Liverpool are changing the transfer fee again, as a surprise midfield change should be anything but

Some unexpected possible exits have forced Liverpool into an awkward situation, but Jurgen Klopp could rediscover proven steps to success with Cheick Doucoure.

Jurgen Klopp took about as long to explain why he had sanctioned the loan signing of Steven Caulker when he actually played him.

After an in-depth review of the myriad issues plaguing Liverpool’s central defensive ranks, the manager finally offered a constructive appraisal of his new arrival.

The positives, though hardly resounding, were threefold. Caulker could head the ball, was available and in Klopp’s own words: “We were looking for Premier League experience because in this short time you need that experience.”

The centre-half added another four minutes of said Premier League experience to his CV during a rather bizarre short spell at Anfield. But Klopp established a certain taste for players who had at least had a taste of the English game before.

Klopp leaned on what he knew in his first summer transfer window, with four of his five signings coming from the Bundesliga. But Sadio Mane was a phenomenal exception to a rule that was rewritten during 2017/18: five of his six signings in that campaign were from Premier League clubs, with former Chelsea striker Mo Salah the odd one out.

A team that ruled both country and continent was formed around a backbone of players bought from lower rungs down the ladder in the same division but who had shown enough to suggest they could climb much higher and accompany Liverpool on their journey to the top. Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane were transformative signings that were met with initial skepticism and doubt.

It immediately puts Cheick Doucoure in coveted company. Crystal Palace Player of the Year’s name has been called as a seemingly ‘shock’ Liverpool goal which really should be anything but. The Reds have been forced into an awkward situation with unforeseen Saudi Arabian interest in two of their midfield leaders and the Mali international would not normally register too prominently on their radar. But a 23-year-old was beaten for interceptions last season by just £100m. Declan Rice, who was sixth for the highest percentage of successful take-ons (71.4%) while playing for a bottom-half club managed by Patrick Vieira and Roy Hodgson, is just that kind of diamond in the rough, upon which Klopp established his first Liverpool dynasty.

Doucoure lacks all the Premier League acclimation Khephren Thuram, Florentino Luis, Sofyan Amrabat and Ryan Gravenberch, the seasoning Romeo Lavia needs, the availability Kalvin Phillips demands and the kind of judgment Moises Caicedo resents. He is, in a suboptimal situation, the best of all worlds a Liverpool team struggling for solutions.

He wouldn’t come very cheap – there’s no reason for Palace to let him go for anything less than double the £21m they paid Lens last summer, and that’s a conservative estimate – but in the absence of a less pervasive football phrase fits the Doucoure Profile.

The potential shortlisting of Premier League players is nonetheless a welcome return to policy for Klopp. While 10 of his first 16 Liverpool signings had top-flight English experience, only four of his subsequent 19 did so. In the four years since winning the Champions League, Harvey Elliott, Adrian, Diogo Jota and Fabio Carvalho are the only Premier League players the Reds have added.

An unusual degree of upheaval in Liverpool’s transfer structure has perhaps coincidentally coincided with a shift to spending millions on players across Europe. Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez will benefit from more stability after periods of acclimation, but few would argue that the Reds have reached their previous level of omnipotence in the market.

Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo have had slow starts

The hope is that even with the Saudi roadblocks placed on what used to be a peaceful pre-season road, the initiation of a long-awaited reconstruction can restore some of that authority. Dominik Szoboszlai was an exciting signing born of circumstance, while the capture of Alexis Mac Allister represented a celebrated success in terms of finding tremendous value in a bloated midfield market – the kind that can command exorbitant sums for a player of Doucoure’s skill set.

Highlighting Mac Allister’s various strengths in his inside look at the transfer, the well-connected Paul Joyce of The Times managed to condense the world champion’s attractive virtues into a small paragraph:

Tactical versatility – check. High technical skills and intelligence – check. Target threat – check. Strong mentality, Premier League ready, physically durable – check, check, check.

It reads a hell of a lot better than just being in the market and being able to head a ball. But the fifth check was the most instructive, proof that Liverpool might be trying to go back to their own Premier League-proven steps back to the top.

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