Manchester United were also interested in signing Alexis Mac Allister, who has made clear he only has eyes for Liverpool.
At first glance, Alexis Mac Allister appears to have no other choice.
In one corner, a team on the rise, back in the Champions League after a brief absence with a manager who won a trophy in his first season, has reached another final and should further strengthen its squad this summer.
And in the other is a team that has had its worst full season under the current manager, been sent to the Europa League for the first time in seven years and has just seen two of its most decorated squad members walk away for nothing . they were forced to stop pursuing their long-standing summer transfer target due to financial constraints.
Football, however, is rarely that clear cut. Especially where Jurgen Klopp is involved.
Yes, the cut-price release clause for Mac Allister negotiated into the contract signed at Brighton in October – he would otherwise have been available on a free at the end of the season – made the 24-year-old a particularly attractive prospect to Liverpool under the transfer model employed by Fenway Sports Group. The Reds’ recruitment team deserve credit for being aware of such a clause, particularly considering Mac Allister’s Argentina World Cup final midfield partner Enzo Fernandez joined Chelsea for £106.8million in January.
But Klopp and his view of Liverpool’s future plans and the former Argentinos Juniors’ place ultimately made the player’s decision. Manchester City had also snooped, but the lure of Liverpool and their irrepressible manager remained.
Of course, Mac Allister isn’t the first player to resist overtures from other top Premier League clubs to opt for a move to Klopp’s Liverpool. In fact, there are parallels with Virgil van Dijk opting for a move from a South Coast side to Anfield rather than Chelsea or Manchester City.
Chelsea, defending champions in the summer of 2017, boasted Antonio Conte as their coach. And Pep Guardiola had completed a season to gain a foothold at the Etihad and familiarize himself with English football.
But neither does Klopp. And the Liverpool boss’s ability to sell a vision of a possible future to Anfield convinced Van Dijk to make the move, although the Reds ultimately had to wait several months before the deal was finalized in January 2018.
“Everyone from Liverpool’s perspective obviously knows how lively he is, how he can improve players and give them confidence. That’s fine by me too,” said the defender following his £75million transfer.
There was a similar story with Sadio Mane, another player who was snapped up by a South Coast club – Southampton – in 2016 who turned down Manchester United to move to Anfield instead.
“I have to say I was very close to leaving for Manchester United,” Mane said last year. “I had the contract there. I agreed. Everything was ready, but instead I was like, ‘No, I want to go to Liverpool.’ I was convinced to follow (Jürgen) Klopp’s project. I still remember Klopp’s first call. He said: “We have a big project at Liverpool and I want you to be part of it.”
Mane, and to a lesser extent Van Dijk, were both taking a greater leap of faith than Mac Allister, who arrives at Liverpool in the knowledge Klopp has previously swept the board with major honours and last season came within a whisker of guiding the Reds to an unprecedented treble.
And there are more recent examples too: last summer the Reds beat United thanks to the signing of Darwin Nunez, while Cody Gakpo could have stayed at PSV Eindhoven until the end of the season because an offer from ‘Old Trafford was expected, but instead decided to make a move to Anfield in January.
Liverpool may not have the financial clout of some of their closest Premier League rivals. But Klopp’s powers of persuasion and contagion to sell a vision remain priceless.