Jurgen Klopp’s January signings will probably define his time at Anfield

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Scott Murray takes a look at the players that Jurgen Klopp is considering signing in January, and warns the Reds boss that he really needs to get them right.

Just as the Christmas adverts are transmitted way too early, so the brouhaha over the January transfer window begins with indecent haste. It’s only November, for goodness sake, yet you can hear the crackle of excitement and anticipation already. Still, no point being curmudgeonly about it. It’s the rhythm and style of the modern world. Best to accept it. You may as well complain that Coronation Street and Dr Who looked more atmospheric in black and white, or that talkies have totally ruined cinema.

In any case, a sense of wonder is understandable at Liverpool, with the mid-season window the first opportunity for Jurgen Klopp to start moulding a squad of his own. All the talk is that he’ll not be making wholesale changes in January, when it’s supposedly harder to snaffle a bargain, never mind a world-class player. That’s the received wisdom, and yet in recent seasons Liverpool have landed the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinhowhile wandering those supposedly barren terrains. With the benefit of that past experience, it’s unlikely that anybody at the club will have written off the window as so many in the media are wont to do.

Klopp, having seen what he’s seen at Anfield, might also wonder whether he’s got six months to waste. His squad needs boosting with a new goalkeeper, a dependable left back, at least one centre back, an energetic and dynamic central midfielder good for the long haul, a winger, and a couple of reliable and preferably indestructible strikers. No need for another number ten, Liverpool are probably OK for number tens. But otherwise, plenty to do. It’s best to start the rebuild sooner rather than later.

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Which is not to say the major work won’t be left until the summer. Brendan Rodgers used to get awful stick for his dismal office-seminar patter, so it’s only fair he gets credit for one of the more vivid metaphors of modern times. “The problem with being a manager,” he said on his appointment, “is that it’s like trying to build an aircraft while it’s in flight.” Klopp, like his predecessor, knows he’ll only be able to strip down the engine to have a proper look once the thing’s grounded for the season.

Nevertheless, running repairs are possible, and some of the names that have been mentioned will get supporters understandably giddy. Timo Horn ofCologne is considered one of the best young goalkeepers in the Bundesliga, no faint praise in an area where the Germans traditionally excel. The adaptable İlkay Gündoğan would fill any number of midfield holes, and though Klopp has specifically ruled out annoying his former love Borussia Dortmund by pillaging their stock, the rumour persists.

Perhaps most exciting is the reported interest in Leroy Sane of Schalke – presumably Klopp is less sensitive about irritating his former Ruhr rivals – who aged 19 ripped Real Madrid to shreds in the Champions League round of 16 at the Bernabeu last March.

Klopp should select his picks carefully, because the first few signings a new manager makes have a habit of defining how his reign pans out. Rodgers found his judgement questioned pretty much from day one after spending £10.4m on Fabio Borini and another £15m on Joe Allen. The Sturridge and Coutinho showstoppers that followed in January were more like it, though rumours persisted that the infamous transfer committee were behind those moves, the manager preferring Clint Dempsey of Fulham. Rodgers’ reputation never quite recovered in some quarters of the support.

The warning lights flashed immediately when Roy Hodgson welcomed Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky to the club. Conversely, Kenny Dalglish poured oil on troubled waters when he took over from Hodgson for his second stint by securing Suarez. (And, OK, spending £35m on Andy Carroll. But hindsight is 20-20, and at the time, while clearly comically over-priced, Carroll’s signature helped ease the pain of Fernando Torres‘ defection toChelsea, in a support suffering from status anxiety. But perhaps that’s an argument best explored on another day.)

Dalglish’s first signing of his first stint Liverpool manager, back in 1985, was Steve McMahon of Aston Villa, a player who would prove to be as vital to Liverpool’s late-80s dominance as John Barnes and Peter Beardsley. Rafael Benitez made a serious statement of European intent by prising Xabi Alonsoaway from Real Sociedad. Bill Shankly’s first big purchase was Kevin Lewis, the man who would score the goals that won Liverpool promotion back to the big time. And Bob Paisley‘s first three major signings were Ray Kennedy, Phil Neal and Terry McDermott. Now there was a chap who didn’t faff about.

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The first couple of big buys can inform everything that follows: Dean Saunders never did it for Graeme Souness, nor Phil Babb for Roy Evans. But having said all that, neither should it be considered the be-all and end-all. Gerard Houllier is perhaps the best example of not rushing to judgement. Here’s his first tranche of signings: Jean Michel Ferri, Frode Kippe, Rigobert Song, Djimi Traore. Oh dear. But they all came in after Houllier took sole control mid-season – the plane, like Klopp’s now, in mid-air. And here’s who came in during the following summer, the jet grounded, everyone with time to piece the engine back together: Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz and Didi Hamann, plus cult heroes Vladimir Smicer and Titi Camara. That’s a decent window of work.

So will Klopp’s early purchases instantly signal a bright new future a la Shankly, Paisley and Benitez; highlight worrying deficiencies and blind spots in the manner of Souness, Evans and Rodgers; or send out confusing mixed messages like Houllier?

We’ll have half an idea once the January window shuts. But we’ll only know for sure in 2025.

Author: EuroSports

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