Jurgen Klopp hasn’t entirely given up hope of Champions League qualification, but it doesn’t look likely. And that will mean it’s been a pretty bleak season for a side that was chasing the quadruple a year ago.
But there are reasons to be cheerful, five of them; not least the main man himself…
Jurgen Klopp until 2026
Liverpool are, in many ways, in a Klopp sweet spot. They’ve had a poor season by their recent standards under the German boss, but are thus in little danger of him being poached. Real Madrid would no doubt be knocking at the end of the season had Liverpool got the better of them in the Champions League, for example.
And with such a hefty rebuild at Anfield required, an offer from Madrid would have tested Klopp’s staying power. But Liverpool haven’t been so bad that the fans are calling for a change, which would have been unwise even in more trying circumstances.
There is enough evidence, with the spanking they doled out to Manchester United and the more recent comprehensive win over Leeds, that Klopp can turn the Liverpool tanker and put it back on course to Premier League title challenges and Champions League success.
Mohamed Salah until 2025
The consistency is astounding. Erling Haaland may be about to break his 38-game Premier League season record, but Salah has scored over 20 goals in all competitions in all six of his seasons for Liverpool and thoughts his bumper new contract may prompt him to take his foot off the gas have been dispelled by 26 goals this campaign.
As sure as night follows day, Salah will score goals. And in a period of instability – which looks set to continue in the short term at least – that predictability is priceless, and relieves the pressure on Liverpool’s relatively new forward additions, granting them time to settle and adapt to the throes of Premier League football.
There’s every chance Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo will prove to be excellent signings for Liverpool. Most people now seem to have bought into the beautiful chaos Nunez provides, with obvious room for improvement now seen more as a frightening prospect by their rivals than a reason to suggest Liverpool have wasted £64m.
And while Gakpo’s stats are nothing to write home about – five goals and an assist in 18 appearances – his recent performances suggest Klopp may have found Roberto Firmino’s long-term replacement, with the Dutchman’s composure and touch in and around the box his standout quality, as well as his ability to link the play from a deeper position.
With Luis Diaz returning, Diogo Jota rediscovering his touch and Salah leading this indomitable troop of Liverpool forwards, scoring goals is not going to be a problem.
Conceding them might be, because Liverpool are some way short of a defence to match their forward prowess, and a long way short in midfield.
A report last week claimed that two years ago ‘Liverpool’s recruitment team were flagging that the squad was veering away from the “right football age”.’ And while that news will have frustrated Liverpool fans, who have seen the results of that unheeded warning this season, they can also trust those recruitment clairvoyants have their heads screwed on and can put things right.
That same report claimed those same backroom staff members advised the club not to hand out ‘blanket new contract extensions’ at the time ‘for a spine that had multiple seasons of exacting football taking its toll on their bodies and minds’.
Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were among those to receive those extensions and are in a group of players who will need upgrading, either this summer or in the near future.
Fortunately, Liverpool have got many more transfers right than they’ve got wrong in the Klopp era, and although Jude Bellingham is beyond their reach, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a club who tend to spend £40m very wisely.
“A top player. It’s a joy to work with him. An absolute joy,” Klopp said of Bajcetic before his season-ending injury last month. The 18-year-old had by that juncture established himself in central midfield as the answer to Liverpool’s problems in that area, starting six of the preceding eight Premier League games and the second leg of the last-16 Champions League clash with Real Madrid.
It’s no great surprise that Thiago Alcantara has been the player to take Bajcetic “under his wing” with the teenager operating in a similar way to his Liverpool teammate: at the centre of a game, spraying passes around and finding angles to open up the opposition. Bajcetic could be at the heart of things for Liverpool and Spain for the next decade.