Liverpool must pick themselves up after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, but BT Sport’s pundits couldn’t agree how.
Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand engaged in a feisty debate over how big a rebuilding job Jurgen Klopp has on his hands after Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.
The Reds came within two matches of sweeping the board with silverware last season, but it has been a completely different story this campaign. Already eliminated from both domestic cup competitions and struggling for consistency in the league, Liverpool’s last chance of a trophy in 2023 was extinguished by the reigning European champions at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening after hopes of a miraculous comeback from a 5-2 first leg defeat ended in a 1-0 loss on the night thanks to a late Karim Benzema strike.
Kop boss Klopp is expected to make sweeping changes to his squad in the summer, with a number of players soon to be out of contract and a midfield overhaul anticipated. But when it came to discussing the speed at which the German needs to reshape a second dynasty at Anfield BT Sport pundits Owen and Ferdinand were not on the same page.
Sharing his thoughts first, Owen said: “The worry at the moment, is that you’re hanging your hat on maybe one or two additions to freshen it all up, let’s say, but the worry is that if Liverpool don’t get in the Champions League then it’s not going to be as an exciting proposition.
“If they don’t get in the Champions League they probably won’t have the money to go and do it, we all know Liverpool isn’t awash with money so I know there’s a kitty there to probably go for a Bellingham for £100 million, maybe a little bit more, but if they don’t get in the Champions League it’s going to put a little bit more pressure on the purse strings. I don’t believe that it’s right to go and buy a load of players, this team have proven – I would try to burst the bank for Bellingham and I fear that will be about it. There may be other players that come in.”
Ferdinand interjected: “I’m sorry, man, I don’t agree with that. Sorry, I don’t. It’s alright doing that and building players that are going to come in and push your team on the way up, but when you get to the top, Manchester City ain’t going out and buying a little squad-filler, they’re buying Haaland.”
Owen responded: “And Liverpool will go and buy Bellingham,” to which Ferdinand fired back: “They haven’t done that yet. They haven’t proven they can do that.”
Undeterred, Owen said: “Liverpool have got a history of doing that. They went and got Van Dijk when they needed a centre half – they got the best in the world.”
Ferdinand argued: “We’re talking about in recent seasons, in the last couple of windows they haven’t brought in anyone who can come in and change the first eleven.”
The quick-fire exchange continued, as Owen asked: “You find them. Who’s better than Mo Salah and Mane? Who’s better than Mane?” to which Ferdinand said: “Midfield, we’re talking about, it’s an area where everyone in the Liverpool fanbase is saying that’s an area we need to [improve].”
An animated Owen then asked: “Do you think Jurgen Klopp’s stupid? He’s going to absolutely do that. If there was a transfer window now he’d be going and doing it. He’s desperate to do it.”
Up until this point, third studio pundit Peter Crouch had been a bystander in the debate, but he chipped in by arguing: “They haven’t got the money of Man City, but what they’ve been able to do is compete at the level of Man City with nowhere near the finances.”
Ferdinand said: “And I commend that. I say hats off and well done for that but we’re talking from this moment now where it seems people are asking is this cycle over? How do they stay at this level they were so consistent at the last couple of years, are they gonna go and buy squad-fillers?”
Owen replied: “I don’t feel like they are doing that. The recent players they’ve bought, they’ve had three players approaching 30 – Mane, Firmino and Salah. Everybody can see it’s coming, Jurgen Klopp can see it’s coming, so Jurgen Klopp’s like before it hits us square in the face we’ve got to start bringing some youngsters in. They’ve kept Salah, Mane was gonna go anyway – he wanted to go the year before and Liverpool did really well to keep him an extra year. He was going anyway and Firmino’s now going in the summer, so in Jota, in Diaz, in Nunez, they’ve actually refreshed that part of the pitch. That’s for the future, that’s hopefully signed off now for the next six, seven years.”
The row between Owen and Ferdinand continued to rubble on, with the former Liverpool striker arguing that Klopp has no choice but to wait until next summer to chase Bellingham after Manchester City bough the midfielder’s former Borussia Dortmund teammate Erling Haaland during pre-season, rather than bring in second-rate targets instead.
But ex-Manchester United defender Ferdinand is not convinced that Liverpool will even be able to land the teenage midfielder once the transfer window reopens in June.
He said: “If Liverpool get Bellingham, Stevie [Gerrard], yourselves, have had to have run the channel to get him. Run the channel to get this guy. Even if he watches that tonight he’s sitting there thinking if Real Madrid are in for me and Liverpool, there’s only one place I can go. And they don’t finish Champions League as well maybe. As a player – nothing to do with my allegiance to United – I just think as a player you look at it cold and you say you see more trophies here.”