Matip, Wijnaldum & Mane Proving Klopp Should Be Trusted This Summer
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Many past Liverpool managers have experienced utterly disastrous summer transfer windows.
Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers all spectacularly failed to build on near title-winning seasons in 2001/02, 2008/09 and 2013/14, respectively, with dross such as El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao, Philipp Degen and Alberto Aquilani bought in.
Even Kenny Dalglish, for all his understandable God-like status at Anfield, decided to sign Jose Enrique, Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll.
When the end of Jurgen Klopp’s first season as Liverpool manager came to an end last May, attention immediately turned to his maiden summer of transfer business in England.
Marko Grujic had already been acquired in January but arrived at the end of the season, Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger were signed as squad players and Loris Karius was seen as an exciting purchase from Mainz.
The three names that caught the eye most, however, were Joel Matip, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane.
None were met with resounding positivity when they made their respective switches to Merseyside, with Matip arriving on free transfer from Schalke, and Wijnaldum and Mane seen as potential gambles who had thrived for far weaker Premier League sides than Liverpool.
So much was written and spoken on social media, podcasts, in articles and elsewhere about what seemed fairly uninspiring buys, but in typical Klopp fashion, he has been proven correct in his decision-making. Granted, the Reds’ trio are not yet a year into their Anfield careers – we have gone overboard about past players and looked foolish – but early evidence suggests Klopp played a blinder last summer.
Matip has come in and looked far and away the best centre-back at Liverpool’s disposal, spraying passes from defence, exuding class and elegance and adding an aerial presence so non-existent since Sami Hyypia’s departure in 2009. It hasn’t always been perfect, with some patchy form coming Matip’s way since returning from injury, but he is one the best defensive signings the club has made in years.
The 25-year-old needs a similarly dominant player alongside him from next season onwards, in order to forge Liverpool’s first top class centre-back pairing in nearly a decade.
Wijnaldum has recovered from a slightly forgettable start to become one of the most popular, likeable players on Merseyside, with his wide grin almost as heartwarming as the subtle, classy performances he has produced in the Reds’ engine room.
There is arguably not a more intelligent player at Klopp’s disposal, with every pass, tackle and movement throughly thought-out and effective.
The Dutch powerhouse is a very different player to the attack-minded one we saw score 11 goals for relegated Newcastle last season, with Klopp clearly bringing him in to do the more disciplined job he often thrived in at PSV Eindhoven.
While many were whinging about Liverpool “not needing another forward player”, Klopp knew exactly what role Wijnaldum would be playing, and he has been a superb signing.
Mane, meanwhile, has not just been the Reds’ star purchase of 2016, but also one of the best in the Premier League.
The Senegalese forward didn’t necessarily seem like the ideal, high-profile target last summer, but he has been magnificent from his goalscoring debut at Arsenal onwards. It has surprised many just how good Mane is, with his electrifying pace beautifully complimented by quick feet, good end product and a physical presence that doesn’t always get noticed.
He has scared the life out of almost every defence he has come up against, and for all the brilliance on their day of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, he is now Liverpool’s best and most important player.
Matip, Wijnaldum and Mane have all made Liverpool so much stronger as a team this season, and it is very encouraging moving into the summer.
Klopp nailed that transfer window, on the whole – Karius will come good, but his first season has been far more shaky than the majority predicted – and it suggests the approaching months will be equally productive.
As was the case this time last year, we all have our favourites that we want the manager to bring in, from Virgil van Dijk at the back, Leandro Paredes in midfield through to Julian Brandt and Alexandre Lacazette in attack, but we should trust Klopp in everything he does.
Improvements are needed all over the pitch, and the manager will know that more than anyone.
It wouldn’t be a shock if he decided against buying a new goalkeeper – my personal opinion is that Karius will be first-choice next season, with Simon Mignolet potentially leaving and Danny Ward coming in as back-up – but a left-back, centre-back, central midfielder, wide forward and ruthless striker must all come in.
The squad needs bolstering, so it is unlikely that too many players will be shipped off, but Alberto Moreno, Lucas Leiva and Daniel Sturridge’s days look numbered.
As football lovers, we will spend the spring making all sorts of predictions and wishes about who Klopp will go for before August, but there is every chance we will be wasting our breath.
Who predicted Mane and Wijnaldum would join the Reds at this point in 2016? Be honest.
Feel free to react with surprise or anger when certain players arrive that you may not rate, but fully expect Klopp to prove plenty of you wrong in the long-term. He has so far when it comes to transfers.
The 49-year-old made three superb signings in his first summer in the Anfield hot-seat – he will get the majority of his new arrivals spot on as well.