What Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool team could have looked like by now in a parallel universe

What Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool team could have looked like by now in a parallel universe

Liverpool Echo Sports·2020-04-05 15:00

From what would widely be deemed Jürgen Klopp's strongest possible XI from the current Liverpool squad, only four players were already at the club when he arrived in October 2015. Joe Gomez and Roberto Firmino had arrived during Brendan Rodgers' reign, Trent Alexander-Arnold had yet to make the transition from academy to first team level, while Jordan Henderson had joined under Kenny Dalglish in 2011.That quartet aside, Klopp has built up this Liverpool team with a combination of astute under-the-radar bargains, calculated gambles on players full of potential but not yet in the top bracket, and a handful of mega money transformative acquisitions.While the current vintage is now brimming with world class talent in virtually every single position across the pitch, it's easy to forget how several of them weren't necessarily first choice targets at the time they were signed, which seems somewhat bizarre in retrospect given what they've gone on to achieve.The 4-3-3 system Klopp has ended up settling on as his tactical blueprint is a product of the individuals he has acquired, and tailored to maximise their specific strengths, but the evolution of this Liverpool team could so easily have followed a very different course.Here, we've pieced together how it might have looked had Liverpool actually signed many of the players they'd previously been strongly linked with under Klopp.How Liverpool might have looked if Klopp had signed many of his first choice targets.Goalkeeper Danny WardNo, seriously. There was a point in July 2018 after the whole Loris Karius fiasco whereby it was reported that Klopp was seriously considering giving Ward the chance to establish himself as Liverpool's new No.1 ahead of the new season after impressing on loan at Huddersfield Town under David Wagner.With the amount of money AS Roma were asking for Alisson Becker initially regarded as unrealistic, it seemed far from a certainty at the time that Liverpool would actually spend big on a new goalkeeper, before they paid a world record fee in doing so, forcing Chelsea to break it only a few days later on Kepa Arrizabalaga.It's impossible to say how Ward might have performed had he been handed that opportunity, but after spending the entirety of the current season sat on Leicester City's bench, and with Alisson firmly established as the best on the planet, it's fair to say Liverpool got it spot on.Right back Trent Alexander-ArnoldIt tends to be forgotten how Alexander-Arnold's breakthrough initially came out of necessity due to Nathaniel Clyne suffering a long-term back injury, which meant he was thrown into action from the start of the 2017/18 campaign. Given what we know now, it's fair to assume he'd have forced his way into Klopp's plans at some stage regardless, cementing himself as a mainstay of the team for many years to come.Read MoreRelated ArticlesRead MoreRelated ArticlesCentre backs Kalidou Koulibaly and Joël MatipOne of the most significant decisions of Klopp's tenure was to not compromise on an alternative centre-back in the summer of 2017 when the move to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton collapsed in embarrassing fashion. He ended up waiting a few months longer to get his man, and that patience has since paid off big time, but had he decided to buy a different centre-back instead, Koulibaly was one of the most prominent names touted as a potential option.Liverpool, of course, have seen Koulibaly's brilliance first-hand on numerous occasions in the Champions League over the past couple of seasons, and there's a strong case to argue he's right up there among the very best in the world after Van Dijk. Matip, meanwhile, was one of Klopp's earliest pieces of business, and might have retained his starting place in the side had injuries not knocked him off his stride and allowed Gomez to come back in and forge such an imperious partnership with Van Dijk in his absence.Left-back Ben ChilwellLiverpool had made an unsuccessful move for Ben Chilwell the year before they signed Andy Robertson. (Image: Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)Liverpool ended up securing one of their greatest ever bargains when they paid Hull City £8m for Andy Robertson in July 2017, but the Scot wasn't actually a first-choice target for Klopp all along. The previous summer, Liverpool had lodged a £7m for Leicester City's Ben Chilwell, who had yet to break into the first team ahead of Christian Fuchs at the time, but was widely regarded as a player with huge potential for the future.The Foxes weren't interested in cashing in on one of their most prized assets, though, so Klopp converted James Milner into an auxiliary left-back for the duration of the 2016/17 campaign after losing faith in Alberto Moreno, and ended up signing Robertson a year later instead. It didn't work out too badly in the end.Deep-lying midfielder Mahmoud DahoudLiverpool had been widely reported as holding strong interest in Borussia Mönchengladbach's Mahmoud Dahoud in the summer of 2016, with Klopp viewing the German youngster as an ideal option to help revamp Liverpool's midfield, an area which was in urgent need of bolstering, particularly given Jordan Henderson's persistent struggles with various foot injuries at the time. As it happened, a deal never quite came to fruition, and Dahoud ended up joining Klopp's former club for a cut-price 12m the following summer, and is now very much a squad player as opposed to a regular starter at Borussia Dortmund. Had he become a Liverpool player and thrived, though, who knows whether we'd have the current incarnation of Henderson, or whether Fabinho would ever have been signed from AS Monaco at all.Read MoreRelated ArticlesRead MoreRelated ArticlesNumber eights Piotr Zielinski and Mario GötzeIn the 2016 summer transfer window, Götze was the marquee name constantly being linked with Liverpool after falling out of favour at Bayern Munich, with persistent talk about a potential reunion with Klopp the manager who'd overseen his rise to stardom at Dortmund and made him a central component of his two-time title-winning side. Götze, though, was said to be unwilling to make a decision about his future until after Euro 2016, and eventually ended up returning to Dortmund later that summer.Remarkably, it was only after it became apparent that Götze wouldn't be arriving that Liverpool turned their attentions towards Sadio Mané, who was seen by many as a significant risk at the time for £34m. Although completely different types of players, it's quite possible that had Liverpool been successful in their pursuit of Götze, Mané might not have arrived. Could Klopp have converted him into an all-action central midfielder as he has done with Lallana and Wijnaldum? Potentially.As for Zielinski, the Poland international had been viewed as another primary target earlier in the 2016 summer window, and was even pictured wearing a Liverpool shirt while still at Udinese before Liverpool made their move with an £11.75m bid. Udinese rejected it, though, and accepted the same-sized offer from Napoli, which then prompted Liverpool to move on to Wijnaldum as a direct alternative, whom Klopp would convert from a mercurial goalscoring No.10 into one of Europe's most complete box-to-box midfielders in years to come.Attacking midfielder Julian BrandtJulian Brandt had been a primary target for Jürgen Klopp before Liverpool ended up signing Mohamed Salah. (Image: Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)Another one of those ones which really makes you wonder "what if", Klopp originally had his sights set on signing Brandt in the summer of 2017, but with the German winger reportedly holding reservations about potentially seeing his game time reduced ahead of a World Cup year, he opted to remain at Bayer Leverkusen.Meanwhile, with some persistent persuasion from Michael Edwards and Liverpool's scouting team, Klopp was convinced to go for Mohamed Salah instead, signing the Egyptian from Roma for what now looks like a ludicrously cheap £36.9m.Brandt ended up playing another two seasons at Leverkusen, transitioning from a predominantly left-sided wide attacker into more of a central playmaker in the 2018/19 season, before Dortmund activated a 25 million release clause to sign him last summer. Given just how much Mané and Salah have come to define this Liverpool team, it's extraordinary to think that Götze and Brandt could have been signed instead had Klopp successfully acquired his primary targets.Read MoreRelated ArticlesRead MoreRelated ArticlesCentre forwards Alex Teixeira and Roberto FirminoIn Klopp's very first transfer window as Liverpool manager, a £24.6m bid for Teixeira was one of those moves which came totally out of the blue with no prior speculation whatsoever. The Brazilian had been prolific for several seasons at Shakhtar Donetsk, and the prospect of him linking up with Firmino and Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool seemed an enticing one.Teixeira openly admitted he wanted to join, too, but with Shakhtar stubbornly holding out for closer to £40m, Klopp reportedly pulled the plug as he felt Liverpool were effectively being ripped off by the Ukrainian club. Chinese Super League outfit Jiangsu Suning then swooped in and paid the asking price, and Teixeira has plied his trade in China ever since, scoring 63 goals in 133 games.We'll never know what kind of impact Teixeira might have made in a Liverpool shirt, or where Klopp might have deployed him, but as for Firmino, it's safe to say he was one of the players Klopp immediately hung his hat on when he first arrived having seen during his time in Germany what a gem Liverpool had bought themselves from Hoffenheim. However Liverpool might've evolved had circumstances around certain transfer targets unfolded differently, Firmino was always going to be an integral part of Klopp's project.

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