Liverpool don’t need Jude Bellingham to challenge for the Premier League. The win over Leeds served as a reminder of how brilliant their recruitment is.
Despite Jurgen Klopp’s public appreciation, widespread reports of interest and talks, and England teammates tapping him up, Bellingham to Liverpool always felt a bit unlikely. His price tag would have been a stretch at the best of times.
And it’s felt more implausible as the season’s gone on, not because of Liverpool’s Premier League position and resulting lack of Champions League football, but because of the scale of the rebuild now required.
It’s claimed the Liverpool recruitment team ‘were flagging that the squad was veering away from the “right football age”’ two years ago, but even the most visionary of employees will have been surprised by the speed and scope of the decline.
Liverpool need a lot more players this summer than anyone would have thought at the start of the season. They need to spread their wealth.
Reports suggest they will have around £200m to spend, with player sales potentially getting that pot up to around £250m. Using over half of that on Bellingham would be foolish, and as their win on Monday night reminded us, the Liverpool transfer team don’t get much wrong, midfield inactivity aside.
Thiago Alcantara is the only permanent addition Liverpool have made to their midfield since 2018, and that’s currently costing them. But two players signed in that time – Diogo Jota in 2020 and Cody Gakpo in January of this year – have been brilliant, as have the vast majority of players signed under Jurgen Klopp.
Jota scored two and Gakpo got one, with each forward also claiming an assist for Mohamed Salah at Elland Road. And there’s little doubt they are absolutely capable of being part of a team challenging for the title.
Jota really struggled in the first half, ceding possession an incredible 15 times, but his quality returned with the confidence of his first goal in 372 days. He ended that lengthy goal drought with a curled finish around the onrushing Illan Meslier before later smashing one in off the post.
Gakpo’s goal was a tap-in, but his hold-up play and awareness of his teammates was excellent, and his decision-making when under pressure superb, as evidenced by his touch and pass in the box for Salah’s second.
Both Jota and Gakpo cost around £40m, and Luis Diaz – who came off the bench on Monday to make his long-awaited return – arrived for just slightly more than that. Liverpool haven’t suffered for shopping at this level.
That’s further evidenced by Ibrahima Konate, who made a poor error to gift Leeds their goal but is clearly a very talented defender, and cost £36m.
And these are the sort of figures they will be able to spend on five or six additions this summer, which should be an incredibly exciting prospect for Liverpool fans, who will be able to watch a revitalised team next season, rather than roughly the same one, completely knackered, featuring one outstanding midfielder.
Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch are the latest Bellingham alternatives linked, but as is often the way with Liverpool transfers, the arrivals may come out of left field.
And as is also often the way, they will probably adapt quickly and thrive under Klopp at Liverpool, who are forced to more carefully consider their transfer moves compared to their Premier League rivals, but have been hugely successful operating in that way.
Bellingham would have been great at Liverpool if they could afford him, but they can’t and that’s fine. Because they’ve consistently signed brilliant players for around £40m, and if they get the recruitment right again this summer there’s every chance they can be back challenging for the title next season.