Prior to the Champions League final, the media spotlight was firmly focused on Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The game was painted as being a contest between two of the best players in the world, both of whom have had remarkable seasons and it was widely predicted that it would be one of their nights.
However, by Sunday morning we were talking about neither of the star duo.
Salah had been substituted mid-way through the first half clutching his left shoulder following a tangle of bodies with Sergio Ramos whilst Ronaldo was a peripheral figure throughout the game and had minimal impact.
Instead, the media focus was redirected towards a different pairing.
First, Gareth Bale had cemented his place in Champions League history by producing a remarkable overhead kick just moments after coming on as a second-half substitute.
It was an incredible moment of brilliance by the Welshman and it was a stunning strike that deserved to win any game of football.
If Bale was the hero of the evening, then Loris Karius falls into the villainous category.
The German goalkeeper was at fault for Real Madrid’s opening goal, when he needlessly rolled the ball out against Karim Benzema, and for the Spanish club’s third, when he pawed Bale’s long-range shot into his own net.
However, Karius should not be alone in having his performance critiqued and it is time that we turned a critical eye towards Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Anfield.
Since being appointed as Brendan Rodgers’ successor in October 2015, the German has undoubtedly reinvented Liverpool with his enthusiasm, energy and attacking philosophy.
He has re-established the club as one of English football’s so-called ‘big four’ and the team have produced some of the most dynamic, entertaining football of any Premier League club this year, barring perhaps Manchester City.
Klopp is likeable and clearly connects with the Liverpool supporters, yet that should not make him immune to criticism.
For all of the positive developments facilitated by the 50-year-old, the simple fact remains that he has not been able to bring any form of silverware back to Anfield.
In fact, Klopp has lost all of the previous six cup finals that he has overseen and has not won a major trophy in over six years. His supporters will point to the fact that he has reached three cup finals with Liverpool – but glorious failure is ultimately still failure.
No one is saying that the German should be replaced, at least not any time soon, but he certainly has a big summer ahead of him. In short, he needs to win a trophy next season to validate his philosophy and the progress that Liverpool are making.
Karius’ error-strewn performance on Saturday evening actually underlined some of the mistakes that Klopp has made over the previous couple of years.
It has been no secret that Liverpool have required a world class goalkeeper for some time now and it is an area that the 50-year-old has simply not addressed.
Furthermore, when Salah departed the field during the first half a quick look at the Liverpool bench confirmed that there is a definite lack of strength in depth.
Klopp opted to introduce Adam Lallana, a man who has played very little football during an injury-ravaged twelve months, whilst his counterpart for Madrid, Zinedine Zidane, was able to call upon Bale, one of the most expensive players in history, when he wanted to alter the dynamics of the contest.
This summer will tell us a great deal about Klopp. He needs to ensure that he addresses some of the key deficiencies in the current squad and that will require making significant investment in the transfer market.
It will also tell us a great deal about Liverpool.
Prior to Saturday, Jordan Henderson told ESPN that winning trophies is part of the club’s ‘DNA’, yet that seems somewhat presumptuous.
It is time for Liverpool’s hierarchy to demonstrate that they have the ambition to re-establish the club among Europe’s elite and that means making significant investment. The arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January was a positive step, yet that level of spending needs to be replicated in the summer.
Ultimately, success for a club like Liverpool is based on the amount of silverware that is collected within the trophy cabinet and it is clear that Klopp needs to start delivering on that front.
Liverpool round-up: Offer for Robertson; new deal for Grujic; Firmino wants title
Liverpool are preparing a pay rise for Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson may only have joined the Reds last summer, but the Scottish defender is in line for a new contract which will doubles his wages, according to the Mirror. The club have been so impressed by his form since joining from Hull that they want to reward him with a pay rise.
The left-back became a regular for Jurgen Klopp after a slow start to life on Merseyside and more than justified his £10 million fee, which now looks a bargain.
Marko Grujic is set to sign a new deal and depart on loan
After rumours of an exit throughout the summer, Sky Sports say that young midfielder Marko Grujic will sign a new contract at Anfield until 2023 and then head out on loan to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.
Grujic spent time with Cardiff as they won promotion from the Championship last season and was expected to return to Wales but a move never came to fruition and he will now go to Germany to continue his development.
Roberto Firmino has discussed his ambitions
Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino has spoken exclusively to the Mirror to give an interview in which he made it clear that him and his team-mates are aiming for the Premier League title this season.
“I am optimistic and I believe Liverpool are capable of fighting for the greatest success this season. I also think we have a better team than last season and that the new players will improve the performance of the team. We have shown in the last campaign that our dreams can be fulfilled and that we can return to the path of winning titles. This year, we must not fail and that is the attitude of the players. I’m only interested in Liverpool and winning everything I can with them. We know what it would mean to be champions.”
Firmino discussed his future.
The former Hoffenheim man is a fan favourite at Anfield and clearly has no plans to depart the club in the near future with his sights set on success under Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool round-up: Klopp demands more; Klavan explains exit; loans for youngsters
Boss Jurgen Klopp has demanded more from Liverpool‘s fringe players
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made it clear that he will not tolerate any complaints from unhappy fringe players this season as he relies on them to make their point on the training ground.
“I cannot make people happy, I never could. Whatever happens on 31 August there will be a specific point where it is clear that is the squad for the next four months until January. Who cannot be happy in these four months being part of the squad at Liverpool I cannot help. Everyone who trains on his highest level – because the decision has already been made that they are good enough to play for Liverpool – has a big chance to be an important part of the team, to stay in the team and all these things.”
The German did not hide his feelings having been forced to leave out the likes of Alberto Moreno and Ragnar Klavan last weekend, whilst Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren remain sidelined. Klavan has since left the club, and as the transfer market enters the final stages in other countries it appears more exits could be on the way.
Ragnar Klavan has revealed that two Liverpool players encouraged him to leave
Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan completed a £2 million move to Serie A side Cagliari on Friday just before the transfer deadline arrived in Italy, and he has explained his decision to leave Merseyside.
“I had offers from several teams, including in other countries, but Cagliari really wanted me. Darijo Srna advised me to come here, as I talked to him via Dejan Lovren. Other Liverpool teammates like Alisson, Salah and Lucas Leiva all spoke highly of Serie A.”
Some fans may have been surprised to see him depart but given that he was entering into the final year of his contract and was unlikely to feature regularly with the likes of Matip, Lovren, Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk ahead of him, it makes sense.
Under 23s set for loan deals
The Liverpool Echo report that the final two weeks of the loan transfer window could see several under 23s players depart the club on loan in search of regular game time, joining the likes of Harry Wilson, Ben Woodburn, Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria who have already headed out on loan.
Many of those to feature for the team against Manchester United under 23s on Friday evening spent time out on loan last season, including Spanish midfielder Pedro Chirivella who was heavily involved in pre-season and was linked with a move away.
Liverpool round-up: Grujic bid rejected; interest in Karius; Brewster nears return
Liverpool have rejected a bid for Marko Grujic
The transfer window may have closed in England but it remains open until Friday in Italy and reports from the Liverpool Echo say that the Reds have turned down an approach from Serie A side Torino for midfielder Marko Grujic. The deal was reportedly a season long loan with an option to buy worth 10 million euros (£9 million).
The Serbian was heavily involved in pre-season after impressing for Cardiff City on loan last season and was expected to return to Wales after helping them earn promotion but a move collapsed.
Besiktas are considering a move for Loris Karius
Turkish newspaper Aksam claim that Besiktas have emerged as candidates to sign German goalkeeper Loris Karius on loan to provide him with an Anfield escape having lost the number one shirt to Alisson Becker after his Champions League final nightmare in Kiev in May.
Jurgen Klopp’s plans for the goalkeeper remain unclear despite publicly giving him a vote of confidence and a loan deal may be an ideal solution. Much could depend on the Turkish team’s pursuit of other targets, including Arsenal‘s David Ospina.
Rhian Brewster is nearing a return to fitness
It was a major blow to Liverpool’s plans for young striker Rhian Brewster when he picked up a serious ankle ligament injury in January, but under 23s manager Neil Critchley has told Goal that he could return to light training as soon as next month after a summer of rehabilitation.
“I’m sure he’ll be doing a few people’s heads in down at Melwood, chomping at the bit and ready to return! He’ll be quite restless. He’s a young boy who loves playing football and wants to play football, so he’ll hugely frustrated at the moment.”
The 18-year-old was training alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to rebuild fitness after signing a new deal to commit himself to the Merseyside outfit despite interest from elsewhere.
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