I think it’s only respectful to kick off with the Kolo Toure news today, with Liverpool releasing their retained and released list submitted to the premier league, Toure is on that list…do you think it’s the right time to let him leave?
He’s going to struggle to get regular starts next season to be brutally honest with no Europe. Matip’s coming and Lovren has established himself so he is not going to be first choice. At his age if he can get a contract elsewhere and get regular football then good luck to him. I would just like to say, I thought towards the end of last season he was excellent, I don’t think he let anyone down. He’s always been terrific to deal with around the club and he’s one of the happiest people I have ever had the pleasure of coming across. Good luck to him in whatever he does. He’s had some up and down moments at Liverpool but I think everyone is very fond of him really.
Liverpool fans have been pouring tributes into him today and I think everyone wishes him all the best in whatever he decides to do post Liverpool, but the news came out last night about the club holding preliminary discussions with Emre Can over a new long term contract at Anfield….how impressed have you been with him over the course of last season especially now Jurgen Klopp’s come in?
I think it’s interesting to see how things were from 12 months ago. He finished the season under a cloud when he played in that game against Stoke, he looked horribly out of sorts. He played as a right-back which clearly didn’t suit him. He then went to the European Under 21 Championships as a midfielder, and he was excellent of them, and you could see that was where his long term future was going to be. With Jurgen Klopp having given him confidence since he came in, I think he was without doubt one of Liverpool’s best players. He is only 22. Everything is in front go him, he is only going to get better and better, so it makes absolute sense for Liverpool to secure his future for a long period of time.
Midfield seems to be an area which Liverpool are going to look to strengthen this summer, another veteran at the club is Lucas Leiva….he has been around for years now and there seems to be question marks over his future like there does every summer. Do you think he will be given the chance to fight for his place at Liverpool this summer?
The manager really likes him, he really loves his attitude and commitment and he loves how he was a real help to him when Klopp arrived. You could see whenever Klopp wanted to get instructions passed on he would call Lucas over and he would tell him exactly what he wanted. Obviously he didn’t play as much towards the end of the season as he would have hoped, but personally speaking I would like to see him stay and do ten years at the club. You can’t just give experience away, it’s a rebuilding process and Liverpool and there will be changes.
But someone like Lucas, who has been around, similar to Gerrard and Carragher, he was there for the Rafa Benitez era…he’s played under Kenny…he’s seen everything really Lucas, and you just can’t give that experience and that wisdom away. Is he going to play week in week out? I would probably say that’s doubtful, but when injuries and suspensions kick in, I don’t think there would be anybody better to turn to. Also, he’s a very very good player and I think sometimes it gets overlooked what he can do. his form at times last year was excellent, and personally speaking I would love him to stay. When you think about it, allowing Kolo Toure to go, could there be something for Lucas Leiva as a centre-back?
We saw how he played there last season, one of the things that really sticks out in my mind was the first-leg semi-final against Stoke in the League Cup. He went in for a tackle that hard that he ended up bursting the ball. I know he’d actually done something like that at Melwood before the game. He’s a really tough tackler, and maybe now he is a little bit older it could be a position for him.
It’s been a few weeks now since the season ended…now that we’re heading towards the summer, looking back on the entire season how would you really sum it up on reflection?
To be honest, I think people are still digesting what actually happened. Even by Liverpool’s standard it was remarkable, two managers…one of the biggest names in European football coming in to take over, two finals, it seemed like there was a game every four days. I think I am right in saying Liverpool played the most games out of all he top-flight teams in Europe. It was just crazy, it didn’t end how everybody wanted it to in Basel. Looking back on that game, I don’t think there can be any hard luck stories, we just didn’t do enough on the night to win the trophy.
Do you think Jurgen Klopp will still be digesting what happened and will still be a little in shock after witnessing that game and seeing what that team had done in that competition previously?
Yeah, looking back it was just a strange game. The first half seemed to be going absolutely to plan, and then second half was almost like they had completely run out of petrol and there was nothing anyone could do. Even the fans were flat, it was a surreal 45 minutes…they were actually lucky that it didn’t end up being 4 or 5…I genuinely thought at one point that was going to be possible the way Sevilla were so rampant. That defeat really really hurt Klopp, he was desperate to win that trophy and make history, and I know how much that hurt the rest of the squad, but he is not the type of manager to dwell on things and allow it to distract him. He will be desperate for another chance to put things right and win his first piece of silverware for Liverpool.
Liverpool have already signed Joel Matip on a free transfer and Loris Karius from Mainz….plus Marko Grujic will link up with his new squad in pre-season…were you happy with those pieces of business?
Yeah, a new goalkeeper was an absolute pre-requisite, they have looked all over Europe for competition for Simon Mignolet and explored avenues which never came off for one reason or another. Listen, if Jurgen Klopp is buying a player from Mainz, you would have to think he knows him inside out. I also know that when he played at Man City, there are people there who rated him quite highly.
Maybe he was a bit immature at the time as he was only a young lad, but the move back to Germany did him well. I always felt he was a keeper with potential. I also like the fact he has come in and made it clear he expects to be number one. Simon Mignolet just hasn’t had that competition since he’s come in, Brad Jones and Adam Bogdan just have not done it. Mignolet is going to have to be on his toes straight away for a start.
Silly season is well underway with thousands of names linked already…..Mario Götze was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool before the season finished, but it looks like he’s prepared to fight for his place at Bayern Munich, do you think the European Championships will have played a big part in his decision making?
No I don’t…I think Liverpool not having European Football next season will have made his decision for him. I think if Liverpool had got into the champions league he would of had a real decision to make because I know he had sounded people out about what was life on Merseyside and what the premier league was like, but I think no champions league has tipped the balance the other way.
Personally, I couldn’t of understood why Bayern Munich, one of the top three clubs in the world at the moment, would have allowed a 23-year-old German international who has scored the winning goal in the world cup final to leave. You have to understand why…obviously the link between Klopp and Gotze is very strong, but Bayern are so strong and he is so young, you have to ask yourself why hasn’t it worked out in the way it should. Obviously he is a great talent, and had Liverpool signed him it would have certainly grabbed the headlines, but is it the end of the world? Maybe not, time will tell.
It came out last week that Liverpool were considering Sadio Mané at Southampton as an alternative to Mario Götze….is he the type of player who would really suit Klopp’s system?
He’s a worker isn’t he, he’s tenacious, he’s quick, he’s got a really good attitude. He’s made a great impact since he came to England, for the type of player that Jurgen Klopp wants, he fits in. It is amazing though how Liverpool keep going back to Southampton for the players, it’s extrodinary really especially if Liverpool were to clinch that deal. They are going to have to pay a premium for him if they do go ahead with it as Southampton are not going to want to lose any of their best players. In terms of him being a player he has done really well. I was at St Mary’s the day that he scored in that remarkable comeback in March, so yes he is a very good player.
One of the major stumbling blocks with that one it seems is that Southampton would demand in excess of £40m for him who has got a few years left on his deal. It will be interesting to see what happens.
One of the names linked with Liverpool to fill a midfield roll is Mahmoud Dahoud at Borussia Monchengladbach, can you see Gladbach wanting to sell another one of their main midfielders?
Again, it is going to be very difficult. Zielinski has been a long viewed alternative, Dahoud obviously has huge admirers, but clubs have got so much money in the game now, they do not have to sell if they don’t want to. They obviously have ambitions to get into the Champions League themselves, they want to build. All I can say is, he is the target, will it come off? I wish I had a crystal ball but I don’t know yet, that is the honest saga.
The Zielinski saga is reminiscent of the Kovacic saga last summer….lots being reported, lots being said…pictures were released of him even wearing a Liverpool shirt a few weeks ago…..is that one Klopp is looking to get done?
Yeah yeah, the link with him goes back as far as January. Obviously they have been watching him and scrutinising him. We will have to see, but I personally think planning has changed due to the fact there is no europe next season. Does he need to go and get as many players as was first anticipated? Probably not. With the exception of a couple of league games, they are only going to play one game a week up until Christmas. You would wonder how many signings he is actually going to need.
The only other area which Liverpool fans desperately want to see strengthened is the left-back position…linked with Ben Chilwell at Leicester…as well as Hector at Koln…do you see the left -back area a position Klopp will want to strengthen sooner rather than later?
Yeah, Chilwell has come back from the Toulon tournament with England with a knee problem but he is going to be fit for the start of pre-season. He obviously played under David Wagner at Huddersfield so Klopp will know exactly what type of player he is given the relationship those two of got. Am I surprised he is going young? No, he doesn’t strike me as the manager who will buy established stars.
If you look at Dortmund, the players he bought were all projects, purchased for small fees and made into greats. The one time he did really go all guns blazing for a target was Henrikh Mkhitaryan who ironically picked Dortmund over Liverpool. Maybe that will change now that he is in the premier league, but with the signings he has made, he has bought young players with the best years ahead of them. He is someone who believes in building, he wants it to be a project that grows bigger and bigger.
The transfer window is never as straight forward as people thing….but with so many of our rivals strengthening at the moment, many reds fans especially on social media are beginning to worry that the Reds are missing out, wasting time, falling behind…do think that’s justified?
It’s only been a couple of weeks since the season finished, the players don’t report back for training for another three weeks. The start of the season is a good ten weeks ago, there is so much that can happen in between, everybody wants to see big signings and the drama, but at moments like this you have to trust the manager and trust the people at the club to do the business in their own time.
I know the transfer committee have come under intense criticism for some of the transfers they did, but Jurgen Klopp has’t even been managed for less than a year yet, and he has’t had time to really get his teeth into things. I don’t think anybody should be panicking at this stage and certainly not when there is a major tournament going on. If we got to the middle of August and it was only these three players who had been signed, then yes, worry and criticism would be valid then, but I genuinely don’t think that should be happening yet.
Obviously the transfer window is not just based around incomings, the outgoings saga at Liverpool this summer is also an interesting one….Jerome Sinclair, Jose Enrique and Adam Bogdan look certain to leave….Martin Skrtel seems sure to follow suit as well, and there are questions marks over Joe Allen as well. Do you think it will be a busy window in terms of outgoings?
I think the players who you would expect to go will go. It is difficult for Benteke really, he is a decent lad and has averaged a goal every other game. I can’t see him being first choice striker with Origi, Sturridge and Ings, so it would be best for all if Liverpool can re-coup a good whack of what they spent on him, and he can go and play regular first-team football elsewhere.
But if he stays, he stays, and will Liverpool be looking to sign another striker with those four there? Probably not. Joe Allen…..not a minutes trouble from him. I couldn’t see him going back to Swansea now, I don’t think he would want to to Celtic unless they get into the Champions League and a massive offer is made. Again, he played well in the second half of last season, I don’t think Klopp will want to sell him just for the sake of selling him. Skrtel, he’s the wrong side of 30 now and has been here for a long time…he might want one last move, and again he will not be playing regularly, so there’s a lot of decisions to be made.
Philippe Coutinho is another one who’s been in the news the past couple of weeks, with reported interest from PSG and even Barcelona….do you think he’s a priority for either of those and can you see him leaving Anfield this summer at all?
I think you have to look at the clubs, would he want to go to PSG for starters? yes he will win the French league, but how fulfilling with it be to go and player there? The links in Spain give me more concern because he is Latin, there’s been a lot of people talking about him this week. It’s inevitable really a player of his talent will attract interest, especially if Liverpool are not playing in the Champions League. If they manage to hang onto him….great, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he became an issue that rumbled this summer. There is interest around him and I wouldn’t be surprised if that grew.
The only other one is Andre Wisdom, linked with a move north of the border to Celtic, can you see that one materialising?
I wouldn’t be surprised, I don’t think they will stand in his way if he gets an offer.
Obviously there are a few players coming back of loan as well, the likes of Luis Alberto and Lazar Markovic, do you think they will be given their chance to impress in pre-season?
Markovic definitely will, it is there for him. If he can come back in the right frame of mind and get used to living in the city again then he will certainly have a chance. I think there is a player with talent there, and if he is given an opportunity to play in the position that suits him best, then I think he could have something to offer. Luis Alberto…I would think he would probably stay in Spain if they can find a club for him. I’m not sure if English football really suited him, but he is a Liverpool player and if they have not found anything by the first week of of July then he will have to come back and start training.
How difficult do you think it might be for Liverpool to shift Mario Balotelli on a permanent basis this summer? Obviously its’ been reported there is interest from China and see European clubs….is it one Klopp wants to get done sooner rather than later to save it dragging on?
I think Liverpool will be working overtime now to make sure he gets a club. They should never have bought him in the first place, that deal should never have happened. I know why we did it, and I know why we took the chance, but it should never have been done. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but so many managers have worked with him and so many have failed to get the best out of him. It was never going to work at Liverpool, from the first few weeks he was here. The sooner they can come to some sort of arrangement for a new club then best of luck to him but I don’t see him kicking a ball for Jurgen Klopp at all.
Just finally, are you looking forward to the summer and next season?
As soon as you get to August again, new players come in and you’ve been on the tours, everybody gets the buzz back. It doesn’t matter how many games you see in a season or how many miles you cover, everybody gets it back. Everyone has the same dream that this could be the season something special happens. When August comes around, it’s all to look forward to again.
You can find Dom on Twitter: @DominicKing_DM