Excuse the pun, but Timo Werner’s decision to join Chelsea came out of the blue.
The RB Leipzig forward publicly flirted with the Reds on an almost constant basis; notably taking time to flutter his eyelashes at Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp — describing both the team and the coach as “the world’s best” — after the Bundesliga side — thanks to a penalty from Werner himself — defeated Spurs in the Champions League round of 16 first leg.
Then news began to circulate that the Leipzig number 11 — represented by Klopp’s childhood footballing hero, Karl-Heinz Forster — had been talking to his would-be coach over a video link and the feeling was that the German international would follow Naby Keita in making the switch from the Red Bull Arena to Anfield.
However, it would appear that the global pandemic had a bigger impact on Liverpool’s finances than previously anticipated and what seemed like a home and hosed deal to all and sundry fell by the wayside. Meanwhile, Chelsea — whose transfer piggybank was fattened by the funds generated by the sales of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata to both Madrid’s, Real and Atletico, as well as shedding the sizeable wages of Willian and Pedro from their payroll — had the financial wiggle room to pull the trigger and they activated the speedsters £53,000,000 release clause. Barring any late hitches, it looks as if Werner is now destined for Stamford Bridge.
Losing out on the 24-year-old — whose speed, versatility and schooling in the tactical crucible of the Red Bull footballing arm, where a similar style of football to that Klopp is adhered to zealously, made him an idyllic fit for the Reds — is clearly a body blow for Liverpool, but Klopp put missing out on his compatriots’s signature in context in a recent interview in his homeland.
Speaking to Sky Germany, the former Borussia Dortmund coach said:
“Discussing with the players about things like salary waivers and on the other hand buying a player for £50-60m, we have to explain.”
Dressing rooms are a fragile ecosystem, and there is the potential a well-renumerated signing, in the midst of financial cutbacks and wage deferrals — with Werner reportedly offered £200,000 a week at Chelsea — upsetting the harmony of the team and Klopp is aware of this.
The German manager has a choice: show his squad — the group of players who have won European, World and surely, when the season thaws from being placed in the Corona freezer, English medals — that he is loyal to them and will fight their financial corner or run the risk of alienating his key lieutenants in pursuit of big-money signings.
It looks as though Klopp has taken the former option — a move consistent with his loyal approach to man-management — and has focused his energies on what he has — which is a nod not only to the quality of his squad, but also to the capabilities of his and the Reds’ backroom staff’s coaching prowess — instead of whinging about what — or who — he does not have. After the Anfield side missing out on signing Virgil van Dijk in the summer of 2017, Klopp never publicly complained — and running the risk of denting the morale of his other defenders — and got on with his job before signing the Dutchman the following January.
Missing out on Werner is a loss to Liverpool — and surely a win for Chelsea — but fans can be reassured in the fact that they have the best manager in the world and a squad — who are poised to end a 30-year title drought, a fact that seems to have been lost in the maelstrom of disappointment that greeted the news of not signing the speedy German — who would go to the ends of the earth for him.
Man management is an art and Klopp is a master of the trade.