Following the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent three-month break in action, football fans have been subject to a year of largely dreadful play — with nicknames such as struggleball and covidball rising to prominence — as players followed a period of no access to their regular training or recovery amenities with an 11-month block containing 15 months worth of competitive play.
As such, and despite the still-looming spectre of the pandemic, this summer has felt like something of a clean slate, and for a number of Liverpool’s players, it has been.
“Mo had seven weeks, Sadio didn’t because he played for Senegal, so I think he had around about five weeks,” said Jürgen Klopp about his returning attackers.
“But it is incredibly long – they are used to two-and-a-half weeks in the summer, which, [and] I said it plenty of times, is not enough.
“But now the guys from the Euros and the guys from the Copa have around about three weeks,” the gaffer continued. “They have three weeks, that’s what we can give them and that’s what we will.
“Then they have not a long pre-season but they didn’t have a long break, so that’s absolutely OK. So they get as long as we could; we squeezed everything out again for them that they can really have the proper rest they need.”
For players like Sadio Mané, who lives alone in Liverpool and had not been able to travel back to his family for a year and a half, the layoff is likely to have been at least as restorative for his well-being in intangible ways as it has in the physical measurables, and this is plausibly the case, to varying degrees, for the rest of the squad.
Whether the extended layoff ends up producing tangible benefits, whether in terms of more energetic football or just an improved ability to field a team with zero midfielders at centre-back, remains to be seen, but on paper, the Reds squad is as well-rested and recovered for this pre-season as it has been at any point in Klopp’s tenure thus far.