Since taking over as Liverpool manager in October 2015, Jurgen Klopp has thus far signed 18 players for the club across six transfer windows for transfer fees amounting to almost £383 million. The German has been lauded in many quarters for overhauling a Liverpool squad that had contained a lot of deadwood towards the end of Brendan Rodgers’ spell in charge and the Northern Irishman had a dubious transfer record during his time at Anfield, although he did sign Philippe Coutinho for a ridiculously cut-price £8.5 million.
Of the 11 players who started May’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, six were signed by Klopp while another was promoted through the youth ranks by the current Reds boss. The German has well and truly put his own stamp on the squad by now and a further four additions so far this summer serve only to heighten that assertion.
Here, LFC HQ ranks Klopp’s signings so far, although this summer’s arrivals aren’t included as we don’t yet know how they’ll fit into the squad while three others are omitted as they haven’t played an official first team match for the Reds. That leaves 11 players who have been brought to Anfield by Klopp and have had time to leave an imprint. Let’s assess the manager’s picks, then.
1. Mohamed Salah
Aside from Sergio Aguero in 2011/12, has any other Premier League arrival made such a significant impact in their first full season in England? The Egyptian King netted 43 goals in a fairytale campaign and made a mockery of those who suggested that the payment of £34 million for a Chelsea reject was money tossed down the drain. It’s not the goals tally that has made Salah stand out, though. His selfless contribution to the team and his general bamboozling of opposition defenders is a joy to watch, while the way he conducts himself off the field is an enormous credit to himself and to the club. My only worry about how exceptionally he’s done is that he has set himself a monumentally high bar to reach for the coming season.
2. Sadio Mane
I’ll hold my hands up; I thought we were bonkers to spend £30 million on the Senegal striker off the back of two good seasons at Southampton, a club we have raided several times this decade. Within a few short months of his arrival at Anfield, Mane had proven me hideously wrong. A bundle of energy in attack and with a fine scoring tally to boot (33 goals), he has been a superb addition to the Liverpool squad and fits the Klopp template perfectly. He was somewhat overshadowed by the excellence of Salah last season but try find any Reds fan now who would question Mane’s place in the team.
3. Andrew Robertson
It is a testament to how excellent Salah and Mane have been that the Scottish left-back is only third on this list. If there was a better bargain in the Premier League last season than the £8 million spent on Robertson, I’d sure like to see it. It was rather odd that he wasn’t a first team fixture in the early months of last season but once he got his chance ahead of Alberto Moreno, there was simply no way he was dropping back to the bench. Defensively superior to the Spaniard and equally effective when bombing up the flank, Hull City’s transfer anoraks have my eternal gratitude that they let us have this magnificent player for an absolute song.
4. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Like Mane, I was very quizzical of Liverpool signing the England midfielder after he was horribly inconsistent at Arsenal. Like Mane, the Ox made me (and Reds fans everywhere) glad that I have no say in the club’s transfer activity. He was magnificent in the centre of midfield since arriving from north London in the opening weeks of last season and it is a crying shame that the injury incurred in the Champions League quarter-final triumph over Manchester City will now keep him out for at least another year. I really hope Oxlade-Chamberlain can get back to his pre-injury best, but that could be tough considering how long he’ll have been sidelined by the time he returns.
5. Virgil van Dijk
I knew we were getting a solid defender in the Dutch centre-back, even though I maintain that we only paid £75 million because it was glaringly obvious that this was such a problem position for Liverpool. As debuts go, van Dijk could hardly have had a better one, scoring a late winner against Everton in the FA Cup, and he has delivered upon the expectation that he would steady our rickety defence. He is not the finished article but he is certainly an upgrade on what we had at centre-back. Hopefully this will be the season when he develops into a real leader for the Reds.
6. Georginio Wijnaldum
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Dutch midfielder signing for £25 million even though he stood out in a Newcastle side that got relegated in 2016. After his first season at Anfield, I had been convinced that we had bagged ourselves a fine player, one with a fine scoring record for his position (eight goals) and one who was a very effective box-to-box operator. Last season wasn’t as smooth for Wijnaldum, who didn’t get his first goal until the Champions League semi-final against Roma and had his share of ineffective performances. I still reckon he’s a very good player, although the volume of midfield signings this summer and the return of Adam Lallana could limit his role this season and there has been talk of him seeking more regular football elsewhere.
7. Joel Matip
Free transfers are generally no-lose situations, although in the cases of Andriy Voronin and Joe Cole, we had got what we paid for. Matip has been notably better than those two players in his first couple of years at Anfield, although he hasn’t been able to nail down a regular starting position in the team. Injury last season didn’t help his cause, but neither did moments such as his lapse of concentration that gifted Leicester an early goal at Anfield in December. The Cameroonian is a player worth having in the squad even though any sale in the coming months wouldn’t be excessively mourned by Kopites either.
8. Dominic Solanke
Another freebie, the young English striker had a very frustrating first year with Liverpool, not scoring until the final day of the domestic season against Brighton (although he was wrongly denied what would have been a winning goal at home to West Brom). Solanke is clearly a confidence player and when he got his opportunities in the latter weeks of the season, that was something he sorely lacked. He’s still in his early 20s and didn’t cost us a transfer fee, so I don’t want to be too harsh on him, but he needs to produce something soon or he’ll probably be allowed to leave.
9. Ragnar Klavan
Klopp has largely shopped for younger, more vibrant players since taking over at Liverpool, so the purchase of an Estonian centre-back in his 30s was certainly a move from left field. At £4.2 million and with a wealth of experience to his name, Klavan represented something of a safe option, even though it is largely accepted that his is a backup role and it would be no great surprise if he moved on again during or after this season. His honesty is beyond question but he can get burned for pace and concentration, although he achieved cult hero status with that stoppage time winner at Burnley on New Year’s Day.
10. Marko Grujic
Serbian players and Liverpool FC generally don’t mix – you only need to look at Milan Jovanovic and Lazar Markovic to arrive at that conclusion. That’s why I failed to summon any enthusiasm for Klopp’s first signing at the club in January 2016, even if a fee of £5.1 million gave him the head start of at least being cheaper than his fellow countrymen who flopped at Anfield. From the flashes that we have seen of Grujic, he does not look like ever becoming a first team regular for Liverpool and it seems increasingly likely that the highlight of his time at the club will be an admittedly fine header in a pre-season win over Barcelona two years ago at Wembley.
11. Loris Karius
Does this seem like a knee-jerk reaction to his night of woe in Kiev a few weeks ago? Possibly, but the European Cup final wasn’t the first time that Karius had a shocker in goals for the Reds. Yes, he was a low-cost signing at £4.7 million from Mainz in 2016, but while injury sidelined him for a while after his arrival, it took a loss of form from Simon Mignolet for the German keeper to be given his chance. When he got it, he committed atrocious errors against Bournemouth and West Ham in the space of a week. He did appear to be growing into the role of Liverpool’s number one during the run to the Champions League final, but sadly his time at the club will forever be linked with those two howlers in the biggest game in club football. Despite the small transfer fee, Karius has probably been Klopp’s least effective signing thus far.