Eight points clear of reigning champions Manchester City at the top of the English Premier League table — even with seven months and 30 games to go — almost guarantees that Liverpool are kings already (credit: Shatta Wale & Beyoncé).
Never in the last 29 years have the Reds been as outstanding as favorites in the race for England’s top prize and, although the New Year isn’t yet in, it would be quite upsetting if Liverpool don’t finish with maiden Premier League honors. For all the class Pep Guardiola’s City oozes — and Liverpool would know all about just how capable the Citizens are of overturning even a considerable deficit of points — Jürgen Klopp’s men, as Europe’s early pacesetters this season, will kick themselves if they fall short of glory in the end.
Should that come to pass, it would be only Liverpool’s second trophy in four years under Klopp, following June’s Uefa Champions League triumph. Yet the feeling come mid-2020 when the Premier League trophy is paraded on the streets of Liverpool — cue wild scenes, I promise — would be more of fulfillment than of hunger, at least for some of the club’s most coveted and in-demand players. There would be talk of Liverpool only just starting to haul in silverware, and that wouldn’t be false. Indeed, much of Liverpool’s core has been secured by fresh contracts, but quite a few regulars could have their heads turned.
Just last summer, some of Liverpool’s big rivals were ready to pluck the brightest balloons off the club’s continent-conquering charabanc. Real Madrid, for instance, were linked to Sadio Mane, while Mohamed Salah hasn’t lacked suitors ever since his amazing debut term on Merseyside. For those two — perhaps more than any on the roster — despite being at Liverpool for just four and three seasons respectively by the time May arrives, the end might be in sight. Having both broken goalscoring records of all sorts in their time at the club, in addition to the aforementioned Champions League capture, domestic conquest could feel like the final piece of their Liverpool jigsaw. Mission accomplished; on to the next adventure, no?
Well, winning doesn’t necessarily result in a team shedding its best men, and Liverpool could well hold on to their gems as City have in recent years. But Liverpool are not clad as flamboyantly as City are in the garment of latter-day success, and the likelihood of such significant losses is one Klopp would do well to anticipate. When Madrid or, say, Barcelona — collectively winners of the five Champions League titles before Liverpool’s sixth and notoriously relentless in their pursuit of transfer targets — come knocking, the urge to leave could be hard to resist, and the bigwigs at Anfield know this only too well.
Yes, there would be enough money received from such high-profile sales to replace the lost stars, and Klopp — aided by his brilliant recruitment team — is one of the shrewdest spenders in the business, with the German also adept at bedding new signings in for almost immediate impact.
Still, without Salah and Mane, Liverpool would look very different — maybe worse. But that might be the reality to be faced — and the price to be paid — should the long-awaited league crown reach L4.
NY Frimpong — Daily Mail GH