Transfer rumours emerging have once more brought home the fact that Liverpool must stay within Premier League squad guidelines – and homegrown numbers could be an issue.
The club have taken steps toward coping with this better in the future, with players such as Harvey Elliott having enormous promise, Curtis Jones breaking through into the first-team set-up, and so on.
But not every transfer pans out, young players’ careers don’t always go to plan and sometimes Liverpool perhaps have to miss out on a deal or two because the non-homegrown quota is full – we can only name 17 in the squad each season.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at a full dozen players who could be good fits over the next season or two, in a variety of roles and at a range of prices. Any one of them might prove a useful, if uninspiring, addition to Jurgen Klopp‘s squad…or, as we get further down the list, prove to be the next pillar of the side to build around.
The squad options
Don’t feel bad if you’re not overwhelmed by the early choices – these are players likely to move or out of favour, who wouldn’t necessarily be first-choice for the Reds but could fill a void in the squad.
Joe Willock is contracted to Arsenal, but Mikel Arteta seems intent on ignoring his quality in favour of his other inconsistent attackers and a load of loan options.
He thrived with Newcastle in the second half of last season as a hard-working, attack-minded central midfielder; not the class or tactical awareness to be a starter for Jurgen, but if any of our squad midfielders were to depart this summer he would be far from the worst addition possible.
At full-back, there’s a case to be made for signing someone who can play both sides of defence rather than just one and be back-up all year long, as neither Trent nor Robbo are likely to sit out too much. Kieran Trippier is an older and less-likely option, seeming set to leave Atletico Madrid, but Ola Aina makes sense as an alternative.
He played well – consistently, showing versatility – for Fulham last year on loan from Torino, where he’s likely to leave this summer. A former Chelsea youth player, he’s able to play wing-back, in midfield and centre-back in a three, too.
Expensive but potentially excellent
Onto the next group of players, the crop who are first-team ready (depending on your view of their level of ability) but thus come with a hefty price tag.
This bunch of players waver between absolute guaranteed starters for their clubs and being capable of starting, but being out of favour under the current management.
Harvey Barnes is an excellent attacking midfield option at Leicester, a real goalscorer with pace and versatility to his game, while Dele Alli offers a final-third threat from a central area – if you can help him rediscover the parts of his game which have looked lost for the past 18 months.
Raheem Sterling has been linked with a move away from Man City after falling out of favour, but added a huge amount to his reputation with his summer performances for England. Is there too much history there with Liverpool and his departure all those years ago for fans to want him back at Anfield? Perhaps so.
Finally, two strikers have shown against the Reds previously that they can cause real damage, albeit in a manner we’re unused to seeing from No9s under Klopp.
Ollie Watkins offers a pacy, direct threat who can play centrally or from the left, while Tammy Abraham is a more classic striker who would offer a totally different alternative – without lacking the ability to press and work hard, and be further developed over time.
All assuming, of course, the Reds could convince any of these domestic rivals to part with a player to strengthen Klopp’s squad, which is easier said than done.
Younger stars to start for years to come
There is a group of players who could become the bedrock of the next great iteration of Liverpool, should they be signed, while also playing a starring role for the national team for years to come, such is their talent. Some are already there.
These are not players who will be on the move this season, but next summer (or 2023) should still see them nowhere near the peak of their powers and potentially on the move by that point.
Declan Rice has been vaguely linked with the Reds in the past and would be an almighty addition in the centre – if the transfer powers at the club were convinced of his ability to dominate the centre of the park at the highest level, and thus forked out the £70m or so likely to be needed to sign him.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is maybe the player most likely to leave soonest out of the group, as he has been in and out under Thomas Tuchel and was reportedly close to leaving Chelsea previously – and it’s known the Reds have long-standing interest from before he signed his extension last year.
Bukayo Saka sadly (for his admirers) opted to renew with Arsenal and it would take a while, it can be imagined, for him to want to move on to a higher level after coming through the Academy there. He’s an outrageous talent, versatile and consistent, and if the Gunners continue to underachieve over the next season or so then there’s every chance he might push for a Champions League move.
And, finally, the probable jewel in the future crown.
Jude Bellingham is already making waves with Borussia Dortmund and there’s every likelihood he’ll be as expensive when he moves as Jadon Sancho has proven to be this summer. But he also looks worth every penny already – and this still as a teenager learning his trade. Expensive, sure. Long-term transfer target, undoubtedly. But also a certain success story at the heart of whichever team he plays for.
There are always others, at every level. Ainsley Maitland-Niles might have admirers for his versatility and work rate, Emile Smith Rowe hasn’t yet signed a new contract, James Maddison’s set-pieces and creativity are admired, Kelechi Iheanacho is possessed of rare finishing ability, Ezri Konsa could well be England’s best centre-back-in-waiting and James Justin was last season better than any full-back not named Trent Alexander-Arnold, up until his injury.
A world of players could be signed by the Reds in future, but some have to be homegrown. The good news is, there’s no reason for the level of quality to be lessened when we eventually make those moves.