Theo Squires takes a look at Jurgen Klopp’s comments on Liverpool signing Cody Gakpo and what it could mean for the next move.
Suffering the most inconsistent of campaigns in the face of seemingly constant injury woes, the World Cup break – and subsequent mid-season training camp in Dubai – was meant to act as a reset button for Liverpool.
Yet after the most unconvincing of victories over Leicester City was followed up by the miserable 3-1 loss away at Brentford, reality has dealt the Reds the most brutal slap in the face. Title-contenders back in August, just five months on and their hopes of even qualifying for next season’s Champions League continue to dwindle at an alarming rate.
While not completely extinguished, with still half of the Premier League season to play, the Reds currently trail the top four by seven points. Occupying sixth place, they find Fulham, Brighton & Hove Albion, and now Brentford all breathing down their necks.
Had they beaten the Bees, they’d have moved a point off fourth and overtaken fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, temporarily at least, reiterating how costly a loss it could be.
It’s not mission impossible for Liverpool, as proven by how they finished third against the odds following a late resurgence back in 2020/21, having seen all their senior centre-backs struck down by season-ending injuries. But with Newcastle United joining the ‘Big Six’ in realistically fighting for Champions League football, the challenge is harder than ever with three of English football’s biggest clubs now poised to be disappointed.
Should the Reds miss out, it will have a critical knock-on effect for the club financially. Lacking the riches the Champions League brings, it could also be costly in the transfer market and would seemingly act as a death knell to Klopp’s hopes of landing long standing midfield target Jude Bellingham.
Liverpool are admittedly already fighting beyond their means in the transfer market, with the Reds unable to compete with the financial might of the likes of Man City, Paris Saint-Germain, or even Real Madrid. It’s partly why owners FSG are actively searching for new investors and would be open to a new takeover at Anfield.
Yet Klopp has admitted in the past that he favours working with players who aren’t motivated purely by money or playing in the Champions League. Explaining how January signed Cody Gakpo had proven himself to be such a player when joining from PSV Eindhoven for an initial £37m, the German eloquently revelled in how the forward was ‘obviously a guy who doesn’t want to jump on a running train, he wants to push the train.’
So while a lack of Champions League football might prove costly to any hopes of signing Bellingham in contrast to other targets for example, considering he would cost a club-record fee from Borussia Dortmund and the rival ‘pitches’ being put to him by other elite clubs, Liverpool would seemingly consider themselves down but not out when it comes to future transfer business.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Klopp admitted there have been easier times for a player to join the Reds when speaking about his signing of Gakpo. But when recalling the transfer talks he held with the Dutchman, the German offered a glimpse at the sort of ‘pitch’ Liverpool could find themselves making to Bellingham or any other future target come the summer.
“There were easier moments to join Liverpool,” Klopp conceded. “Last year! We were not qualified already for the Champions League but it looked like that would happen. This year we cannot guarantee that.
“But Cody never asked! From time to time, players ask. ‘Do you think you’ll make Champions League?’ Stuff like this. He can read the table himself so knew it would be a tight decision.
“What I really like about this is he’s obviously a guy who doesn’t want to jump on a running train, he wants to push the train. I like that a lot. Good for him as well because it always helps in life if you are a little bit like that.
“Liverpool is a massive club, it really is. What we can give to players is the size of the club but the feeling inside, we are really close together. That’s how it is.
“We describe it internally as a family. We don’t go outside and tell everyone it’s a family, but internally it’s exactly that. We sing birthday songs for everybody, we do all these kind of things.
“Everybody gets flowers in the right moment. We don’t forget the personal things and that’s probably what Virgil told him. It wasn’t necessary for me to tell him.
“Could we be more successful on the pitch in the moment? Yes definitely, no doubt about that. Everybody knows we fight with all we have, for getting there again. We will get there.
But it’s always tough in these moments and I really like the fact that he decided pretty quickly, ‘Yeah, that’s the right club for me.’ It speaks volumes about him.”
Klopp clearly favours working with players who boast such a mentality, as he also admitted, ‘personality is very important I think’. As a result, Liverpool will continue to target players who look at this bigger picture.
With or without Champions League football, the Reds know what they have to offer and will fight hard to convince their targets that Anfield is the place to be. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, as demonstrated by the January signing of Gakpo but the summer failure to land Aurelien Tchouameni.
It’s clear Liverpool will have a fight on their hands to sign Bellingham, regardless of their plight this year, though such a battle will be made even harder if their current struggles continue. That is not aided contrasting reports continuing to speculate, practically on a daily basis, as to who is actually leading the chase for the England international’s signature.
Reds bosses can now only hope that the same ‘pitch’ that landed Gakpo remains strong enough to have the desired effect come the summer. If Liverpool miss out on Champions League football, they will need it to carry an even more powerful punch.