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Liverpool Finally Going Through Succession Planning “Growing” Pains

Liverpool have had a largely settled squad for much longer than most, but are now having to come to grips with losing the likes of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah soon.

Liverpool FC v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final 2021/22 Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Are you ready for a summer of pain and suffering? Transfer season is almost officially here, meaning that we will now get barraged by endless drama between players, agents, and clubs. Some of it might even be real and not just pure click bait.

For the first time in seemingly quite a while, Liverpool are going to be at the center of several big transfer stories for players leaving the club. For the first time in years, the Reds are most likely going to see one of their key players sold.

Liverpool haven’t sold a key squad member since the infamous Philippe Coutinho swindle of January 2018. That is extremely unusual, especially for a club like Liverpool who have looked to capitalize on the peak value of players while looking for undervalued players to bring in as replacements.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a mighty wrench in things. As Liverpool were steaming their way to their first Premier League title in 30 years in the 2019-20 season, many felt that one of Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah would be sold that summer while at their peak values. Instead, the pandemic happened, and the global market of football transfers ground to a halt. Liverpool’s expected revamp was put on hold, at least as far as outgoing players went. The club still looked for talent to bring in, but stood pat on letting key players leave. Instead, Michael Edwards and the Liverpool backroom staff wheeled and dealed reserve and Academy players to couple with earnings from winning the league, the Champions League, and general advancement dollars to finance the incoming moves.

We finally saw the first vestiges of significant change last year as Georginio Wijnaldum was allowed to walk after a season that saw him as one of the few players who was able to stay healthy for any significant stretch of time. Up until that season, Gini had been a vital cog in Jürgen Klopp’s midfield, helping maintain possession and doing a massive amount of positional dirty work. The signing of Thiago Alcantara seemed to signal an intent on evolving the midfield, but the Spaniard was sidelined early in the season against Everton, and came back to an injury crisis that saw every viable senior team and Academy player pressed into service. Meanwhile, Wijnaldum just kept playing until his contract ran out. He and Liverpool couldn’t agree on wages or the length of a new deal, so he walked into a fantastic contract with PSG, much to the chagrin of many Liverpool fans. Despite that, Liverpool were finally able to implement their new midfield shape with Thiago as a key man for Klopp.

This summer, however, Liverpool fans are bracing for a whole lot more pain as the contract situations for their vaunted front three are running down. Sadio Mané has said he is ready to move on to a new challenge, with Bayern Munich the most likely destination. Despite just turning 30, the Senegalese forward had one of his best seasons, showing off his remarkable versatility by turning himself into one of the best center forwards in the game over the course of winter and spring. With only a year left on his deal, the German club are looking to get Mané on the cheap, but Liverpool are resistant to let him go for a paltry sum, meaning we could be in for a protracted saga this summer.

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s other star forward, Mohamed Salah, has been in negotiations with the club for a contract extension for a year now, with seemingly no end in site. Salah himself has come out and said he will be at Liverpool next season regardless, but there is an increasingly good chance that he chooses to run down his deal before making a big move to Sportswashing United...err...Newcastle United.

The other OTHER forward, Roberto Firmino, has performed well over the course of the last season when healthy, but has struggled to stay fit and earn a regular role. He seems most likely to stay on an extended, albeit probably reduced, contract however as he moves into a more reserve role.

There are plenty of other players seemingly in flux this offseason, though none of the same import as Mané or Salah. Divock Origi was never a regular starter, but he can’t be considered anything other than a club legend for his penchant of scoring on big occasions, and he has already left the club for AC Milan, with his contract expiring this summer.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has seen his role diminish, rarely even seeing the bench in the second half of the season, and will likely be looking for a new home this summer as well. Links continue to pop up around Joe Gomez heading to Aston Villa for a chance at regular playing time after proving he still has plenty in the tank despite falling to fourth on the center back depth chart. Conversely, there are some sources that are saying Gomez is close to signing a new deal with Liverpool.

Regardless, the winds of change are finally swirling around this Liverpool side in a significant way.

There is talent in the wings waiting to step in and take up the mantle, and significant incoming moves are being mooted in midfield and in the forward line as the club looks to create a new, younger core. I have supreme faith in Liverpool’s scouting department, who have shown time and time again that they know how to parse through the litany of players to find that one (and a few more for good measure) who will fit into the roles required by Herr Klopp. Succession planning is needed.

Moving on from the players you have grown to love in order to set the club up for the future is needed. But damn it’s going to hurt like hell moving on from this wonderful, fun, lovable bunch of players who have turned Liverpool into an utter juggernaut.

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