Liverpool have reportedly withdrawn from the race to sign England midfielder Jude Bellingham, according to reports on Tuesday evening.
Bellingham, 19, has been earmarked as Liverpool’s transformative signing this summer, with the club having opted not to sign another midfielder last year in order to wait for the prodigious teenager.
Now, though, in a briefing to all the Merseyside journalists, Liverpool are said to have withdrawn from the race to sign the player from Borussia Dortmund.
The Telegraph‘s Chris Bascombe is among those to report the news, saying that Liverpool have withdrawn due to “the prohibitive cost of a deal” – which would see an initial fee in excess of £115 million.
It is claimed that Jurgen Klopp is “fully on board with the decision” and that the manager wants summer business “completed as soon as possible.”
Earlier on Tuesday, it had been claimed by German reporters that Liverpool had submitted an offer to Dortmund.
Presumably, Liverpool’s later withdrawal is in response to Dortmund’s demands from that offer.
For Liverpool supporters, it’s both a bitter blow and not completely unexpected, with a feeling that the club and owners Fenway Sports Group would never go as far as what is needed to bring the player to the club.
This marks yet another example of the owners being risk averse, and using the excuse of no Champions League football as a reason for not financing the deal.
To rub further salt into the wounds, Bascombe claims that Man United have now joined Man City, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid in pursuit of Bellingham.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Merseyside reporter Dominic King writes that the priority now for Liverpool will be a “significant squad rebuild” – after what has been a disastrous campaign.
The irony is that most observers see the reason for this season’s failings being due to the inadequacy of Liverpool’s midfield, but the club and Klopp opted not to sign another midfielder last season, with the manager insisting then he was perplexed by the questions for signing a midfielder.
“Where is the need for a midfielder?” said Klopp last summer. “I wait for the day when somebody comes to me and tells me why, exactly.”
“Now you tell me what kind of player are we missing?” he said.
Those words have come back to haunt him, and will now be further lurking the manager after the Bellingham pursuit has seemingly ended in failure, the same way last summer’s pursuit of Aurelien Tchouameni ended.
Liverpool have been linked with a host of other midfielders, including Chelsea duo Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher, Wolves‘ Matheus Nunes, Fulham‘s Joao Palhinha, Brighton duo Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, and Bayern’s Ryan Gravenberch.
As ever, with the business of football and how clubs and agents use the media, there is an alternative theory that the optimist may theorise that this is an attempt by Liverpool to drive down the price for Bellingham – a negotiating tactic that worked previously for Alisson when the club briefed reporters that they could not afford the goalkeeper, days before agreeing a deal with Roma.