Premier League • England

Where are they now? The three wingers Jurgen Klopp wanted Liverpool to sign before Mohamed Salah

Julian Brandt celebrates with Manuel Akanji

Since joining Liverpool in 2017, Mohamed Salah has developed into one of the best players in the world, but he wasn’t Jurgen Klopp’s top transfer target. 

According to The Times’ Paul Joyce, Salah was only Klopp’s fourth-choice target with Christian Pulisic, Julian Draxler and Julian Brandt all wanted ahead of him. 

But former sporting director Michael Edwards intervened and reportedly convinced Klopp to sign Salah from Roma instead.

We’ve taken a look at those three other players and how they’ve fared in recent years.

Julian Brandt

After starring for Bayer Leverkusen, Brandt caught the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs and became Klopp’s top transfer target.

But Liverpool were informed that the Germany international intended to stay put and didn’t want to make a transfer in the season building up to the World Cup.

“My gut feeling and my head are telling me the time to move has not arrived yet. I have to straighten things out in Leverkusen,” Brandt told kicker in 2017. “Of course, there are players who say a year without European football before the World Cup is good reason to move.

“But if you move to a bigger club a year before the World Cup, you risk taking time at first to settle which possibly means playing fewer games.”

While his impressive performances at club level earned him a spot in the 2018 World Cup squad, Brandt played a combined total of 19 minutes at the tournament as Germany were knocked out at the group stage.

The winger – who has also featured in midfield – then spent another season at Leverkusen before moving to Borussia Dortmund in a £22.1m deal in the summer of 2019.

After registering seven goals and 13 assists in his debut season at Dortmund, he’s since struggled for form and consistency and was even left out of Germany’s Euro 2020 squad. 

The 26-year-old reportedly wanted to move to the Premier League during the summer of 2022 and was linked with Arsenal but ultimately remained in Dortmund.

Christian Pulisic

Having trained Pulisic during his final season in charge of Borussia Dortmund, Klopp reportedly wanted a reunion with the winger.

Liverpool failed with an £11m offer during Klopp’s first summer transfer window at the club and were also linked with him in 2017 but a move failed to materialise.

“He has a contract at Dortmund, no? That’s the first problem,” Klopp said in 2018 when asked if Pulisic was still on his radar. “I like Christian, I’ve known him since he was a kid and he’s still not really old.

“He’s a fantastic player and it’s deserved that people think highly of him in America – in Germany it’s the same.

“If he wants to play in England one day or whatever and he, for sure, has the chance to do so. But in this moment he’s in a really good club for his development. They know him already.

“He had not his best season last year but he is still a decisive player. It’s very important at that age group that there’s no rush because he still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career. That’s good.

“He wants to be, I’m sure, the best Christian Pulisic he can be. For this, there’s still space for development. If he would at one point join us I don’t know. But I like him and it’s not like that could be the problem.

Pulisic decided to make the big switch to England in 2019 but headed to Chelsea rather than Liverpool in a deal worth a reported £58m.

The USA international enjoyed a promising debut season at Stamford Bridge and scored 11 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions, including the opener in the 2020 FA Cup final.

He also wrote himself into Liverpool folklore by scoring in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Manchester City, which confirmed that the 2019/20 Premier League title was heading to Anfield.

While Pulisic has since won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup, his time in west London has been overshadowed by a number of injury setbacks and a lack of game time.

The 24-year-old has struggled to cement his place in the starting XI and is regularly linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge. 

Julian Draxler

Klopp wanted to sign his fellow countryman in January 2017 and Liverpool reportedly had a €36m offer accepted by Wolfsburg.

But Draxler rebuffed their efforts and instead opted to sign for Paris Saint-Germain. Other reports have claimed that Klopp walked away from the deal when the winger asked first what he could expect to be paid in England. 

“It’s not about Jurgen Klopp, about Liverpool or about different clubs from England,” he told BBC World Service. “It was just my opinion that I am the best player for PSG at the moment – so that’s what I decided.

“I chose a great new step in my career because PSG is a really, really great club. They have big goals, they want to reach big things and that’s why I want to be part of it. I did not – and will not – decide my club just for the money.”

He hit the ground running and registered 10 goals and three assists in 25 appearances for PSG during the second half of the 2016/17 season.

But the Germany international fell down the pecking order after PSG splashed the cash and signed both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the summer of 2017.

Draxler became a fringe player under Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino but still picked up four Ligue 1 titles, four Coupe de France titles and three Coupe de la Ligue titles.

The 29-year-old recently joined Benfica on a season-long loan deal in an attempt to revive his chances of making Hansi Flick’s World Cup squad but has started just three games in 2022/23 at the time of writing.

READ MORE: Five positions Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp must prioritise in the January transfer window