably need to dip into the market.
Kelleher is the perfect number two not only in terms of ability but in terms of style too, with Klopp tellingly describing him as a ‘blonde version’ of Alisson.
He’s also an important player, having been instrumental in the Reds’ domestic cup double last season, and that makes the impending transfer test even bigger.