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Liverpool: Veteran to leave; Portugal star linked; Klopp unsure over youngster’s loan

John Arkless

Liverpool’s pre-season campaign is now well under way, and the club rounded off their time in the United States with a 2-0 victory over AC Milan in the International Champions Cup. New signing Georginio Wijnaldum notably played in a (rather garish green) Liverpool shirt for the first time, and other new signings such as Sadio Mane and Ragnar Klavan also put in good performances for the Reds in California.

However, Jurgen Klopp’s squad is still not finalised for the upcoming season, and they are still being linked adding to the seven new names in the side. The most strongly linked name at the moment is Portugal winger Joao Mario, who impressed on the wing as his country won their first ever international tournament.

Sky Sports have reported that Liverpool were one of four clubs to have a bid turned down by Sporting Lisbon, with offers between €35 and €40 million not deemed good enough to capture the winger.

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Although Mario is a good player who played a very important part in Portugal’s Euros victory, he is yet to prove he has the kind of exceptional talent that would encourage Liverpool to pay such a large fee for his services. With several attacking options already in the squad, a move for Mario would probably give Jurgen Klopp more of a headache than be a positive move.

His high energy style and tireless running would allow him to fit into Liverpool’s system, but he is simply not needed in the squad at this present time.

If Mario would struggle to get game time amongst the huge stack of attacking midfielders at Anfield for the upcoming season, one may wonder whether any youth players will get much of a chance this season. One such player is 19-year-old Sheyi Ojo, who impressed in Saturday’s win over Milan.

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Ojo impressed Klopp by refusing to take holiday after playing for England in the under-19 European Championships, and the manager is now debating whether to send out the youngster on loan or keep him as part of the squad for the upcoming season.

After Jordon Ibe’s transfer to Bournemouth, Ojo is now the premier young English winger at Anfield, and his performances for the Reds to date have been very promising. However, although he is more than good enough to make a number of appearances, he is unlikely to get a lot of game time this season in order to hone his talent further, so a loan move could be the best option.

He will do a job for the Reds if he stays, and is possibly ahead of Lazar Markovic in Klopp’s current thinking, but a loan move, especially on a short deal would allow him to get more time on the pitch to develop as a player. A short loan to the Championship, where Ojo has enjoyed playing before, will probably be the best option for the time being.

Whatever happens, Ojo has a long future ahead of him at Liverpool, but the same cannot be said of Lucas Leiva, who looks to be nearing a move to Galatasaray. 29-year-old Lucas, who has played 313 times for the Reds, found game time as a central midfielder hard to come by last season, often shifted to centre back, but reinforcements in the shape of Marko Grujic, Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip could limit his time on the pitch even further.

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Although his service to the club has been wonderful since joining in 2007, he is clearly not a large part of Klopp’s plans and selling will be the best option for the club. He could still do a solid job for the side were he to stay, but it looks as if his time at Anfield is sadly over.

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