Reaction from Ian Doyle after Liverpool’s final game of the season against Southampton ends in dramatic 4-4 draw
The last time Liverpool failed to qualify for the Champions League, Jurgen Klopp didn’t mess about.
Sadio Mane came from Southampton, Gini Wijnaldum from relegated Newcastle United. And Joel Matip was already on his way on a free transfer from Schalke.
All three would go on to play an integral role in first taking the Reds back into Europe’s elite competition before conquering the continent, the world and, after 30 years of waiting, finally England.
Mane and Wijnaldum have long gone, while Matip, now in his 30s, is very much a bit-part player, demonstrated by his appearance in this enjoyably daft final-day kickabout at relegated Southampton being only his third start since February.
Now Liverpool find themselves once again with their face pressed up against the glass as the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United do battle in a tournament where the Reds have reached three of the last six finals.
Of course, the situation isn’t quite the same as seven years ago. With much credit in the bank, and the medals accrued at Anfield by so many squad members, Liverpool will begin their next attempt to qualify for the Champions League in a much stronger position than in 2016.
The form in the last seven weeks as they chased down in vain an unlikely top-four finish after a difficult, disappointing season also offers encouragement, along with the improved showing from a number of youngsters and relatively new signings.
But it’s the end of the road for the current squad. Five will definitely depart, with more almost sure to follow. And while some have been eased out of the picture over the course of the season, others now need to be replaced.
This, then, is where the persuasive power of Klopp and, more pertinently, the financial backing of Fenway Sports Group must play their role. And as much as the Liverpool boss can sell his vision, it will matter little if the Reds owners don’t loosen the purse strings somewhat, which will be necessary – Liverpool’s need will no doubt put a premium on the price tag of potential new arrivals.
Stepping aside from Jude Bellingham and seemingly down the list of Mason Mount’s preferred next destinations highlights how difficult it’s going to be. Alexis Mac Allister of Brighton remains the primary target, with at least two midfielders needed. Much money must be spent.
But then Mane wasn’t Klopp’s first choice seven years ago, and matters ultimately worked out pretty well for player, manager and team.
This summer won’t see the complete overhaul of the Liverpool squad that may have been expected as recently as March. But, make no mistake, it’s one where the Reds can’t afford to get it wrong.