Liverpool correspondent – and constant source of reliable information – James Pearce conducted a live Q&A earlier today on the ECHO live blog.
The Liverpool ECHO’s full-time Liverpool correspondent both home and away, James Pearce, conducted a live Q&A earlier today to answer fans questions on transfers, pre-season, injury updates and all other things generally to do with Liverpool Football Club.
Transfers: Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keïta, left-backs and no striker
Pearce reiterated his belief in his Q&A that he does not expect Liverpool to sign a striker in the coming summer window.
The ECHO’s leading source of information was asked whether he has heard of any alternatives to Monaco striker Kylian Mbappé, responding simply “there is no alternative to Mbappé.
That was always a long shot and with him seemingly out of reach, Klopp is happy to push on with the striking options he’s already got.”
Pearce then was quick to dispel any links with Lyon hitman Alexandre Lacazette and China-bound forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, revealing the links are “just gossip.”
Pearce also added his thoughts on a left-back alternative after Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon extended his contract, snubbing interest from the Reds and Spurs.
Pearce believes that Sessegnon’s new deal “increases the chances of Liverpool going for Robertson at Hull City. Buying a left-back is nailed on, as long as Moreno accepts that he needs to move on.”
Now onto the part you’ve probably all been waiting for. Updates on £140m pair, Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keïta.
Encouragingly, Pearce starts off with his belief that with both players, it’s “not a question of money,” and that “there will be a time when Liverpool have to look elsewhere but I don’t believe they have reached that stage yet.”
I’ll start individually with his comments on Naby Keïta.
Pearce believes that there is a realistic chance of Liverpool signing the midfielder but only if he attempts to force through a move.
Pearce was adamant that Leipzig are still not looking to entertain the thought of losing their key man but if the Guinean were to be unhappy with that by the time he returns for pre-season training, then the German club could “be forced to re-assess,” their situation.
Interestingly, when asked if Oxlade-Chamberlain is viewed as a backup for the Bundesliga midfielder, Pearce wasn’t so sure. Pearce claims that “Liverpool have interest in both and getting Keita wouldn’t necessarily mean they don’t pursue Oxlade-Chamberlain.”
However, Pearce certainly had his doubts over ‘the Ox’ making the switch to Merseyside this summer due to a lack of “guarantees over game time.”
The 23-year old has struggled to break into the Arsenal first team consistently and Pearce believes he would find it just as difficult at Liverpool – something I’m inclined to believe with.
Finally, Pearce talks van Dijk.
Pearce believes that the difficulty in signing the Dutch centre-back is “not a case of FSG telling Klopp that signing Van Dijk is unlikely, the manager will know that himself given what’s gone on.”
He also claims that Southampton were already “unwilling” to sell van Dijk to Liverpool prior to the whole ‘tapping up’ fiasco and that those events only served to make the situation more difficult.
Pearce’s alternative to van Dijk? He’d “offer £60m for Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli.”
Pre-Season: Injury updates, Mohamed Salah and youngsters
In a refreshing break from transfer news, Pearce was asked numerous questions about Liverpool’s upcoming pre-season and which players we can expect to see back from injury.
Positively, key first team pair Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane “are both fit after missing the end of last season due to injury.”
Meanwhile, striker Danny Ings – remember him? – is “on the comeback trail but will be eased back in gently over the course of pre-season. He certainly won’t be facing the same kind of gruelling fitness schedule as some of his teammates.”
Pearce adds he’d be very surprised to see Ings in a Liverpool shirt until the “latter part of pre-season” and that “where he stands next season will depend on Klopp’s assessment of him.”
The ECHO’s correspondent also gave updates on when certain players will return for duty, with the “first wave” due back on July 5 and others – like Mohamed Salah – joining them a week later. The Egyptian should be available for Liverpool’s tour of Hong Kong.
Moving onto youth, Pearce was confident that Klopp would take his time on assessing the Reds young talents before making any decisions on their futures stating: “It’s possible Ojo could be loaned out later in the window but I can’t see it happening anytime soon.
Klopp wants to have a close look at players like Ojo, Wilson and Kent in pre-season.”
Pearce also predicted big things for Trent Alexander-Arnold this campaign and backed the 18 year old to give Nathaniel Clyne a solid run for his money in the right back position.
“I think that’s going to be a fascinating battle this season,” said Pearce.
“I thought Clyne was pretty average for spells last season, considering the positions he gets into he doesn’t provide enough of a threat in the final third. Alexander-Arnold is such an exciting talent and will be seriously challenging for a starting spot.”
The rest: Anfield Road and the infamous transfer committee
Pearce was also kind enough to give some insight into behind the scenes dealings at the club, revealing that there is no new information on the planned Anfield Road end development.
“Liverpool started a feasibility study into redeveloping Anfield Road last month and clearly that will take some time,” said Pearce. “I believe it will happen but when remains unclear. They have until August 2019 before planning permission expires.”
He also revealed that the cost of Anfield’s second phase of development would be “around £40million to £45million and provide around 5,000 extra seats, lifting capacity to around 60,000.”
Another behind the scenes topic covered was Liverpool’s infamous transfer committee, with Pearce detailing how it differs under Klopp and the key personnel who have a say in the recruitment process such as “Mike Gordon, Michael Edwards, Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter.”
Further information revealed that “Klopp certainly has more clout than Rodgers but it’s not a case of it being a one-man band these days. The German coach has a good relationship with everyone else in the recruitment process and appreciates/respects their input.”
“What’s changed is that I’d say Klopp’s judgment on a player is trusted much more. If a player is available and Klopp says he wants him and he’s worth the asking price then Liverpool would sign him.”
One final, bizarre note
We leave you, with this.