Big Club Liverpool A Destination For Top Players

 • by James Nalton
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Sadio Mané looks set to become the latest Liverpool player to sign a new long-term deal with the club, as Jürgen Klopp looks to secure his key players, or at least their value, for the foreseeable future.

The Senegalese will join his attacking partners in crime, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, in signing a new deal this summer. Should the 26-year-old put pen to paper soon, it will mean the club have secured long-term deals for all three of their star players in the space of four months.

During the past four years, Liverpool have lost one of the best players to ever wear a red shirt, plus another who could have become a club legend, both to Barcelona.

Luis Suárez moved to Catalonia in July 2014 after a whirlwind three and a half seasons at the club, while Philippe Coutinho became the only key player to leave Anfield since the arrival of Klopp in October 2015.

Liverpool dug their heels in with Coutinho, but it became apparent that Barcelona was his dream move and the Brazilian eventually got his wish in January 2018.

But just as Coutinho longed for Barcelona, the type of players arriving on Merseyside to work with Klopp give the impression that they are as delighted to sign for Liverpool as Coutinho was to join Barca.

In some ways, Liverpool’s acquisition of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton mirrored Coutinho’s move to La Liga, with Southampton holding firm in the summer window before bowing to their player’s wishes once the transfer window re-opened in the winter.

Antonio Conte confirmed that Van Dijk was also a transfer target for Chelsea, but it only ever seemed like there would be one outcome in this transfer saga and one destination for the defender.

“I think the size of the club, the fans, the players, the manager, the whole package here is amazing,” said Van Dijk on arrival it Liverpool.

“You can see yourself that the atmosphere at every home game is amazing. I’m just very happy to play for the club.”

Another protracted transfer saga which began that summer was Liverpool’s move for RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keïta. The Guinean’s performances in the Bundesliga had wowed fans and scouts alike, and he became one of the most in-demand players in Europe, but once Liverpool came in for him the only question was when he would make the move.

Again, club and player would have to wait, but Keïta finally arrived at his new club this summer and is now preparing for his first season in the Premier League.

“Since I signed for Liverpool my dad has spoken to me a lot about how much he loved them,” Keïta told the Guardian.

“As a kid we used to play in the streets wearing a Liverpool shirt. He had that love of Liverpool back then when I was 11 or 12 years old. Because I’m a midfielder and Steven Gerrard was always the boss of the team, I couldn’t be anyone else but Steven Gerrard when I played.”

It’s common for players to declare an undying, long-held love for the team they have just joined, but it’s becoming easy to detect whether these words are sincere.

In Liverpool’s case the frank, unexaggerated nature of these statements from their new signings make them entirely believable and seeing the atmosphere in Anfield as the club marched to the Champions League final last season, there is plenty of supporting evidence that this is still a big club.

It would make sense for Mané to sign a new contract at this time, especially seeing as he was another part of the reason Keïta chose Liverpool over guaranteed Bundesliga medals at German giants Bayern Munich.

“Bayern Munich wanted Keïta, whose first season at Leipzig marked him out as one of Europe’s up and coming talents,” wrote the Times’ Paul Joyce.

“Mané helped directly in selling the vision in a way Bayern could not. He was able to describe to his former team-mate and friend how the club had treated him, how they had kept promises following his own arrival from Southampton in 2016 and offer insight into Klopp’s methods and how he will extract more from him.”

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Add to this Firmino’s influence in helping convince compatriot Alisson to join Liverpool from Roma this summer, and it becomes evident that Liverpool’s current players are as much a part of the recruitment process as the backroom staff.

Not only do players want to stay at the club, but they want their friends to join them. In the end, Alisson didn’t need much convincing, signing a six-year deal.

“I spoke to him before things really started to happen,” said the goalkeeper of his Brazil, and now Liverpool team-mate.

“When the negotiations became official I spoke to him and only heard good things about the club and the city.

“He feels really at home here. He’s loved by the fans and popular with his team-mates. He said if I were to come, I’d be really happy as well.”

Liverpool is now becoming a destination for players rather than part of their journey. These long-term contracts could start to mean more than just the club looking to retain the value of their players, and five or six years could start to mean five or six years.

This will be tested if Salah repeats last season’s heroics and the European super clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, come knocking on the doors of Anfield again, but Klopp believes something special is brewing..

“When I speak about the good mood in the club, that is not only in the stands. We are Liverpool as a team and the boys want to be part of it,” said the German.

“It’s a big achievement for the club because these boys — Bobby Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and a lot of the others as well, could play for pretty much any team in the world.

“It is an improved situation that these players don’t use us and then go. It’s cool but now we all together have to deliver. Sign your contracts but now, go again.”