Steve Nicol says Liverpool should be ‘in title contention’ next season

Steve Nicol, a former Liverpool player, thinks Liverpool will be in title contention next season. Liverpool have so far focused on midfielders, an area that needs to be strengthened.

The club have already signed Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton and Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig. They are also expected to sign another midfielder, likely a defensive midfielder, to replace Fabinho, who is reportedly finalizing a move to Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, there are strong links between Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard’s move to al Ettifaq, with a reported offer of £700,000 a week.

They also announced the departure of a number of midfielders earlier this summer, including James Milner, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Naby Keita.

Asked about Liverpool’s realistic expectations for the coming season and given the possible departures of Fabinho and Henderson, Steve Nicol explained that the club should aim to be in contention for the title.

He told ESPN (via HITC):

“In the fight for the title. Easy and simple. If you sign three good players like that, then you add them to the front line and you have to take into account that the defense will not allow another 50 goals. Then you should compete.”

Liverpool’s poor performance last season is believed to be due to their aging midfield. It was obvious that a revamp was needed this summer. However, the potential departures of Fabinho and Henderson might not have been part of the original plan.

Finding a suitable replacement for the duo is crucial for Liverpool to avoid falling into a similar situation to last season.

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‘I’ve already got a job in Saudi football – I don’t understand the Jordan Henderson outrage’

Steve Nicol says Liverpool should be 'in title contention' next season

England international Jordan Henderson could reportedly earn £700,000-a-week if he leaves Premier League giants Liverpool for Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia.

I can see the usual horror has been provoked, now that some high profile figures in British football have become involved in the Saudi Pro League.

‌It is Jordan Henderson’s supposed wages which has sparked the outrage, and as regular readers of this column will know, I’ve never quite understood why footballers’ wages are such a sensitive topic, while the billions earned by financiers are never questioned.

‌Let’s get one thing clear though. I’m not going to condemn Jordan, Steven Gerrard or anyone else who has gone to work in Saudi Arabia, or is thinking of doing so. Not because I’m taking the money too – that’s simply not true. As I’ve explained before, I have taken a job in the league below the Saudi Pro League because I am ambitious to become a manager, because I want to prove myself.

I’ve not been been given that chance in the UK. You look at my record, and I’ve done well wherever I’ve been, despite inheriting teams who were struggling before I arrived. This is my fourth head coach job now, and I back myself to succeed in this business.

I know people will laugh, but when I went to coach in Australia, I gave myself a five-year plan to manage in the Premier League. Yeah, you can mock, but in half a season I took a side languishing at the bottom to the top places. Covid absolutely ruined it of course, but it shows the desire I have to succeed. It shows the ambition and belief I have… and you don’t fulfil your ambition by sitting in front of your TV watching everyone else get jobs while you don’t.

‌So I’ve gone out and backed myself. It’s obvious now no one is going to give me an opportunity at home… I’ve applied for so many positions and not got anywhere. So I’ve found a project where the team can grow and my coaching can develop.

‌That happens to be in Saudi Arabia, and it is an exciting project. But it’s not about money, believe me. My team Al-Qadsiah are currently in League One (second tier) and a long way from the top level. I came to offer my experience, to build a team just as we did in Australia, in India, and Thailand. Each of the clubs we worked with, improved beyond all recognition. That is what I’m taxed to do by the backers of the club, who want steady progress, not to throw money at it.

So we’ve signed Max Power from Wigan and Mbaye Daigne from Turkey, not the captain of Liverpool, or a host of internationals. It’s simply not about the cash. Though I take exception with people who are criticising Jordan Henderson or Steven Gerrard for that reason. I didn’t see anyone much calling our Cristiano Ronaldo last year for taking the cash.

Obviously I know Jordan well and I grew up with Stevie. I think Steven is like me – he wants to manage, he wants to prove himself, and after leaving Aston Villa, the right offer simply hasn’t come along. Now he has the backing of a big club, in a league that wants to grow, to become one of the better leagues in the world. It’s a great opportunity for a manager with ambition to get to the top.

We can all question why there’s that financial backing now, and yes, there has been money thrown at this big project. But has anyone questioned the Premier League for doing exactly the same thing? Not in England obviously, but I can tell you the rest of Europe has. They think the competition is unfair.

Of course, some of the big names heading to Saudi Arabia have asked serious questions about whether the Pro League is going to surpass the Premier League. But c’mon, it will take many years, not several weeks. There is backing to grow, but it’s part of a bigger picture out here – the Asian Cup in 2027, and the World Cup is on the horizon as a possible bid in 2030. And a strong Pro League helps all that.

‌I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened with the league in China, but I think this is more organic, and there’s a stronger will to see the project grow and develop. And of course I’m not ignoring the debate about human rights, and the idea of sports washing. We all have our view on that, but is it ok for Qatar to host a World Cup, but Saudi Arabia not to have a Pro League?

Is it ok for Newcastle to be backed by the Saudis in England (and our own government sanctioned it) but not for them to have their own teams? People said the same thing about the LIV Tour in golf, how it was stealing the best players. But they didn’t say that the PGA Tour in America poached all the best golfers from Europe and Asia.

‌I don’t think though, that we’re going to get to a stage any time soon where the best players from all over the world come here, and no one wants to play in the Premier League, or La Liga. The biggest clubs there still dominate, they still bully the rest of Europe. They still take the best talent. Karim Benzema is 35, Jordan Henderson 33, N’Golo Kante is 32. Roberto Firmino is 31.

‌There are some younger players coming, but it’s hardly the level which is going to have the Premier League quaking. And yes, I understand the argument about spiralling wages, but again – who said that about English football, or Italian football, or Spanish or whatever in the past?

In the end, I think a lot of it boils down to people just slagging off footballers earning big money because they are footballers. It’s almost as if people from a certain background are not entitled to use their talent to earn big money. Meanwhile, the rich get obscenely richer in our society, and no one says a word. People and companies got dubious contracts during Covid, they profiteered, and hardly anyone said a word.

Steven Gerrard’s huge salary revealed as he becomes fourth highest-paid boss in world
Footballers are supposed to stick to football, not politics. Remember the outcry about Marcus Rashford trying ensure hungry kids were actually fed and not starved? Or Henderson supporting the NHS? They were condemned and told to stay out of politics.

Now players are going to Saudi Arabia and suddenly they’re supposed to do the politics. I’m not defending anything or anyone, but this is a matter of personal choice. And as I’ve made clear, my personal choice is not about money, it’s about trying to get off my backside and prove myself as a coach.

Igbo Kennedy

Igbo Kennedy

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