Leaving Liverpool: The pitfalls to avoid

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Liverpool’s history over the last 50 years or so has been very exciting. Bill Shankly lifted them to the top, with Bob Paisley ready to take on the burden and preserve the legend and reach even greater heights. Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish managed to maintain their status as one of the best clubs on the planet, but the aftermath of the Heysel and especially Hillsborough disasters was hard to cope with, and a steady decline began from the early 1990s.

There were signs, especially under Gerard Houlier and Rafa Benitez, that the club could once again be destined for the top. The infamous Hicks and Gillet era did them significant damage, repaired to a small degree when Dalglish returned for his second inning and led the team to the 2012 League Cup. Brendan Rodgers was close to delivering the league title for the first time in 24 years in 2014, but that’s not how it should be.

It was eventually the arrival of Jurgen Klopp that did it, and Liverpool won the 2019 Champions League, followed by the long-awaited Premier League title in 2020.

But for a long time, even after Klopp came in to take power and a bright future appeared on the horizon, their most talented players at the club looked like a stepping stone seeking to leave when the really best came on the field. The near-success of 2013-14 was completely displaced when Luis Suarez forced a move to Barcelona that summer. A year later, Raheem left Sterling in a similar fashion to join Manchester City.

But since Klopp took over, there were three players the club wanted to keep who still felt the need to leave and forced themselves out. They do not appear to have acknowledged in time that Liverpool were on the rise.

Philippe coutinho

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The man of the moment, one can almost say, due to the fact that he has just come to Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona for the rest of the season, and Villa have the opportunity to make the deal permanent for € 40 million in the summer. At Villa Park, he will once again be working with Steven Gerrard, the man who was his captain for two and a half years at Anfield.

The summer of 2017 was a tough one for Merseysiders, especially in the end, and Coutinho was the reason. About 24 hours before his team was to go on the pitch and begin their Premier League campaign, the Brazilian shocked them all by handing over a transfer request in which Barcelona made no secret of their interest. However, the uncertainty was short-lived when Fenway Sports Group, club owners, stepped in and decisively stated that Coutinho would remain a Liverpool player once the window is closed. That was actually what happened.

Of course, the speculation did not support, but continued to grow, this time pointing to January as the moment when the ‘magician’ could leave Anfield. At first it did not seem likely, but in November of the same year, the first reasonably reliable reports began to emerge about the club’s softening.

Eventually an offer came which the club was prepared to consider, and about a week after the arrival of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton was confirmed, they announced that Coutinho was to join Barcelona. The fee, along with the additions, was reportedly € 160 million.

We have all seen what happened after. Liverpool wisely reinvested the money and picked up goalkeeper Alisson Becker from AS Roma and midfielder Fabinho from AS Monaco this summer, after reaching the Champions League final and securing a place in the competition for the following season. They never looked back, and their approach, as well as Klopp’s belief that the remaining players along with the newcomers paid off greatly.

Meanwhile, Coutinho said he had come to Barcelona to win the Champions League. Ironically, his team was famously ousted by Liverpool in the semi-finals in 2019, and not only won the Liverpool Champions League without him, but he even later left Barcelona to spend a year on loan at Bayern Munich – and won the Champions League there.

The fact that Coutinho was sent (or allowed) to leave then, as well as now again, says a lot about his time and contribution to the Catalan club. He was brought in to be the immediate replacement for Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, and later to develop into a natural successor to Andres Iniesta in midfield. He proved neither in the end. In fact, he turned out to have been the biggest mistake, at least financially, that any club has ever made in the transfer market.

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Now he is back in the Premier League and there is no doubt that he will benefit from the fact that Gerrard knows him and his talents well. It will take time for him to adapt to the pace of the English top class, but he will probably get there and prove to be an important part of the team.

But it still will not be what he wanted. With all due respect to Villa, it’s hard to imagine them having to fight seriously for the biggest trophies out there at some point, and at 29, it’s not like Coutinho can afford to wait too long.

Coutinho was the leading man before leaving Liverpool. Klopp himself said after telling Coutinho that the club would build him a statue outside Anfield if he stayed, and if he left, he would just be another number in Barcelona, ​​and no more. Klopp was clearly ready to build his team and base his game around the Brazilian playmaker, but that was clearly not enough to make Coutinho see the mistake he was making.

It was said for a while that Coutinho would happily have returned to Liverpool when his fate at Camp Nou became clear.

But Liverpool had by then gone further. They no longer needed him; they do not need him now.

Emre Can

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Throughout the 2017-18 season, stories surfaced about the talks between Liverpool and Emre Can over a new contract, which repeatedly failed to reach agreement. The German midfielder insisted he was not looking for money, and although players often say that even when it’s clearly clear, let’s take a moment to assume it was true. So what was the reason why he turned down the offer and eventually left as a free agent?

The explanation that seems most likely, apart from money problems, is that he may have asked for a more prominent role in the team; a guaranteed starting spot or something along those lines. That would have been something Klopp would resolutely refuse to give. As any successful manager in the modern game does, Klopp demands that his players earn the minutes they crave. The result – Can made is the last appearance in the Liverpool shirt as a replacement in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev, and came to Juventus as a free agent right after.

The first season in Turin did not look bad for the player, who was still only 24 at the time. He played 29 Serie A matches, 20 of which as a member of the starting XI, and it seemed for a while that he had received from Juventus what he wanted Liverpool to give him.

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The following campaign, however, saw him lose his place on the team, and he started only twice in the first half of the campaign, and he was completely left out of the squad for the group stage of the Champions League. Apparently unhappy with the situation, he traveled to be leased with Borussia Dortmund for the remainder of 2019-20, and the deal was confirmed as permanent for a reported fee of € 25 million the following summer.

It seems that he has finally found his level in Dortmund, a team that usually looks in from the outside when Bayern Munich wins the Bundesliga title year after year, and it may be that he has finally learned that a professional top player can not afford not to be willing. to fight for his place under the sun, to work hard to prove any coach who doubts him or rates others higher wrong. Liverpool was never the problem.

Georginio wijnaldum

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The story of Georginio Wijnaldum is similar to the story of Emre Can, but only up to a point. The midfielder was still on his original five-year contract, which he signed on arrival in Newcastle in 2016, when negotiations for a new deal began. When he was 30 at the time, he probably wanted one really big contract in his career, one that would reflect his undoubtedly huge contribution to everything Liverpool have achieved under Klopp.

The months passed slowly, however, the day when Wijnaldum would become a free agent approached, and the two sides of the negotiations did not seem to be closer to reaching an agreement. Barcelona were again involved, hovering around, waiting to snatch the Dutchman away with an already prepared lucrative offer. When that day came, reports indicated that Wijnaldum had accepted the terms and was undergoing a medical examination prior to signing, but money is a dangerous way to attract someone, especially if you are not the biggest beast in the jungle.

It was PSG who again thwarted Barcelona’s plans, stepped in at eleven o’clock and reportedly doubled Barcleona’s offer to Wijnaldum. So eventually he went to the French capital instead.

But like Coutinho before him, Wijnaldum did not find everything he imagined it would be in his new club. It did not take long for him to openly admit that he was not happy. There were even reports that some of his new teammates, mostly South Americans, refused to send the ball to him during training, believing he was taking over the role of Leandro Paredes, their friend and apparently a popular figure in the locker room. If so, no self-respecting professional footballer would be happy there.

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According to Sky Sports, Wijnaldum is now keen to follow in Coutinho’s footsteps and return to the Premier League on loan. His contract with PSG has two and a half years left, and it is still unknown whether there will be a suitable offer this month. It would probably do him good to get away from the Parc des Princes for a while and try to get his head back in the right way.

There have been others who left Liverpool during the Klopp era, but these three, Coutinho, Can and Wijnaldum, were undoubtedly the only ones who had an important role to play, but for some reason they did not. And given where their respective careers have led them since, a simple conclusion writes itself here.

They all made a mistake when they left Liverpool.



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