Liverpool have been tipped to sanction an eight-man clear-out this summer and a failed 2022 move is being used as proof Jurgen Klopp knew a high profile midfielder was finished before the season even began.
Many predicted Liverpool would experience a hangover after their quadruple near-miss last season, though their struggles this time around indicate the issues run far deeper.
The Reds sit eighth in the Premier League and face an uphill battle to secure Champions League qualification.
They’ve already surrendered their grip on both domestic cups. A 5-2 hammering against Real Madrid on Tuesday means their UCL dream is all but over at the half-way mark in their Last 16 tie.
Liverpool have issues all over the pitch, though the common consensus is the midfield problems are front and centre.
Only Thiago Alcantara is performing anywhere close to his customary levels among Klopp’s current midfield crop. The declines from the likes of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have been staggering, while others like Naby Keita simply cannot stay fit.
The fact so many senior stars are underperforming has fast-tracked Stefan Bajcetic into the first-team. However, too much cannot be expected of someone so young and as such, the Reds are hunting midfield recruits at season’s end.
However, owners FSG never readily part with their dollars and as such, requisite exits will be required to help balance the books.
On that front, the Mirror predict Liverpool will embark on an eight-man clear-out this summer and the highest profile name on the chopping block is Fabinho.
Klopp move proof he knew Fabinho was finished?
The Brazilian had been the epitome of consistency in a Reds shirt up until this season. However, he now regularly looks unable to cope in the engine room and is repeatedly bypassed far too easily when opposing sides counter.
The Mirror’s David Maddock describes the 29-year-old as a ‘shadow of himself’ and suggests that rather than just being jaded, he’s reached his natural end as a top class footballer.
The article adds Klopp had a sneaking suspicion Fabinho’s time was up in the summer. Their evidence is the fact Liverpool pushed hard to sign Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni in pre-season, though were beaten to the punch by Real Madrid.
The claim does make sense given Tchouameni and Fabinho both play the same position. In the Mirror’s words, ‘Why otherwise would he have pursued so hard a £75m holding midfielder in Aurelien Tchouameni, who they were close to signing?’
Seven more facing Liverpool axe
Aside from Fabinho, the Mirror tip seven more current first-teamers to depart – four of whom are also midfielders.
Firstly, goalkeeper Adrian is expected to leave as a free agent once his contract expires in June. Centre-half Nat Phillips ‘will move on’, as could one of Joe Gomez or Joel Matip.
Of the pair, Matip appears the likeliest candidate to depart given Gomez only signed a contract running until 2027 in July.
Matip, meanwhile, is 31 and will enter the final year of his contract over the summer. Both Goal and Football Insider expect Matip to be the fall guy and offers of around £15m would reportedly suffice for Liverpool.
The rest of the predicted exits lay in midfield. Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are all out of contract at season’s end, while Arthur Melo’s loan will expire.
Explaining why none of the free agents-to-be will be offered fresh terms, Maddock notes all three of Keita, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain were on the bench against Real Madrid on Tuesday night.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side proceeded to score five unanswered goals with Liverpool’s midfield powerless to prevent their opponents from finding the net at will.
However, Klopp opted against introducing any of the trio until finally bringing Milner on only after Madrid had scored their fifth.
Clearly, Klopp does not hold any great belief the likes of Keita or Oxlade-Chamberlain are the answer to his midfield woes. Milner, meanwhile, is 37.