Liverpool are under pressure from Saudi Arabia – on and off the pitch

Jurgen Klopps wants the Europe and Saudi Arabia transfer windows to align (PA)

Jurgen Klopp finds himself under attack from Saudi Arabia on two fronts: one new, one even newer. He is entirely complimentary about one – Eddie Howe’s fast-improving Newcastle side – while calling for help in another respect.

Klopp believes Fifa should act to bring the Saudi Arabian transfer window in line with its English equivalent. The acquisitiveness of their newly super-rich clubs has already disrupted his summer once; when, after beginning his midfield rebuild with the auspicious acquisitions of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, he was stripped of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, two he intended to keep. Now there is the prospect of a raid for Mohamed Salah, perhaps after 1 September, when it would be too late to replace him. His suitors are Al-Ittihad, a club run by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, who own 80 percent of Newcastle. Klopp is remaining defiant. “Mo Salah is a Liverpool player and essential for everything we do,” he said. “We don’t have an offer. If there would be something, the answer would be no.”

Saudi spending power would look still more transformative if each of Klopp’s definitive front three – Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Salah – were to move to the Pro-League in the same summer. Its influence is apparent in the North-East as well as the Middle East, however. Liverpool head to St James’ Park on Sunday after winning the battles against Newcastle, beating them home and away last season, but losing the war. They were forced out of the Champions League places by a rising force.

Newcastle, Klopp thinks, are no one-season wonders. They are here to stay. “Most definitely,” he concurred. The changing landscape has made it harder for imperilled Liverpool in a division where others are spending, when they operate by different financial parameters.

“And Chelsea,” he noted. “And Manchester United in the future. We have to [live within our means]. We cannot put sticks around the area and hope that no one will run through. That’s how it is: I have no problem with that. As long as it is all by the rules I have no problem. In the end it’s the circumstances, it could be different but it’s all about what you make of it.”

And, as he readily admits, Newcastle have made a lot of their budget. They have spent around £400 million in four transfer windows under Howe. There was a hint from Klopp that their spending spree could have been more like Todd Boehly’s billion-pound exercise in incoherence. Instead, Newcastle’s buying has been underpinned by intelligent thinking.

“So far they have not done crazy business,” said Klopp. “I have to say nobody knew exactly what would happen after [the takeover] but so far I don’t think they have done crazy business. One of those windows where people thought it would look like the Chelsea windows rather than the Newcastle window. They have brought in fantastic players like [Alexander] Isak, [Sven] Botman, Bruno [Guimaraes]: really smart business, piece by piece. And then this year [Sandro] Tonali and [Harvey] Barnes, and they can swap strikers between Isak and [Callum] Wilson, which is impressive. But they still have players from before like [Miguel] Almiron and [Sean] Longstaff. So, yes, they did business, and it was clear – could the Newcastle of before have done it? Probably not.”

There are certain similarities with some of Liverpool’s recruitment over the years: buying improving players, rarely from the superpowers, for what can soon look bargain prices. Liverpool became champions of first Europe and England in part because, where there was little margin for error, they rarely erred.

Klopp believes Howe’s Newcastle are here to stay (PA Wire)

“There was one year when money was less of an issue because Phil went to Barcelona so we could do sensational transfers,” Klopp said, and Philippe Coutinho’s £142m sale financed the arrivals of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk. “But otherwise we have always spent to improve the team. With business, we have had to do it our way. Our situation is great, just not in comparison to the other teams you mentioned. We have to be on point. There is not a lot of space for failure.”

Now, once again, his plans are taking shape, with Wataru Endo the belated replacement for Henderson and Fabinho, after Liverpool failed in bids for Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, but with the risk that a sudden departure of a player of Salah’s standard could create further problems.

“I was always glad when transfer windows are over,” Klopp reflected. “I can’t remember a transfer window where every single person was happy. I have to improve the squad, I know, but I have all the information around and I know what is possible and not possible. It is not my job to complain. It is my job to take the team we have at the end of the transfer window and make the best of it.”

Which he has tended to do against Howe, with 10 straight wins. Newcastle have only suffered four home league defeats under the Englishman, but two were to Klopp and Liverpool. And while the job of managing Liverpool and of securing top-four finishes has got harder in other respects, at least he faces less opposition on Sunday. When he looks across to the home dugout, only one man will be on his feet, instructing the Newcastle players. Klopp had quipped that the new regulations were designed to stop the United tag team of Howe and Jason Tindall. “It was a joke,” he said. If Liverpool’s anthem dictates that he will never walk alone, Howe now has to stand alone.


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