For some time, Liverpool fans have thought of the day Philippe Coutinho left the club as something as a transformative moment. Few would have guessed it at the time, but in the end it became the day Liverpool stopped being a challenger and became a favourite.
Over the past two and a half season, with the help of a few key signings made thanks to the money his sale brought in, the Reds are European and English champions. They are, for the first time in the Premier League era, a destination club rather than a stepping stone.
“The difference between ‘top Europe’ and ‘sub-top Europe’ is that ‘top Europe’ can keep its best players together for a longer period of time,” said assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders when asked by Algemeen Dagblad about the changes he has helped oversee at the club.
“Liverpool was still that sub-top club. Players left because they could go a step higher. When we won the Champions League, we felt that now we have to do everything we can to keep the group together. If it succeeds, that becomes the most important purchase.”
Some fans were doubtful last summer when the club chose to largely stay out of the transfer market and pointed to just that, the idea of player retention—and of new deals for its top stars—as a significant achievement, one more important than any big new signigns.
This season’s success, a first league title in three decades after winning their sixth European Cup last year, has proven them right. Now, with the financial uncertainty caused by coronavirus, there is a high probability of another quiet transfer window for the club.
Again there are doubts and concerns—and raised eyebrows resulted when manager Jürgen Klopp introduced the idea of “internal transfers” earlier this month—but, as last summer, the messaging appears consistent. And the people delivering it have earned some faith.
“Sometimes you look for gold, but then it turns out you’re already on it,” Lijnders noted. “I also strongly believe in promoting young players to get fresh blood into a team. That is my Dutch nature and also my own experience as a trainer in the training of FC Porto.
“Trent Alexander-Arnold joined the youth academy and then joined the team, Joe Gomez the same. Now talents like Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot, and Neco Williams are coming. You can do that if the core group of your team stays together and has the right mentality.”