Premier League • England

Five Liverpool players facing potential Anfield axe when Arne Slot moves to Merseyside

Ryan Baldi
Darwin Nunez, Arne Slot, Thiago

Five Liverpool players could be axed after the arrival of Arne Slot

The news of an agreement between Liverpool and Feyenoord over a compensation fee for the Dutch coach confirms that, when Jurgen Klopp departs at the end of the current season, the Arne Slot era will begin at Anfield.

Talk has already turned to which players will be targeted in the transfer market this summer as the club seeks to furnish the 45-year-old incoming boss with a squad capable of fulfilling his on-field vision and once again challenging for top honours.

But there will be several players already at the club who will face uncertain futures at Liverpool in the wake of Slot’s arrival. Here are five of them who could find themselves surplus to requirements under the soon-to-be Reds manager.

Luis Diaz

The sideline spat between Mohamed Salah and Jurgen Klopp as the Egyptian was preparing to come on as a substitute against West Ham on 27 April cast the player’s Reds future into doubt. Salah is now 31 years old, entering the final year of his contract and has struggled for form throughout the second half of the season.

But reports suggest new sporting director Richard Hughes is determined to keep the iconic forward at the club into next season and beyond.

So with Salah’s place in the side appearing assured, bids for Luis Diaz will appeal to the Reds as they look to re-shape post-Klopp this summer.

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are said to be readying moves for the £50 million-rated winger. Such a windfall would help Liverpool fund moves for rumoured top Slot targets such as Atalanta midfielder Teun Koopmeiners and Leeds United’s 20-year-old sensation Crysencio Summerville.

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Thiago Alcantara

When Liverpool signed Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in 2020, the £20 million deal was considered a coup, with the Reds landing one of the world’s best midfielders at a relative snip.

But the Spanish playmaker’s Anfield stay has been plagued by injuries. His first season with the club, 2020-21, is the only campaign in which he has started more than half of Liverpool’s Premier League games.

This season, injuries have limited the 32-year-old to just five minutes of top-flight action, coming off the bench for the dying embers of a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates in February.

Thiago’s contract expires at the end of the current season and, with the Reds reportedly eying midfield reinforcements this summer to strengthen the squad Slot will inherit, there is little prospect of the former Barcelona man returning.

Darwin Nunez

There has been no indication yet that Liverpool are ready to cut their losses on Darwin Nunez, who was signed from Benfica two summers ago in a deal worth up to £85 million.

And the Uruguayan striker certainly has his merits. He is one of the most athletic players in the Premier League, has the versatility to play wide or centrally and brings a chaotic element in attack that makes him extremely unpredictable to defend against.

But the chaos he brings often works against Liverpool. Nunez is among the finest seekers of high-percentage chances in the English top flight, regularly working himself into scoring position. He is also one of the division’s least reliable finishers when he gets there.

A return of 11 goals and eight assists in 33 league appearances this term suggests that, with the right refinement, there is a top player to be moulded from Nunez’s undeniably well-stocked skillset. But Slot has been used to a dependable scorer at the point of his Feyenoord attack over the last two seasons in the shape of Mexican striker Santiago Gimenez, whose 21 Eredivisie goals this term have made him a transfer target for PSG and Real Madrid.

If Slot values coolness over chaos in his primary striker, it could be bad news for Nunez.

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Kostas Tsimikas

Kostas Tsimikas signed a new contract with Liverpool just last summer, but the Greek left-back has fallen down the pecking order under Klopp this term since returning from a mid-season injury.

Joe Gomez, a natural centre-back who also has experience at right-back, has often been preferred to the 27-year-old former Olympiacos player on the left side of the backline.

Liverpool paid £11.75 million for Tsimikas in August of 2020. If they can recoup a similar fee for him this summer, his sale could help fund further reinforcements for Slot.

Nat Phillips

The centre of defence is another area of the Liverpool squad believed to have been earmarked for upgrades.

Stalwart and star player Virgil van Dijk, like Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold, is about to enter the final year of his Anfield contract. Tying him down to fresh terms will be one of the primary orders of business for Hughes and Slot this off-season.

And Sporting CP pair Goncalo Inacio and Ousmane Diomande are both reported to be defensive targets for Liverpool this summer, with additions at the heart of the backline likely required as insurance for the injury-prone Ibrahim Konate and the aging Van Dijk, who will be 33 by the start of next season.

One casualty of the reshuffling of Liverpool’s options at the back ought to be Nat Phillips. The Bolton-born centre-back came through Liverpool’s academy and has filled in admirably in times of injury crisis during Klopp’s reign.

But he has only made two Premier League appearances for the club since the 2020-21 season. With the emergence this season of Jarell Quansah meaning he’s unlikely to ever get back in the Liverpool team, it’s time for the 27-year-old, who is currently on loan with Cardiff City in the Championship, to be cut loose from the cycle of loans he’s been stuck in.