Liverpool are set for a huge rebuilding job in the summer regardless of what happens in the rest of this season, and we’ve taken a look at just what they could do.
If the third and probably final act of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool career turns out how he’ll want it to, then you could say that right now we are in the ‘All is Lost’ moment of his story.
It’s that key period of pretty much every tale when the central character within it is as far away from achieving their dreams as it is possible to be, and experiencing setback after crippling setback which makes for their eventual climb back up the mountain to glory all that more remarkable.
For Liverpool to be where he will want them to be when his contract runs out in 2026 then Klopp will have to see this as the rather grim end to Act II, a largely glorious production which began after defeat in Kyiv in 2018, included winning everything, and is now here featuring another defeat to Real Madrid.
Act III, the potentially wonderful final years, is going to have to feature some new characters though, with Klopp and Liverpool hoping that they can be the players to spark the climb back to the summit of the game.
But just who will those characters be?
Time to step into Klopp’s shoes and play Managing Liverpool.
Saying goodbye (or goodbye for now)
So let’s start with the exits, as there are a few we need to get through.
Roberto Firmino has already started his farewell tour, while Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also out of contract and can go. James Milner is too but I’ll come back to him.
Adrian is another who can leave, and you won’t be surprised that I won’t be keeping Arthur Melo around after his rather disastrous loan deal.
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None of these players will be bringing in any money though, and given the rebuild that needs to take place then bringing in cash is imperative.
It is with that in mind that I’d reluctantly sanction the sale of Caoimhin Kelleher, who deserves to go and play somewhere and should fetch a decent amount of money.
Joel Matip’s Liverpool race looks run too, and he can go with a year left on his deal to raise a bit of money, with Nat Phillips also finally being allowed to leave.
In terms of loaning out players, then Calvin Ramsay needs to go and get some game-time on someone else’s watch, and there is an argument to allow one of Curtis Jones or Fabio Carvalho to go and get some experience as a starter somewhere for a season.
It’s a tight call, but I’ll just go for Carvalho.
So, to the fun stuff.
Well we’ve got rid of two goalkeepers for starters so there will need to be some new additions there, with one able to push Alisson and play in the odd cup game.
Anderlecht No.1 Bart Verbruggenwas a name linked with the Reds last month, and the giant 20-year-old looks like he’d fit the bill, while Southampton veteran Alex McCarthy can come in in the coveted ‘third-choice who never plays but is handy if they’re homegrown’ role.
In defence, Phillips can be replaced from within by Rhys Williams and the even younger Jarell Quansah, but if Matip is going then someone needs to come in, and just like the Champions League and Premier League winner it could well be a free transfer from the Bundesliga who is of Cameroonian descent.
Evan Ndicka will see his Frankfurt deal expire in the summer and at 23 he certainly strikes you as the right age and profile for Liverpool.
As a left sided – and left footed – centre-back could join as backup to Virgil van Dijk, with Ibrahima Konate backed up by Joe Gomez and the youngsters.
Then with so much focus on Trent Alexander-Arnold, it might pay to add a specialist right-back to the squad in order to allow the Reds’ No.66 both the occasional rest and, more excitingly, a move into midfield whenever it was possible.
Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters could fill that role, is another homegrown player (Liverpool need them with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phillips and Kelleher going) and should be easy to get if Saints go down.
There is another raid on the Saints in midfield too, as I’m making Liverpool return to their favourite shop between 2014 and 2018 to move for Romeo Lavia from Southampton.
The 19-year-old Belgian has been superb since arriving from Manchester City in the summer, and would be a fine addition as initial cover for Fabinho.
Then the big guns.
We’ve seen the rumours and heard the arguments and counter-arguments, but to me it looks like Liverpool believe they are getting Jude Bellingham whatever happens to them this season, and also a move for Mason Mount looks on amid his contract issues.
So I’d get both of them in for the considerable money they would cost, with the pair acting as the biggest symbols of the Reds rebuild.
Oh, and Milner? Keep him around for another year as a player-coach.
Some characters are just too useful to lose.