Belfast Telegraph

Jurgen Klopp is clear in his determination to keep stars at Anfield

By Simon Hughes

It has lain concealed somewhere inside Anfield or Melwood, squashed beneath the buttresses of the main stand, perhaps, or shoved to the very back of the desk of drawers in the manager's office.

It has been present for some time: a problem that would have remained had someone with considerable influence not been perceptive enough to recognise it was there.

Liverpool used to be a club that dispensed with players as soon as they showed signs of being on a downturn, but before anyone else really noticed. Since 2009 or 2010 it has been a club that players leave at their peak.

Last summer, when Raheem Sterling forced a departure, it became a club that loses its best long before their potential has even been realised.

Jürgen Klopp displayed the clearest sign that his mind is not consumed by denial after he was asked about his most exciting period at Borussia Dortmund.

This was before Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski left for the same national rival in successive summers, causing Bayern Munich to become stronger while simultaneously weakening the club Klopp had built.

He related the experience to the prospect of facing Manchester City and Sterling today, as well as the challenge of competing with them in the future.

"Always, the will of the player is very important," he began.

"I don't know anything about Sterling's story, but I know about similar stories. The only thing is how you react on this."

The key observation came next: "We have to try to become a club in the future that nobody wants to leave.

"Then we have the problems that we have to send some players because we have too much! That is ultimately what we have to do. And it's possible

"It is a long, long journey, but we have started it and we want to do this.

"We don't have to talk about the past and not with Sterling. He's a brilliant player, everybody knows this. Now he's at Manchester City. Now we close the book."

Finance is at the core of every issue at Liverpool, but so are vision and execution.

It is Liverpool's policy to spend generously on transfer fees, but not so much on wages, contributing to a distortion of the transfer market and creating a perception that the club sits in the biggest of big leagues financially even though it does not.

To a large extent the approach explains why Sterling was sold for £49m to City last summer while James Milner - the other player who will be facing his former club in this evening's game - arrived from City on a free.

Klopp confesses he could not imagine committing a sum such as the one that took Sterling away from Liverpool.

"If we want a player and that's the price, we have to think about it," he said.

"It's better you have players in your own squad that are worth £100m but don't want to leave, that's the best thing.

"Money is only one part of success. The rest is work. That is what we are doing.

"We don't think about Man City."

Belfast Telegraph


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