EXCLUSIVE: James Pearce on Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge

Michael Mongie had a chat with The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce about Jürgen Klopp’s transfer plans and the future of various players at the club.

Liverpool finished fourth in the Premier League for the 2016/17 season, amassing 76 points and beating Arsenal to a place in the Champions League spot. To say that the season was a success would be an understatement but there are various things that now need dealing with.

For starters, Liverpool’s transfer business is all that anyone on social media can think about with the 2017/18 season one of massive importance for the Reds.

Klopp and his coaching staff will be bringing new talent into the club but there are a few players within the current squad whose futures are shrouded in doubt.

To provide clarity on a variety of topics, I contacted Liverpool Echo reporter James Pearce and he was only too willing to help out.

There have been mixed reports recently, but do you think Liverpool can beat Chelsea and Manchester City to Virgil Van Dijk’s signature despite not boasting similar spending power?

Raphinha, Coutinho and Tielemans: The signings Liverpool could make this summer

Klopp wants Van Dijk and Liverpool are prepared to back him financially and shatter their transfer record to make that deal happen. I think it will come down to what the player himself wants. He’s got a lot of top clubs battling to secure his services. Qualifying for the Champions League certainly boosts Liverpool’s chances but it’s still unclear where Van Dijk will be heading.

Daniel Sturridge was absolutely brilliant against West Ham and was a creative outlet against Boro. Do you think he still has a future at the club and is it a case of him accepting a squad role in light of his injury record?

It’s a real dilemma for Klopp. Sturridge’s quality is beyond doubt but he just doesn’t play enough football. His injury record is a nightmare for the manager because you just can’t count on him.

There is a case to be made that Liverpool should keep him as a squad player and almost treat his availability as a bonus. But £150,000 per week is a lot to be paying a squad player. Also, I’m not sure Sturridge will want to stay if he’s not going to be a regular.

I think much will depend on what offers come in for him. There could well be a deal on the table that suits all parties. Putting a value on Sturridge is tough. When fit, he’s a £50 million striker but Liverpool would be lucky to get half that for him.

Is Mohamed Salah really a Liverpool target or is that just paper talk?

Salah is a target and Liverpool’s interest in him goes back beyond Klopp’s reign. Rodgers wanted to sign him from Basel in January 2014 but Chelsea came in with a higher offer and took him to Stamford Bridge instead.

He’s had a fine season for Roma and  Klopp is desperate to add another winger, knowing that Liverpool just weren’t the same side when they were without Mané last term.

Philippe Coutinho was really impressive as a number eight against West Ham and Middlesbrough. Next season, would he only play as a creative midfielder against teams that park the bus and or would Klopp revert to his favoured 4-3-3 against the ‘top-six’ and how does this impact on Sadio Mané’s role in the team in a 4-4-2 diamond?

It worked well playing Coutinho in the middle where he could have a greater influence on matches. Klopp believes Coutinho could flourish in a central midfield role in both a 4-4-2 diamond and in a 4-3-3. He could even play a 4-4-2 diamond with Mané as one of the two up front but I can’t see that becoming a regular thing.  I still think he’ll play his favoured 4-3-3 against the big teams.

I think this is a question many fans want an answer to: is Jürgen Klopp looking at signing a new left back that can come straight into the side and make a difference?

He certainly wanted gifted teenager Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham and it would be a blow if they lost out to Spurs in the battle to sign him.

However, it might lead to Klopp buying a more established left-back to compete with Milner from the start of next season.

After 10 years at Liverpool, do you think Lucas will leave this summer?

Lucas has been on the brink of leaving for the past three years and each time he’s ended up staying put. I wouldn’t like to predict at this stage what will happen as he enters the final year of his contract.

Effectively, it will come down to whether he’s happy being a squad player next season and what offers he has on the table.

I hope he stays as his experience in a young squad is invaluable but after the service he’s given LFC he’s earned the right to take his time and see what other opportunities are around for him.

Jordan Henderson has struggled a lot in the last few years with foot injuries, do you think his captaincy and place in the side are at risk? Given the form that Emre Can has displayed and the likelihood of a new midfielder coming in, are these valid concerns?

It’s been a tough two seasons for Henderson but I still believe he’s key to Liverpool’s future.

He should be fully fit and firing for the start of pre-season. He commands the respect of the dressing room and should retain the captaincy.

Yes, he missed a lot of football last season but he also made 24 Premier League starts and made a huge contribution to that top-four mission. The manner in which he adjusted to that defensive midfield role was very impressive.

Klopp has pretty much stated outright that Liverpool’s transfer business is already close to done. How much of a difference does it make for a squad to have all inbound transfer business done very early on?

I think what Klopp was trying to say was that Liverpool had already pinpointed who they wanted to go after. He didn’t mean that they were on the brink of completing deals.

Of course, it’s important to get business done early but sometimes it’s just not realistic as players and clubs want to see what other offers come in. Klopp wants the signings in for the start of pre-season on July 5 so whether deals get done on June 1 or July 1 doesn’t really matter.

Divock Origi is a player that has frustrated many Liverpool fans with his inconsistency and inability to lead the line alone. How do you see his future shaping up, especially if Klopp signs a new forward and keeps Sturridge this summer?

I think Origi should stay. Yes, he can be frustrating at times but he’s still got tons of potential.

Liverpool need greater strength in depth and selling the Belgian this summer wouldn’t make any sense to me.

There has been a lot of talk about Liverpool being able to spend over £100 million this transfer window, how important is it, however, that Klopp keeps as many players as he can in order to boost the squad’s depth?

It’s crucial. Obviously, the likes of Sakho, Markovic, Wisdom, Moreno etc will be sold off but there won’t be a major clearout. Liverpool showed last season they have a team capable of beating anyone. The issues came when they were missing a few players.

Lastly, how important is it for Liverpool to be back in the Champions League? Not necessarily with regards to transfers, but in relation to the club’s history, is the Champions League the minimum requirement for a club of Liverpool’s stature?

It’s massive on a number of fronts. So much of the club’s history has been founded on continental glory. It’s about prestige and tradition, and it’s also about hard cash with the riches on offer from the Champions League. Getting back to that level is a big step forward under Klopp. Now they have to ensure it’s a launchpad for trophies.

Thank you, James, for helping out with this interview! Enjoy your time off!

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