Jürgen Klopp knows that squad depth is a double-edged sword. It allowed Liverpool to compete on four fronts last season, winning two trophies. But it also proved impossible to keep everyone satisfied: the manager spoke of having to keep ‘Ferraris in the garage’. With Takumi Minamino joining Divock Origi in departing the club this summer, it is clear that this was not sustainable.
It was perhaps no coincidence that Liverpool faced off against Chelsea in both of those domestic cup final triumphs. Thomas Tuchel runs Klopp close when it comes to depth, particularly in attacking areas. And yet under new owner Todd Boehly, the London club reportedly want to swell the ranks further, with Raheem Sterling a major transfer target.
There are plenty of reasons that the deal would make sense. For Boehly, it would be a nice little coup as his first signing at the helm, lifting an elite player from a direct league rival. Sterling is also not only homegrown but a London native, adding to the appeal. With only a year left on his Manchester City contract, even the transfer fee should not prove to be too steep — the wages would more than likely preclude Liverpool from considering a shock reunion, but Chelsea routinely stomach such outlays.
But Sterling, who has struggled to become the main man at Man City, would be walking into a similar situation at Chelsea as things stand. The former Liverpool youngster would expect to start most weeks, but there would be no shortage of competition if he did go off the boil: the likes of Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner were both sizeable recent investments in their own right, and are fighting for spots on the wing.
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Then there is Callum Hudson-Odoi, the academy prospect whose first-team status has waxed and waned over the past few seasons. Injuries have not been kind, but even since his latest return he has found himself more on the periphery than he would like. Nonetheless, his talent is indisputable.
Were Sterling to be added to the mix at Stamford Bridge, it seems clear that at least one of these attackers would have to go. Otherwise, Tuchel would not be able to balance the interests of the potential new signing with those of the existing crop, and Chelsea’s assets would simply depreciate until they were finally granted a cut-price move, or else ran down their contracts. For a club heavily reliant on player sales, this could not be allowed to happen.
This is where Klopp could come in. Werner has been of interest to Liverpool before, but the team has likely evolved beyond him. The addition of Darwin Núñez was the final nail in this coffin. However, while there may not be a gap for a striker-turned-winger, FSG could still do with another out-and-out wide player.
Like Werner, Pulisic is a player who has been on the Liverpool radar in the past. This is hardly surprising: the USA poster boy has obvious appeal to FSG (although by the same token, Boehly will want to hold onto him). Then there is the Klopp link — he left Borussia Dortmund shortly before the young winger arrived, but the manager will have kept a close eye on his progress at his former club.
Ultimately joining Chelsea for £57.6m in January 2019 (with a six-month loan back to Dortmund), Pulisic has blown hot and cold. But he has not exactly been given the environment in which to thrive. A tally of six Premier League goals and two assists last season looks poor, but Tuchel only gave him the equivalent of just under 13 full games in terms of minutes played.
Even as a squad player, he would probably get more time than that at Liverpool. Then there would be the prospect of eventually taking up a slot in the long-term front three, with an obvious gap set to open up should Mohamed Salah not renew his deal. Pulisic prefers the left flank, but has experience across the front line. Still just 23, he could be moulded into the role Klopp wants him to play.
Already, he has plenty of the right qualities. A voracious presser and not overly reliant on his stronger foot, it does not take a huge stretch of the imagination to see him slotting into the front line. If Sterling starts a domino effect, Pulisic could be a shrewd acquisition.
Then there is Hudson-Odoi. The only one of the Chelsea trio never to have been heavily linked to Liverpool, he is nonetheless an interesting prospect. There is a reason Bayern Munich lodged a £70m bid in 2020.
Of the £121.6m duo, Pulisic is perhaps the more obvious fit for Liverpool. And Hudson-Odoi’s price has undoubtedly come down a lot since that Bayern bid, with injuries and stop-start form significantly reducing his value. But he is still only 21 years old: the raw potential is clear, and Klopp could well be tempted to work with it.
The one major stumbling block is that Liverpool are supposedly done with their summer business. But FSG have always been open to an opportunistic move: if Chelsea pounce for Sterling, Klopp could in turn be treated to an extra exciting attacker. With Origi and Minamino gone and Salah’s future uncertain, another ‘Ferrari’ might not be the worst idea.
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