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OPINION: Julian Ward is about to face £100m Liverpool test he cannot fail

Next year’s summer transfer window is shaping up to be an important time for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.


The 2023 summer transfer window may well be months away but Liverpool’s planning for this crucial period is surely already under way.


Aside from Darwin Nunez’s arrival this summer, the Reds were once again relatively content with their playing squad and resisted making wholesale changes to the personnel. Next year is already looking like an alternative reality will play out, with a transformation of the squad somewhat required.


Adrian, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino are all out of contract at the end of the current campaign and it’s hard to imagine more than one of the above-mentioned names sticking around at Anfield.


Although the Reds have not spent as heavily as other Premier League rivals, a lack of mass incomings has in turn developed a sense of continuity at the club by keeping a core group of players on the books who have become more familiar with one another with each season. The problem for Liverpool is individuals such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner, Keita and Firmino have reached their peak, whether that be simply due to age or recurring injury issues halting progress.


Much was made of Liverpool’s lack of business this summer, but it should not come as too much of a surprise when looking at how the club have acted in recent years. Ibrahima Konate was the Reds’ only summer purchase ahead of last campaign, with three through the door the year prior to that. After winning the Champions League in June 2019, four individuals were brought to the club: two of which were teenagers, alongside the goalkeeping duo of Adrian and Andy Lonergan.


Not since 2018/19 has the club truly strengthened ahead of a new campaign, a year which saw Alisson, Fabinho, Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri all put pen to paper at once. Liverpool’s decision to opt against a continued evolution of the team, while bringing its own benefits, has ultimately caught up on them. Next summer very much has the feeling of the end of an era for many within the current group, presenting sporting director Julian Ward to put his stamp on a new-look Liverpool.


Previous transfer chief Michael Edwards certainly had plenty of praise for his successor when releasing his farewell statement last November, telling : “Julian has been building up the skill set for this role for many years and there are countless elements of his development that could be highlighted, none more so than the outstanding work he did in creating our loan department six years ago.” It’s now time to see whether he is able to deliver on meeting these expectations.


Ward’s biggest test will be whether or not Liverpool can win the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star, Jude Bellingham. A whole host of top European clubs are expected to rival Jurgen Klopp’s side in the race for the England international, who possesses the quality to give the Reds’ midfield department a new lease of life.


A strong 2022/23 season will be imperative to convincing the teenager Anfield is the best place to continue his remarkable development. Bellingham, like his former Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland, is expected to have the pick of Europe’s elite when weighing up his future next year and it’s down to Liverpool to leave him with no doubt in his mind as to where his next destination should be.


Manchester City and Real Madrid are the two main other clubs said to be in the frame for the Birmingham City academy graduate, with one reporter suggesting Haaland has already made contact with the 19-year-old in a bid to bring him to the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s men are already reaping the rewards of their new Norwegian as they go in search of a third successive league title – the thought of adding Bellingham to the mix does not bode well for the Reds and the rest of the division.


Liverpool have missed out on transfer targets in the past, without suffering too many consequences. But this transfer saga feels different. Bellingham would be the perfect player to kick-start a changing of the guard at Anfield, though the battle for his signature is likely to prove anything but straightforward.

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