Liverpool have been thrown into turmoil. So what will Jurgen Klopp do about it?

It all happened so calmly.

Liverpool had moved quickly to get most of their transfer business done before the start of pre-season, with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai arriving for a combined fee of around £95m ($125m) – the two versatile, dynamic midfielders Jurgen Klopp had prioritized in the window.

This section of the squad had been significantly overhauled following the summer exits of James Milner, Naby Keitas, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arthur Melo.

“Happy to be back,” beamed a tanned Klopp as he strolled into the AXA Training Center for the first day of pre-season testing on Saturday.

A fresh start, an injection of proven quality, injuries being sorted out, no sagas to resolve, a solid base to work from as Liverpool sought to banish memories of last season’s struggles.

What a difference a week makes. Suddenly, there is a sense of uncertainty and upheaval as the team prepares to fly to a training camp in Germany on Saturday.

Klopp’s plans for the new campaign have been thrown into turmoil by the eye-popping riches of the Saudi Pro League. Captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have turned heads.

Steven Gerrard’s desire to make Henderson his signature on his statement after taking over at Al Ettifaq earlier this month was no secret, but few seriously expected the switch to appeal to the 33-year-old given what he would give up.

Steven Gerrard (Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

Even if you put aside the moral issues – and there are plenty – Henderson would effectively be calling time on his elite-level career, handing back the Liverpool armband he has worn with distinction for the past eight years and effectively ending his 77- year. cap England career.

There would be no Anfield farewell, no outpouring of emotion in recognition of what he has given to the cause over 492 appearances spanning 12 seasons. He would slip out the back door of a football player.

In May, Henderson had spoken bullishly about the prospect of facing increased competition for a starting place at Liverpool, knowing that midfield reinforcements were imminent.

“It is always a challenge. It’s been like that ever since I joined the club. When the pre-season comes, I will be ready for the challenge again,” he vowed.

Henderson worked with former Liverpool physio Matt Konopinski during his summer break to ensure he returned to Kirkby in the best possible shape. “My God, look at this!” smiled Mohamed Salah as he admired the skipper’s worn physique on Tuesday.

Even then, the prospect of Henderson walking away seemed remote, but over the next 48 hours the landscape changed significantly.

The offer of a three-year contract worth close to £700,000 ($917,000) a week (more than three times his current wages) proved impossible to resist. On Friday morning, it was made clear that Henderson was willing to make the move and the deal would depend on Al Ettifaq’s ability to negotiate a fee with Liverpool.

What happens now is unclear because the Saudi club’s desire to pay an eye-watering salary is not matched by a commitment to splash out on the transfer fee.

Al Ettifaq, which is not one of the four Saudi clubs recently taken over by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF, had hoped Liverpool would either give Henderson a free transfer or accept a fee of around £10m. That is simply not the case.

Henderson is not a fringe player who is surplus to requirements at Anfield. He is their talismanic captain, making 43 appearances for the club in all competitions last season and starting England’s June internationals against Malta and North Macedonia. He still has two years left on his current one and remains a big part of Klopp’s plans.

Defender Kalidou Koulibaly, 32, recently moved from Chelsea to Al Hilal for around £20m and Liverpool see that fee as a reference point for talks.

If a compromise can be reached and Henderson’s departure, Virgil van Dijk would be the front-runner to be handed the captaincy. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold would be the other main contenders. Alisson also currently sits on the club’s management team, which has already been depleted following vice-captain Milner’s exit to Brighton.

Virgil van Dijk (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

As for Fabinho, he is being pursued by fellow Saudi Al Ittihad. Athletics reported on Thursday that they were planning to make a £40m bid for him.

Al Ittihad is managed by former Wolves and Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who has admired the Brazilian since working together at Rio Ave in Portugal ten years ago.

Discussions with Fabinho’s representatives are ongoing and Liverpool have yet to receive a formal offer for a player who is under contract until 2026.

Fabinho endured a difficult season in 2022-23 but Klopp felt he improved during the run-up and has not sought to move him on.

Klopp’s attitude throughout his Anfield tenure has been that he will not make anyone stay against their wishes as long as there is a deal on the table that makes sense for the club and there is sufficient time to find a replacement.

Philippe Coutinho had to sit out the summer of 2017 before finally getting his wish the following January when Barcelona struck a £142m deal.

In the years since, with the glory he has overseen, Klopp has succeeded in turning Liverpool into a final destination for elite talent rather than a stepping stone. But the salaries offered by Saudi clubs are a game-changer.

Roberto Firmino attracted interest from a host of European clubs following the expiry of his contract at Liverpool, but opted to sign for Al Ahli instead due to the financial incentives. He could soon be joined by some familiar faces.

Roberto Firmino (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

How Liverpool would try to fill the void left by Fabinho and Henderson is unclear. Prior to this week, the club’s position was that they would only add further to their midfield department if there was an unexpected exit. Now there could be two.

Southampton’s Romeo Lavia is admired, but Liverpool have so far considered his asking price of £50m. as excessive. The Belgian teenager is a great talent, but he is also young and raw. You definitely need more than Lavia if both Henderson and Fabinho leave.

The size of the midfield summer rebuild may be growing, raising inevitable concerns about changing too much in one window. The danger is that you end up facing another transition period with so many new faces.

It’s a headache for Klopp – and an unexpected one.

(Top photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

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