UEFA Champions League’s group stage continues on Wednesday, Groups A through D completing the competition’s second round of action. With special focus in Manchester, Donetsk, and Turin, here’s a preview of the week’s final eight matches:
GUARDIOLA’S COLD NIGHT IN MANCHESTER Manchester City (3 pts., England) vs. Bayern Munich (3 pts., Germany) Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Manchester (Etihad Stadium), England
Before the Messi-versus-Ronaldo debate died, old-timey British punditry developed an imaginative way to back their guy (Cristiano Ronaldo). I’d like to see him do it on a rainy night in Stoke is what became of then-Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray’s 2011 assertion Lionel Messi would “struggle in a cold night at the Britannia Stadium.” Given Gray would later claim women “don’t know the offside rule,” the former Scotland international’s Messi critique proved to be one of his more prescient, if still terribly misguided.
But while the observation was about a player, it was also an implicit critique of the approach instilled by then-coach Pep Guardiola. For much of the world, Barcelona’s combination of style, technique, movement and vision helped correct the course of a game that’d become more power than skill. For a small sliver of English fandom (represented by Gray), Messi and his cohorts thrived because the continent were unwilling to get physical and take the game to them. They were unwilling to be Stoke.
Two years later, we have a test of sorts, albeit with important differences on each side. Wednesday’s marque match will take place an hour north of Stoke-on-Trent, with Manuel Pellegrini taking his home Champions League bow for Manchester City. On a night that’s supposed to draw showers, the Sky Blues will welcome one of Pellegrini’s former rivals: Guardiola, the new manager of Bayern Munich.
That’s where the similarities end, though there are facets of City’s team that will offer the physical challenge Stoke Truthers sought. Yaya Touré not only presents a persistent threat to any midfielder who hopes to retain the ball but can also leverage the experience of playing for three years at Barcelona. Vincent Kompany, one of the few rearguards with a claim to being the world’s best defender, won’t hesitate to stand his ground against the in-cutting Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, while the general style of a team used to playing in whistle-swallowing England could show down Bayern.
The extent to which Pellegrini leverages those qualities is the question. While facing Guardiola teams with Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Málaga, Pellegrini typically stuck to variants of the preferred 4-4-2 (4-2-2-2) base he’s instilled at Manchester City (never finding a way to beat Guardiola). While one variant could include a 4-4-1-1 that would see a withdrawn striker tasked with coming back to mark Philipp Lahm in defensive midfield (how strange is it to read that?), Pellegrini’s unlikely to pack his formation with a true five-man midfield.
One other small detail bares mentioning: Bayern Munich aren’t Barcelona. Barça don’t have a forward with the tenacity of Mario Mandzukic. They don’t have an attacker with the versatility of Thomas Müller. Though they now have Neymar, they didn’t have the wide play of a Robben or Ribery when Guardiola was in charge. And if he players, Bastian Schweisteiger will provide a midfield option distinct from anything the Blaugrana utilized under Guardiola.
Not that any of that would matter. Pellegrini never meaningfully changed his approach while facing Guardiola in Spain, and he’s highly unlikely to make major changes on Wednesday. Instead of a Chelsea-esque bunker or a team of central defender archetypes Tony Pulis’s Stoke would have throw at the problem, we’re more likely to see two teams that reflect their manager’s core beliefs. Guardiola’s adapted his to Bayern’s personnel, his 4-1-4-1 threatening like a 4-3-3, while Pellegrini already has his City team employing his very recognizable approach.
“It’s always a game between the players”: Those were Pellegrini’s words at Tuesday’s press conference, speaking about another meeting between him and his former Clasico rival. But if the players truly are the key, Pellegrini will be happy to get David Silva and Sergio Agüero back from injury. Both players are expected to be available Wednesday. For Bayern, neither Mario Götze nor Bastian Schweinsteiger are 100 percent, but coming back from prolonged absences, both should be available for selection.
UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS FOR MOYES, MANCHESTER UNITED Shakhtar Donetsk (3 pts., Ukraine) vs. Manchester United (3 pts., England) Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Donetsk (Donbass Arena), Ukraine
David Moyes had been Mr. Most-Likely long before Alex Ferguson made way in May. For years, the former Everton boss was thought to be the Manchester United legend’s likely successor.
Imagine what that must have been like, from his point of view: the frustrating of hearing you’re likely next-in-line; the temptation to look toward one of the world’s most-prostigious jobs; the irritation of never knowing for sure. Years go buy, you’re fighting the good fight at Goodison Park, but you can’t help but wonder when Ferguson will bow out. And when he does, are you really the man United wants?
Everton is one of the best jobs in English football, but compared to Manchester United, it’s the single-family home you buy while planning for your dream house. And every day, when you drive by those bigger, nicer houses you wish were yours, you have to go home to the perfectly adequate place you know you’ll eventually leave.
But now that Moyes has moved into his dream house, he’s discovering it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. His dreams didn’t include squeaking floors, leaky roofs, or the constant reminders from neighbors about how nice the place looked under the former owner.
Right now, Moyes doesn’t know how to fix the problems, and unfortunately for him, Wednesday’s game is unlikely to help. Under the best of circumstances, Manchester United would be stressed to get three points out of the Donbass Arena, but coming off a loss to West Brom that illuminated their continued vulnerability, even a sputtering Shakhtar Donetsk will be favored.
Unfortunately, because the Ukrainian champions don’t carry the name recognition of Europe’s elites, many fans won’t be forgiving if United can’t claim full points in Donetsk. So if United lose, regardless of the quality of their effort, the result will be tossed on the same pile as their Liverpool, Manchester City, and West Brom losses.
And if United happened to spring an upset? The accomplishment could be overlooked. We’re still not at the point where Shakhtar Donetsk’s talents are fully respected.
For Moyes, this type of match couldn’t come at a worse time. Recoiling from derby losses and an upset at home, this is not the time for a no-win scenario.
Although a victory would certainly quell some doubts snowballing after this weekend’s loss, it’s unlikely to alleviate much scrutiny.
FAMILIAR FACE RETURNS TO TURIN Juventus (1 pt., Italy) vs. Galatasaray (0 pts., Turkey) Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Turin (Juventus Stadium), Italy
Roberto Mancini, who claims Juventus as his boyhood club, may have been the biggest single beneficiary from the punishment of Calciopoli. The 2006 match-fixing scandal that five Italian clubs punished, Juventus stripped of two titles, and Inter Milan awarded Juve’s 2005-06 scudetto. As Juventus fought back from their forced relegation to Serie B, Mancini’s Inter claimed two more titles, the coach’s reputation built on the three scudetti he won before being replaced by José Mourinho.
On Wednesday, Galatasaray will be in a position of weakness, particularly relative to a team that’s yet to lose a competitive match this season. Gala lost their Champions League opener 6-1 to Real Madrid and have won only one of their five Super Lïg games. Despite a squad that’s retained the likes of Didier Drogba, Burak Yilmaz, and Wesley Sneijder (doubtful for Wednesday’s match), Gala have been unable to recapture the form that claimed last year’s Turkish title and a spot in Champions League’s quarterfinals.
Getting a result on Wednesday may be asking too much. In the short-term, mere improvement will be considering progress. Long-term, however, Mancini will be expected to get Gala back in title contention. Improving on their Real Madrid performance will be the first step.
Others All matches kickoff at 2:45 p.m. Eastern with the exception of CSKA-Viktoria, which starts at noon.
CSKA Moscow (0 pts., Russia) vs. Viktoria Plzen (0 pts., Czech Republic), Petrovski Stadium, St. Petersburg – Poor field conditions in Moscow forcee this game to St. Petersburg, where CSKA will play at the home of Premier League leaders Zenit. His team having lost three of four, head coach Leonid Slutski called on playmaker Keisuke Honda to show more leadership while helping CSKA navigate their slump. Plzen coach Pavel Vrba identified the Japanese international when discussing the Russians’ key players.
Bayer Leverkusen (0 pts., Germany) vs. Real Sociedad (0 pts., Spain), BayArena, Leverkusen – Bayer disappointed in round one, losing by two at Old Trafford, yet their Bundesliga form (off to their best start in 30 years) hints they will contend to get out of this group. With Shakhtar having already claimed three points in Spain, Bayer need to defeat Real Sociedad lest they lose ground on the Ukrainian champions. La Real will be without captain Xabi Prieto and midfielder Esteban Granero as they attempt to slow down Stefan Kießling, Sidney Sam, and Son Heung-Min.
Real Madrid (3 pts., Spain) vs. FC Copenhagen (1 pt., Denmark), Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid – Coming off their Derbi loss to Atlético, Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has identified Wednesday’s came as crucial to changing the club’s “attitude and spirit.” They will be without Gareth Bale (hamstring), Xabi Alonso (foot), and Marcelo (thigh). Copenhagen reach the Bernabéu emboldened by a round one draw with Juventus while still lodged in Denmark’s relegation zone. They may be without defender Olof Melberg, who left this weekend’s loss to Brondby with a concussion.
Paris Saint-Germain (3 pts., France) vs. Benfica (3 pts., Portugal), Parc de Princes, France – Benfica have been struggling in Portugal’s Liga but are still likely to present a stiffer challenge for PSG than Olympiacos did in round one. At the same time, PSG were outplayed for 45 minutes in Greece before exploding in the second half, finishing with four goals. As he’s sought to do all season, PSG head coach Laurent Blanc will set up with hope of controlling possession. The approach could limit the exposure of a defense that will be missing Thiago Silva and Alex.
Anderlecht (0 pts., Belgium) vs. Olympiacos (0 pts., Greece), Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Brussels – With both teams coming off round one losses, this match will the “vital for setting the tone for the rest of [their] European campaigns,” according to Anderlecht boss John van den Brom. The Belgians hope a patient, possession-based approach will help control Olympiacos’s counter attackers, while the visitors will be wary of starting a second-straight group stage with consecutive losses.
Sevilla kept their perfect Europa League final record alive, as they made it seven trophies in seven tries with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Jose Mourinho’s Roma in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday.
It also makes five Europa League titles in 10 seasons for Sevilla, who have no won Europe’s “other” competition more than twice as many times as any other club (Liverpool, Inter Milan, Juventus and Atletico Madrid have all won it three times each). Despite the fact they will finish mid-table in La Liga this season, Sevilla also qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
On the other side, for the first time in his legendary career Jose Mourinho has beaten in a UEFA final, having won two Champions League, a Europa League and a Europa Conference League trophy in his previous four final appearances.
After the sides combined for just two shots in the opening half-hour, Gianluca Mancini and Paulo Dybala provided a brief moment of quality and counter-attacking brilliance in the 35th minute. Bryan Cristante bodied Ivan Rakitic off the ball, which fell to Mancini, who played an immediate through ball that split the right side of Sevilla’s defense and sent Dybala in on goal. Dybala smashed a left-footed strike past Moroccan World Cup hero Yassine Bounou to put Roma on top.
Roma looked to defend their lead as the second half began, without a shot attempted from minute 36 to minute 67. Sevilla ramped up the attacking pressure (with loads of crosses) and forced a critical error 10 minutes after the restart. Jesus Navas delivered a delicious ball to the top of the six-yard box, and though Mancini positioned himself right side of Youssef En-Nesyri to make the clearance, the ball instead came off his knee and bulged the back of his own net.
12 minutes later, Bounou played the part of hero-in-goal yet again as Tammy Abraham looked certain to put Roma back in front with a slight touch on a bouncing ball inside the six. Only, Bounou put his body and being on the line to block Abaraham’s shot and send red and white shirts alike into a mad scramble before the ball was eventually cleared.
Penalty claims from both sides were denied as the second half went on, with Sevilla initially being awarded the penalty kick after Lucas Ocampos went down in the box, only to have it taken away by video review; Roma were denied initially and again on review after Fernando blocked a cross with his arm.
After extra-time stretched from 120 to 131 minutes, penalty kicks would decide the 2022-23 Europa League winners. Sevilla came out on top after Mancini and Roger Ibanez were denied, setting the stage for Gonzalo Montiel to seal the deal for Sevilla, just as he did for Argentina at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
For Roma, it was another subpar Serie A campaign this season, as they failed to qualify for the Champions League for a fourth straight season. However, a victory in Budapest would send them back to UEFA’s premier competition for the first time since 2018-19. Typical to form for Mourinho, as they allowed precious few goals (37 in 37 league games) while struggling to score enough (48) to push higher up the table. Paulo Dybala leads the way with 11 Serie A goals (plus four more in the Europa League, joint-most alongside Lorenzo Pellegrini’s four) and former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham chipping eight (and one) of his own.
Speaking of disappointing domestic campaigns, Sevilla sit 11th in La Liga with one game left to play (they can climb as high as 7th on the final day). Three different managers have guided Sevilla this season, with Julen Lopetegui lasting until early October before his successor, Jorge Sampaoli, was also dismissed in March. Also not unlike Roma, it’s been a struggle for Sevilla to score goals (46) as well as preventing goals (52), which is very much out of character for them.
Vlatko Andonovski’s side are going for a third-straight World Cup title, something which has never been achieved in the history of the men’s and women’s game.
Led by Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, this USWNT side have so much experience but there are also exciting young talents coming through with Mallory Swanson and Trinity Rodman excelling in recent months.
Below is a closer look at the the new USWNT 2023 World Cup jerseys, with the away kit also to be worn by the USMNT.
U.S. Soccer say that the inspiration for the jerseys are “from abstract expressionism, an international art movement that started in the 1940s in New York and shifted the art epicenter from Europe to the U.S., similar to what the USA team has done for women’s soccer.”
They add there is “a custom USA ‘signature'” as the “bespoke mark is hand painted with ink on paper, and is a nod to the abstract expressionism movement, where each artist would sign their painting. Lastly, the USA’s inner pride mark celebrates the USWNT’s four Women’s World Cup championships in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019.”
When it comes to the home kit, U.S. Soccer say it is “an unexpected take on the tradition of wearing white at home and features a bespoke drip paint technique pattern. Highlighting the energy of the USWNT and how they are diverse players and personalities, but always united, the action painting method pattern features a distinctive placement, making every single jersey unique.”
For the blue away kit, which will be worn by both the USWNT and USMNT, there are “bespoke stars and stripe print on the sleeve cuffs – a diagonal stripe with intersecting stars – and a neckline that also features red blades, formed to look like the tip of stars.”
They add that those shapes are “subtle, patriotic nods to the hidden shapes that are inspired by abstract expressionism art.”
Here is a look at both USWNT World Cup jerseys in a little more detail, plus the USMNT showing off their new away kits.
With Darwin Nunez the big name arrival last summer to help limit the impact of Sadio Mane’s departure, Liverpool want to add another big name in midfield and they strengthened an already ridiculously strong attack in January by signing Cody Gakpo.
Below we roundup the latest done deals, reports and rumors and give our analysis on Liverpool transfer news as Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) will guide you through a hectic next few months.
A ball progressor who reads the game very well, Kone is said to carry a price tag of more than $40 million. (NM)
May 22 – Reds closing in on Mac Allister but Man City lurks
La Nacion in Argentina says that Liverpool has agreed a transfer fee with Brighton and wages with Alexis Mac Allister as a summer transfer could be nearing in the midfield.
Mac Allister, 24, won the World Cup with Argentina this winter and has been part of a spectacular Brighton team, pairing with Moises Caicedo in a dynamic midfield.
The report claims that Mac Allister will cost Liverpool close to $75 million, a huge fee but barely half of what Borussia Dortmund hopes to get for oft-mentioned target Jude Bellingham.
Mac Allister would certainly give Liverpool a playmaking unit up there with anyone in the world, but a spectacular report later Monday claims Man City might try to hop to the front of the Mac Allister line in the case of an Ilkay Gundogan exit.
What’s the better fit for Mac Allister? (NM)
April 18 – Gravenberch angling for Liverpool move after holding talks last week
According to a report from the Mirror, Liverpool held talks just last week with representatives for Bayern Munich midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. The sides reportedly came to a loose agreement on contract terms for a summer move, with a transfer fee still needing to be agreed between the clubs.
Gravenberch joined Bayern from Ajax last summer, but the 20-year-old has reportedly grown frustrated by his lack of playing time and would like to leave this summer. Also last week, Liverpool pulled out of the race for Jude Bellingham, with a pair of starting central midfielders a high priority for Jurgen Klopp’s side. (AE)
April 13 – Klopp and Liverpool have shortlist of midfielders after Bellingham decision
After Liverpool reportedly decided to move on from signing Jude Bellingham due to the huge expected transfer fee of over $160 million, it appears Jurgen Klopp and the Reds have a shortlist of other, more attainable, options. Per our partners in Germany at Sky Sport, Liverpool have another five midfielders lined up to bolster their options in the engine room.
Per the report, Ryan Gravenberch, Nicolo Barella, Matheus Nunes, Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo are the four central midfielders Liverpool want to sign this summer. Rice will have less than a year left on his contract so he could be attainable but there would be severe competition to sign the West Ham skipper, while Caicedo may be a very good option but he could be expensive with Chelsea and Arsenal linked with the Ecuadorian in the past. Barella, Gravenberch and Nunes would perhaps be the cheaper options with the respective Italian, Dutch and Portuguese internationals solid additions but it seems like Rice should be their first choice and their midfield can be built around him. (JPW)
April 9 – Reds ready to joust for pair of World Cup midfielders
Liverpool is looking to Brighton and Real Madrid to fix their midfield.
So say the Sunday papers, with Spanish site Revelo claiming that Liverpool is ready to duel with Chelsea to land Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton.
Mac Allister’s shown he can star in the Premier League and the World Cup winner won’t come cheap. And might he want to stick around Brighton if the Seagulls and Liverpool are in the same European competition or, perhaps, if Brighton’s in the superior competiton?
As for Tchouameni, you have to ask the same questions. No, he’s not a nailed-on starter in a brilliant midfield behind Eduardo Camavinga, but he’d playing plenty at age 23 and on a perennial Champions League contender.
Mac Allister would seem the easier and less expensive — not my much — lure, but watch out for Chelsea who already has his World Cup-winning midfield mate Enzo Fernandez. (NM)
March 23 – Reds to rival biggest names in world for Florian Wirtz
Bayer Leverkusen phenom Florian Wirtz is back from a major knee injury and has shown he’s fit and firing, recalled back into the Germany set-up.
Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool is ready to rival Barcelona and Real Madrid for his services, while 90min claims that Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund are in the chase for Wirtz.
Wirtz, 19, has a contract with Leverkusen through the 2026-27 season and his fee will be massive should he continue to show no ill effects of his ACL injury.
The teenager returned to Leverkusen’s lineup in late January and has four assists in Bundesliga play but was a thorn in the side of Monaco and Ferencvaros in the Europa League. He scored twice with two assists in four legs between the two opponents.
Liverpool has a bevy of young attack-minded midfielders in Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho, but Wirtz is legitimately one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the Bundesliga since Kai Havertz and Timo Werner came from Leverkusen and Stuttgart.
Wirtz posted 10 goals and 14 assists in 31 games across all competitions in 2021-22 but suffered an ACL injury in late March. (NM)
March 20 – Reds hope for Wolves double midfield swoop
Football Insider says that Liverpool could turn to Wolves for a pair of midfielders including club captain Ruben Neves.
Matheus Nunes is also a target for Jurgen Klopp, according to the site, who says Liverpool faces serious Neves competition from Newcastle United.
Barcelona is also going after Neves, 26, who could slide into the Blaugranas lineup and refresh the midfield for club legend Sergio Busquets. Barca, of course, also has teen midfield phenoms Gavi and Pedri, and also currently boasts Dutch star Frenkie de Jong. (NM)
March 12 – Roberto Firmino linked with St. Louis City in MLS
Roberto Firmino could be heading to MLS and sign for new boys St. Louis City FC, according to Bleacher Report. The 31-year-old Brazil international is out of contract this summer and it has been announced he will leave Liverpool and won’t sign a new contract. The free agent will have plenty of offers from some huge clubs in Europe given his incredible impact at Anfield over the last eight years. Would a move to MLS be a good idea for Firmino? You have to think he would score plenty of goals and be a star man in STL and there is a strong connection with the new MLS side as their current sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel was with Firmino in Germany at Hoffenheim. The expansion side have had a great start to life in MLS and adding a player of Firmino’s quality would be a major coup and give them a huge boost but you would think a huge number of MLS sides would be interested in signing Firmino. (JPW)
March 11 – Reds joined by Big Six rivals in pursuit of Lille teenager Carlos Baleba
Carlos Baleba’s only been in Ligue 1 for just over a year, but he’s earned his way to the wishlist of Jurgen Klopp and several other Premier League suitors.
Lille resisted an AC Milan bid for 19-year-old Baleba in January, according to 90min.com, but the calvary is coming this summer.
Liverpool has been joined by Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle, West Ham, and Leicester City in pursuit of Baleba, who will cost near the $35 million Lille got from Everton’s Amadou Onana last summer.
Baleba just turned 19 in January and already has 14 senior appearances. It seems like $30 million is the new $15 million when it comes to teenage talent, and that also seems like it’ll cross off a number of names from the above list.
Baleba as the 6 joining Harvey Elliott and Stefan Bajcetic as 8s — not to mention Fabio Carvalho — would give Klopp four midfielders under the age of 20. (NM)
March 3 – Roberto Firmino to leave Liverpool when contract expires this summer
After eight years at Anfield, Roberto Firmino will leave Liverpool when his contract expires at the end of the current season. The 31-year-old Brazilian has thus far scored 107 goals in 353 appearances since arriving from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2015. In his Liverpool career, Firmino has won the Premier League, UEFA Champions League (twice a runner-up) and the FA Cup.
February 27 – Liverpool among teams chasing Rafael Leao; Salah could leave
Yes, one of the greatest players in Liverpool history could skip town this summer, with the report saying that Paris Saint-Germain could be a destination. The Ligue 1 set could see Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, or Kylian Mbappe leave Paris this summer or soon afterwards.
Liverpool has restocked its attacking cupboard with powerful (but snakebit so far) Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo joining Luis Diaz, and Diogo Jota in the team.
Leao, 23, has eight goals and six assists across 23 matches in Serie A this season, and the left winger is one of the most sought-after players in the world.
Would you, if you were Jurgen Klopp? (NM)
February 25 – Ryan Gravenberch, Nicolo Barella as Bellingham partner
Reports out of Gazetta dello Sport and Express say that Liverpool’s midfield rejuvenation is well underway.
Jude Bellingham is on every big club’s want list but Liverpool is consistently being named as a favorite for the Borussia Dortmund and England star’s service.
Would he work better with Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella or Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch? We may find out on at least one count.
Barella, 26, came up through the ranks at Cagliari before moving to Inter in 2020. He’s an elite playmaker and ball progressor who seeks to find spaces up the pitch to receive it, too.
He has six goals and seven assists in 30 appearances across all competitions this season, and he’s up to 42 caps with Italy.
Gravenberch, 20, moved from Ajax in the summer and has made 22 appearances totaling 665 minutes as of post time, scoring a goal and an assist in cup play against Viktoria Koln.
Before making the move, Gravenberch was one of the most sought-after young players on the market. He’s not on the same level as Barella in ball movement but he’s very good at creating shots and is a harder tackler and defensive presence than Barella.
Liverpool is also named alongside Newcastle, Spurs, and West Ham as a club “monitoring” Mainz’s Anton Stach, via 90min.com. (NM)
February 24 – Jurgen Klopp acknowledges busy summer ahead
Liverpool’s forward ranks have been turned over and its injury list has been long, but the Reds’ have been bossed in the midfield for large portions of this season and things may not be better until the summer.
Jurgen Klopp’s admitted as such, and he’s known it a lot longer than Real Madrid’s 5-2 embarrassment of his Reds at Anfield: His mentality monsters might still be confident but the system’s not going to work without better players.
Then again, it’s difficult to read Klopp’s Friday comments and think he has more ways to fix things than he has reasons they aren’t working in the first place.
In other words, you can’t romanticize the relative efficiency of your club and also be mad about it, especially when a reputation is built on “Jurgen Klopp doesn’t miss on transfers” but also you’re missing on transfers.
“Of course, we are not that dumb. It’s not like, ‘Today is not good and now we have to change.’ This is clear, it was always clear. This team has a wonderful history. The way this club is led is by not splashing the money and having a look at if it works out or not. Our transfers always have to be on point. So that makes it really tricky where we cannot make four transfers before we know who will leave the club.
“Last year was not a season for a big change. We played until the last moment. If you want to change again, this club, we can’t just bring in new players and then realise later, ‘Oh, nobody wants to leave.’ It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work like that. That’s why it’s not possible to start it early because we had final after final after final. Played the season until the last minute, played the Champions League final. Then we had a short break, then we have a lot of injuries, and then the World Cup.
“All the problems we knew we would have, this came on top. And now we are in it and I know it’s too long. For me it’s too long because I have to always face you in the press conferences. Believe me, I don’t like to talk about it all the time. But I have to think it all the time. But that’s not as bad as talking about it to be honest, because I don’t have to read it the next day. That’s the situation, I cannot change it.
“Now the people are not happy. We try to fight through and make the best of this season, that’s the idea. And stay in the period as good as a person as you can. If I said, the better you behave in the moment like this, the better the times will be after it. The more useful the bad times are because they have to be useful otherwise they are completely useless.
“But based on the way this club is led. It’s obviously different to other clubs, that’s how it is. But it worked out so far and we have to see if it will work still or if we have to adapt. Let me say it like that. But that’s something for us in the offices, when we are not in the training pitch. And for us, from my conversations with the owners. But that’s it, nothing else. It’s just work.”
Got it? No? Exactly. Jurgen Klopp needs the summer transfer window to get here, that’s for sure. But to say that reaching finals stops them from planning for the future is either an uninspired excuse or an indictment on the brains of every one inside of Liverpool including Klopp himself. The wise money is on the weak excuse. He’s one of the most impressive man motivators, tacticians, and soccer minds of his generation. Certainly he can walk and chew gum at the same time.
It also has to be exhausting to a coach to be outperforming teams but not finishing chances while also making uncharacteristic (in previous seasons) gaffes at the other end. Liverpool is still third in expected goals but is hemorrhaging xGA. It certainly looks like Klopp bet on a handful of mainstays to hold off Father Time for one more season and Father Time was like, “Nah.” And being asked about transfers by journalists might be annoying, but it sure isn’t the worst job on Earth, is it? (NM)
Liverpool completed transfers – January 2023
Cody Gakpo – PSV Eindhoven ($40 million plus incentives)
Liverpool archived transfer news, January 2023
January 19 – Liverpool prepare summer move for Mason Mount
England midfielder Mason Mount reportedly wants a raise from Chelsea, who is loading up on young talent amidst its season struggles to stay in the top four mix.
Liverpool sees a good solution for the Blues: Sell Mount to the red part of Merseyside.
The Reds would love to bring Mount to Anfield and the player has only 18 months left on his current deal at Chelsea. One thing that hasn’t often been mentioned about owner Todd Boehly’s big spending is the need to satisfy those who are currently in blue.
Mount would bridge the gulf between old and young midfielders at Liverpool, but how much money would he cost given his status as an England national team player and moving to a direct rival (but also Chelsea’s desire to balance their books)?
January 17 – Ruben Neves continues to be linked with Liverpool
It wouldn’t be a transfer window if Ruben Neves wasn’t linked with a move away from Wolves, would it? The Portuguese midfielder is currently the skipper at Molineux and is leading their charge up the table after the appointment of Julen Lopetegui. Per a report from Football Insider, Liverpool want to sign Neves this month as his contract has just over a year left on it. That means Wolves would still get a very big transfer fee for him, but nowhere near the previous $120 million they were quoting clubs.
Given Liverpool’s struggles in central midfield this season, it is believed Jude Bellingham is their preferred long-term target. They probably needs Neves and Bellingham together to rejuvenate their midfield and push them back towards the top four, at the very least. Can we see this happening? It would be pretty crazy for Wolves to sell Neves this month as they battle against relegation. That said, if the offer is big enough then they could sell. (JPW)
January 16 – Jurgen Klopp perturbed with transfer questions
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is the mouthpiece for the club, and the mouthpiece for the club would like to stop answering questions about transfers.
“It must be a language issue,” Klopp said. “It must be, that you ask these questions again and again and again,” he told reporters, via The Liverpool Echo. “I answered it already so often. We look outside as well. It’s not that we are stubborn and think, ‘That’s it. We’ll go with these boys until 2050.’ That’s not how we see it.”
Klopp said he forgave the reporters because he knows they are being asked by their bosses to ask about transfers.
“We are underperforming, definitely. I know that but I cannot sit here and blame everyone else. The players, it is my responsibility that they perform. It’s my first concern, my first job to do. … Yes, we have to strengthen. Oh yes, but is the right time to do it? I can’t see it because of the situation we are in.
“I think I know exactly how the situation is and that’s it pretty much. I can’t change the answer every week because the situation doesn’t change, even when we lose another game since the last press conference.”
Liverpool has brought in Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo, and Fabio Carvalho on permanent deals while also loaning in Arthur Melo. Last season, they bought Luis Diaz and Ibrahima Konate.
January 16 – Liverpool linked with discount Ruben Neves deal
There are reports that Ruben Neves’ contract situation at Wolves could give Liverpool its latest Anfield discount.
Somehow, the Reds have been able to land players below market price rather often but this one is an easier explanation: Neves only has 18 months left on his deal and Wolves may want to cash in now.
Neves is a sensational midfielder but Wolves would potentially be risking their Premier League status, though perhaps they feel Julen Lopetegui’s system can thrive without Neves.
It’s a no-brainer for the Reds, even in Klopp’s money-complaint world (see update above this one). (NM)
December 29 – Liverpool linked with Moises Caicedo as Brighton sets big price
Brighton and Hove Albion’s strong and inexpensive midfield is the envy of much of the Premier League, but the latter adjective makes Roberto De Zerbi’s club vulnerable to big-money suitors.
That’s going to be a problem as clubs like Liverpool look to strengthen in the January transfer window, and a “liked” Instagram post by one Moises Caicedo is fueling the transfer rumor mill this Thursday.
Liverpool’s said to want the ever-energetic 21-year-old Ecuadorian to help rejuvenate an aging unit led by Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, and Thiago Alcantara.
Caicedo learning from Fabinho could be a match made in Anfield heaven for Jurgen Klopp, and the young, fierce midfielder could also take some lessons from Jordan Henderson.
The pay packet rise and Champions League opportunities would make the minute dip worth the sacrifice for Caicedo, and this one could cost $30-40 million less than Enzo Fernandez. (NM)
December 28 – Liverpool confirms Cody Gakpo transfer
It’s official: Cody Gakpo is part of the Anfield set.
Liverpool announced Gakpo’s arrival on Wednesday with an interview on its web site, and manager Jurgen Klopp issued glowing praise for the Dutch forward.
“There is a lot to like about Cody. He is still only 23 years old but he already has a lot of experience. He was the captain of PSV, he was the Player of the Year in Holland last season and, as a lot of people have just seen, he also had a great World Cup with his national team. So, it is clear that he is already a really, really good player but his age also means he also has the potential to become even better. Offensively, he is very versatile and on top of this we know he is a smart footballer and also a smart person, so we are really excited to be able to work with him.”
There could hardly be a better time for this move whether you’re discussing in terms of the club or the player. Injuries to Luis Diaz and others have opened the door for a strong player to make an instant impact, and Gakpo certainly showed at the World Cup that he’s on his game.
Might this be the difference for the Reds as they charge onward in both the Premier League’s top four race and the UEFA Champions League?
An initial report from The Times said the talks were ‘advanced’ as they look to pip their rivals to sign the Dutch star who was excellent at the World Cup. The 23-year-old is expected to travel to Liverpool for a medical soon and according to The Athletic an initial fee of close to $45 million has been agreed with PSV Eindhoven for Gakpo.
Where would Gakpo slot in at Liverpool? With Liverpool already having Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino in attack, this is going to be intriguing. Gakpo, Nunez and Diaz will be Liverpool’s front three for the next five years plus if all goes well, and that is a trio full of trickery, intensity, clinical finishing and directness. This is a surprising move by Liverpool but it slots in superbly with their recruitment model and Gakpo seems to be the kind of player who is ready to break out in a big way and score 20 plus goals a season in the Premier League. Just like they did with Luis Diaz, Liverpool have snuck in ahead of their rivals. (JPW)
December 22 – Huge offer to arrive for Argentine star Enzo Fernandez?
With Liverpool linked continuously with Jude Bellingham and the quartet of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara either in or approaching the twilight of their careers, it appears Liverpool’s main need is in central midfield.
That is where Enzo Fernandez comes in. The 21-year-old midfielder announced himself to the world at the World Cup as he scored and created goals, snapped into tackles and his driving runs all contributed to him being named the young player of the tournament. In many ways he and Bellingham are very similar players. According to the latest report from Record in Portugal, Benfica have rejected a $105 million bid from an unnamed club for Fernandez. His release clause is said to be around $126 million.
When you think about his qualities as a player, Fernandez would perfectly slot into this Liverpool side. They haven’t been shy about splashing the cash on players needed in key areas of the pitch in the past (Virgil van Dijk and Alisson prove that) and Fernandez slots into that category as Liverpool’s midfield needs strengthening and his signing would allow them to be pretty settled for the next four to five years. Yes, it’s a lot of money for Fernandez and they may pay a premium due to his displays at the World Cup. But he’s still cheaper than Bellingham. (JPW)
July 7 – Joe Gomez signs long-term contract extension
Joe Gomez might not be a first- (or second-) choice center back for Liverpool anymore, with Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip both out-appearing him last season, but the 25-year-old is keen to continue his seven-year stay an Anfield. Gomez signed a five-year contract through the summer of 2027. Gomez has since spoken to the club’s website:(AE)
“It’s obviously a special moment for me and my family. Another one that you dream of as a kid, and one I don’t take for granted.
“It is an unbelievable place to be. In my eyes, probably one of the best — if not the best — clubs in the world at the minute. The opportunity to extend my stay here was an easy decision to make, really.
“Obviously, I have been here quite a while now, but in the grand scheme of things I still feel young and, like you say, the best years are ahead of me. I have got more to learn and the time to do that.
“I think I have the platform here to do it with the manager and the coaching staff around me and my teammates, to make sure the best years are ahead. I think as a group, the sky is the limit. We want to go one, if not two, better than last season and aim for it all.”
July 1 – Mohamed Salah signs new Liverpool deal
So, updating the note below…
It’s a three-year deal for Salah, who will join holdovers Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino in addition to new signing Darwin Nunez in chasing down Manchester City.
June 25 – Liverpool open to selling Salah this summer
Liverpool are reportedly open to selling Mohamed Salah this summer as the Egyptian star has just one year left on his current contract. The Reds have been locked in talks with Salah for months about a new deal and per a report from the The Sun, Liverpool could sell Salah this summer for $74 million. Per the report, Real Madrid are the club Salah could move to as they look to bolster their attack after missing out on Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland this summer.
Should Liverpool cash-in on Salah just like they did with Sadio Mane earlier this week? With one year left on his contract and no real movement on talks, the situation is pretty similar and Salah has won everything he can at Liverpool. With Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz arriving over the last six months at Anfield, it feels like Liverpool have already made the moves to replace Mane and Salah long-term. Now it’s all about whether they sell Salah this summer or risk him running down his contract and leaving for free next summer. The latter option would not be good for Liverpool from a business sense, especially as they’ve been very good in terms of net spend and bringing in like-for-like replacements over the last six years. (JPW)
June 22 – Sadio Mane unveiled by Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich is claiming Sadio Mane as a coup for its club and league after the Bundesliga champions unveiled the 30-year-old on Wednesday.
“In Sadio Mane a top international star is coming to FC Bayern, who has left his mark on world football. We’re proud to have brought him to Munich. Sadio made it clear from the first minute in our talks that he now only wanted to play for FC Bayern. Everyone knows his outstanding technical qualities as well as his incredible mentality. He will contribute a lot and help to lead our team, which has a great structure. The fact that he’s joining FC Bayern shows that our club and he have big aims. Sadio Mané fits perfectly with the football that FC Bayern play under Julian Nagelsmann.” (NM)
June 22 – Liverpool, Monaco agree transfer fee for Takumi Minamino
Takumi Minamino’s time at Anfield appears to be over after Liverpool and Monaco reportedly agreed a transfer fee for the 27-year-old Japan international. The fee is said to be just shy of $16 million, with an additional $3 million possible in add-ons. After signing Minamino for $9 million two and a half years ago, Liverpool are set to make a small profit in the deal (plus any loan fee they received from Southampton in 2021. (AE)
June 21 – Sadio Mane arrives in Munich ahead of move to Bayern
The Senegal star is inching closer to his move to Bayern Munich as he is in Bavaria for his medical. Mane, 30, will soon become a Bayern player after the clubs agreed a fee of over $43 million. Liverpool fans will be sad to see these scenes but Mane leaves a legend as he scored 120 goals in 269 games for the Reds and epitomized what they were all about under Jurgen Klopp. At Bayern he will be the main man (Robert Lewandowski is expected to leave) and it felt like he was keen to have a fresh challenge in his career after winning every trophy possible with Liverpool over the last six seasons. Mane’s incredible consistency, intensity and quality will be tough to replace and he will always be a hero at Anfield. (JPW)
Highly-regarded right back Calvin Ramsay, 18, has arrived from Aberdeen in a deal reportedly worth $8 million. Ramsay was wanted by plenty of Premier League clubs but Liverpool’s pull was too strong and given Jurgen Klopp’s record of nurturing young talent (Harvey Elliott, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones to name a few) this move makes a lot of sense.
“There’s obviously a pathway here – that’s one of the reasons I chose it as well. It’s not just a massive club, they give young players chances in the first team,” Ramsay said.
“So if I can come in in pre-season, put my mark down, then there’s no reason why I can’t push to get in the first-team squad.”
Ramsay has been sensational for Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership and is a Scotland U21 international already. He will have his work cut-out to replace TAA at right back but perhaps his arrival will allow the Alexander-Arnold to move further forward or even play in central midfield? (JPW)
Ramsay is a Red 🙌🔴
We are delighted to announce the signing of @calvinramsay03 from Aberdeen, subject to international clearance.
Liverpool is awaiting a fresh bid from Bayern Munich for star winger Sadio Mane, as reports claim the Senegalese has agreed to terms with Germany’s serial champions.
Mane, 29, has been linked to Bayern for some time and Fabrizio Romano says that it’ll be a three-year contract for the forward.
Liverpool has signed Darwin Nunez this summer and added Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota last season to reinvigorate its attack. This asks more questions of Mohamed Salah, who is entering the final year of his deal at Anfield (NM).
June 14 – Darwin Nunez unveiled by Liverpool
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is excited by the potential of his latest massive purchase, especially because possible nine-figure striker Darwin Nunez is already very, very good.
“Darwin is a wonderful player; already really good but so much potential to get even better,” Klopp said. “That’s why it’s so exciting, to be honest. His age, his desire, his hunger to be even better than he currently is. His belief in our project and what we are looking to do as a club.”
Read more about the League Cup and FA Cup winners’ latest big cash splash, here (NM).
June 12 – Liverpool set to sign Darwin Nunez for club-record $105 million
Darwin Nunez to Liverpool looks to be close to completion, as the Uruguayan ace is reportedly on his way to Anfield.
According to Fabrizio Romano, the 22-year-old Benfica star has agreed a six-year contact at Liverpool and the Premier League giants have also agreed a transfer fee with his current club. Per the report, Liverpool will pay Benfica a guaranteed $84 million and could pay up to another $21 million in add-ons. After being on international duty with Uruguay over the last few weeks, Nunez left Uruguay’s camp and has flown to Madrid, Spain and is set to travel to England to complete his medical and sign the contract on Monday.
Darwin Nunez impressed Klopp when Liverpool played against Benfica (Nunez scored in each leg) and is a rising star in world soccer. His aggression, clinical finishing and pace mean he is perfect for this Liverpool team and will slot in well alongside Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah (at least for next season) up top. Liverpool don’t mess around once they identify a player they want to sign and Nunez ticks all of the boxes Jurgen Klopp wants from a striker. This deal make so much sense it’s almost too perfect of a fit. (JPW)
June 8 – Reds ready to break their transfer record for Darwin Nunez
Jurgen Klopp could bring Uruguayan center forward Darwin Nunez to Anfield as the Reds continue to spend as much as much as the next guy. The 22-year-old Nunez is going to cost significantly more than Manchester City paid for Erling Haaland, who had a release clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract.
June 7 – Liverpool lose Aurelien Tchouameni race as Real Madrid seal $107-million deal
Liverpool were reportedly one of three clubs in the final running for Aurelien Tchouameni, but the 22-year-old Monaco midfielder is likely headed to Real Madrid after the reigning European champions got the best of the Reds once more. It’ll be $85 million upfront, with the remaining $22 million available through add-ons. (AE)
June 7 – Liverpool reject opening bid from Bayern Munich for Sadio Mane
Bayern Munich reportedly offered $26 million (plus $5 million in add-ons) for Sadio Mane, but the Bundesliga giants were quickly turned away by Liverpool. Bayern will no doubt be back with another offer, though they hope to cap their costs at around $50 million. (AE)
May 31 – Darwin Nunez on Liverpool’s radar
According to a report from FootballTransfers, Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez, 22, is a target for the Reds this summer. After a superb season at Benfica the center forward is a wanted man as Manchester United, Newcastle, Real Madrid and several of Europe’s top clubs are chasing his signature. With Sadio Mane looking to be on his way out and question marks over the future of Mohamed Salah, Klopp may need to strengthen this attack this summer. After bringing in Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota over the last 12 months, Liverpool have strength in-depth but Nunez would give them something very different in attack with his hold-up play, runs in-behind and ability to run the channels from a central position. (JPW)
Premier League 2023-24 season: Way-too-early predictions
It’s clear that Manchester City will be favored to win the Premier League again, but all it takes is a look back at last season to see how quickly things can go awry.
Liverpool was supposed to be Man City’s biggest rival for the 2022-23 Premier League Trophy, but it was Arsenal who led the table for much of the season and Manchester United who briefly joined in on the fun.
Tottenham and Chelsea fell off dramatically, while Newcastle United surged into the top four and several teams — Brighton, Aston Villa, Brentford — spent time as a hot-button underdog in the race.
Prediction No. 1: Erling Haaland will go back-to-back with the Golden Boot Award
Yeah, that’s not a wild prediction but it’s difficult to believe that Haaland won’t find another gear given that most players look more comfortable during their second year in Pep’s system. In fact, if Man City wins the Champions League this year, maybe Haaland’s focus will lead to 40 goals!
Prediction No. 2: The top-four and top-six races will be as insane as ever
It might be tempting to project drop-offs for Newcastle, Brighton, Brentford, and even Aston Villa given the potential for transfer tumult and the challenges of competing in Europe for all of those but the Bees, but at least two of the bunch will be alive in the top six picture provided health and a wise move or two.
And now think about this: Chelsea and Tottenham will only have the Premier League (and domestic cups) for their focus, while Liverpool will be able to prioritize the Premier League at least until it sees how it feels about the Europa League.
Prediction No. 3: Chelsea will adapt quickly under Mauricio Pochettino
Todd Boehly needs Mauricio Pochettino to work out. Mauricio Pochettino needs Mauricio Pochettino to work out. And Chelsea’s massive depth of talent should almost all be inspired for their second (or third, or fourth) chances at the club.
Sure there are questions regarding the atmosphere at the club but Pochettino’s going to have the rule of the roost from the first moment of preseason and he’ll have had lots of time to anticipate squad needs.
Chelsea just needs to score more goals and Pochettino will find finish from his men. Will it be enough to challenge for the league? It’s unlikely but the Blues should look a lot better with their focus on the league. And, hey, you wouldn’t rule out Chelsea claiming one of the cups!
Prediction No. 4: The relegation picture will be a bit more predictable
That’s not saying a ton given the Premier League’s bottom half was absolutely bonkers this season, but hear us out. West Ham, Wolves, Everton… the list of clubs that were surprisingly in or near the bottom three was long. It’s natural, usually a bit too much so, to predict that promoted teams will struggle but there are reasons to think all three sides will take some time to adjust to the level.
Burnley’s star of the season was Southampton loanee Nathan Tella and the Clarets will have several big questions to answer when it comes to loan players and the transfer market. Sheffield United still has Sander Berge and a few other stalwarts from their PL campaign but has to hope Iliman Ndiaye is ready to make the jump. and Luton Town has to make a huge adjustment quickly. That’s not to say some or all of the new boys won’t stay up, but it’s difficult to project a Fulham-like quickstart for any… at least right now.
Prediction No. 5: Declan Rice, Harry Kane to be Player of the Year contenders
Many expect Declan Rice to leave West Ham United for a Premier League power — Bayern Munich has also been linked — and the Irons midfielder will not take too long to adapt to a new system. That’s because Rice’s skill set is very versatile and what he does best is the simple stuff. Regardless of which “Big Six” club he joins, Rice will get a lot of love because he’s the type of player who makes everyone else’s job easier.
As for Harry Kane, the 30-goal man is on a mission to chase down Alan Shearer. Whether that continues at Tottenham as he goes on a free agent tour of the world, or if it happens in a leading role at Manchester United or another English club, it’s safe to say we’re going to see the best out of Kane assuming he stays healthy.
Premier League 2023-24 title odds
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Manchester City: -175
Manchester United: +800
Aston Villa: +12500