Liverpool were fighting a lost battle since last summer that finally got its conclusion last week when Philippe Coutinho completed his dream Barcelona move midway of the campaign against club’s wish causing a fan outrage across the globe.
Coutinho signed a long-term deal last year only to hand in a transfer request a few months later. The management blocked his move and Jurgen Klopp urged him to serve for at least this campaign as he constructed his side around the Brazilian. But he opted to draw an end to his five-year attachment despite the attraction of Champions League football and reportedly paid a fee of £9 mil to secure his £142 mil dream move.
It is tough to bring in top names in January as most of the clubs don’t let their stars leave at this stage when they usually have a lot to play for. Coutinho was a raw talent when he completed his move back in 2013 but flourished immensely and used Liverpool as a ladder to make his ultimate career move. But the show must go on, Klopp now must find an apt replacement as early as possible to cope up with their ‘Top Four’ rivals.
Liverpool suffered high-profile exits earlier as well and struggled to replace them for years. Things, however, have been pretty stable under Klopp who is building a squad with a view to achieving title glory in near future. He might have reacted slowly at times in the market but has always picked up his preferred options rather than some compromised signings. Acquiring Virgil Van Dijk is the perfect example of Klopp’s transfer strategy as he didn’t move for any other option in summer despite the defensive frailty and opted to wait for the Dutch centre-back who joined them from Southampton as soon as the window reopened and became an instant hero by scoring a late winner at Anfield in front of the Kops in a Merseyside derby to knock Everton out of the third round of the FA Cup competition.
However, the lack of transfer activity troubled the Reds too as Klopp’s rigidity of not bringing in defensive reinforcement last January cost them the title hope. They were chasing the Premier League silverware alongside league leaders Chelsea but a dismal January ruined their title dreams and knocked them out of the semis of the League Cup as well as the fourth round of the FA Cup competition being defeated by Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers.
There have been reports of a few alternatives the Reds are lining up to replace Coutinho. AS Monaco’s Thomas Lemar was a prime transfer target last summer but the move didn’t occur and is unlikely to take place this month too. Liverpool will only pursue him next season and the French sensation is also being tracked by Arsenal. Talks of bringing in Naby Keita breaking his clause of joining from RB Leipzig in summer seems to be difficult too as the Bundesliga outfit are adamant to keep hold of him until the end of the season.
Klopp, meanwhile, has not shown any desperateness to replace Coutinho in his pre-Manchester City press conference.
“Replacement? First of all we have to replace him internally. We go with open eyes in this window but we won’t do crazy things.”
Stated the Reds boss when asked about the life after Philippe Coutinho and how he will cope up following the Brazilian’s egress. Although the gaffer is expecting Adam Lallana to step up if he fails to bring in a prolific replacement this month, Klopp must acquire someone immediately even if he needs to pay more and should not repeat the same mistake he did last winter. Leonardo Jardim, the AS Monaco gaffer, has softened his stance regarding Lemar’s availability and Klopp must react quickly before Arsenal strike a deal. The Reds are grinding out results in Coutinho’s absence, yet a big money recruit will be a statement of intent from the management who now needs to earn the supporters trust and ensure they have not become a ‘selling club’.