Not since Liverpool were last crowned champions of England in 1990 has there been such levels of excitement and anticipation at the start of a new season.
It has taken time for Fenway Sports Group to get the club on to a footing where they can consistently attack but the moment has arrived. Everything is now in place for Jurgen Klopp to mastermind a campaign in which they throw down a challenge to Manchester City.
Failing to make the last step has been a characteristic of the reign of FSG — Liverpool have lost three finals and three semi-finals since 2015 — but work over the last 12 months has removed the scope for excuses. The Mail on Sunday looks at how the nearly men are preparing to come of age.
‘MONEYBALL’ is a term that has been used to beat FSG a lot since they arrived in 2010. Critics used to say that they were more concerned with buying players for low fees and selling them on at a premium, making a profit and doing everything with a ‘net spend’ in mind.
That has never been their philosophy. Each manager has been given full support in the transfer market, from Kenny Dalglish’s £35million capture of Andy Carroll (2011) to the £32.5m Brendan Rodgers was given for Christian Benteke, shortly before he was sacked in 2015.
FSG have thrown everything behind Klopp, though, who was the manager they wanted back in 2012. The German has a strong relationship with the owners — who have provided him with £250m since January — and took the chance to visit them in Boston, during Liverpool’s recent US tour. He is particularly tight with Mike Gordon, FSG’s president, who is responsible for making sure money is in place for transfers.
While a dark cloud has followed Jose Mourinho and Manchester United around for the past month, Klopp could not have written a smoother script. He is meticulous in how he wants pre-season to be and this has ticked all the boxes.
From four warm-up games in the North West to a three-match tour of the US followed by an intense week of training in the Alps, where three sessions a day was the norm, Liverpool have been conditioned to come flying out of the blocks.
There is also the camaraderie in the squad. In Evian this week, where Liverpool were based, there was a karaoke night during which Alisson Becker, the £65m arrival from Roma, made himself an instant hit by singing the Oasis classic Don’t Look Back in Anger.
When you have a forward line that shared 91 goals last season, it may seem unusual to highlight someone who has yet to kick a ball in the Premier League as being key for the forthcoming campaign.
If Naby Keita, though, plays like many believe he will, the Guinea international is set to become one of the most discussed players in the country. It is 18 months since Klopp identified Keita, then of RB Leipzig, as the man for his engine room.
Klopp was telling people as far back as the 2016-17 campaign that Keita had everything to be the link to Liverpool’s attack and it has been apparent in training what he offers. He could have gone to Barcelona or Bayern Munich but it was always going to be Liverpool.
‘A big part of my decision was the role of the coach,’ says Keita. ‘We had good conversations. The words he spoke to me about this project really convinced me.
‘I saw how the team was developing through last season and I was keen to get here. I am someone who has this real winning mentality.’
Alisson is the jewel in Liverpool’s summer programme. They first made contact with Roma over Brazil’s No 1 in January, but the initial quote of £90m put thoughts of signing him to one side.
The idea that Liverpool stopped thinking about him to replace Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet, though, is nonsense. No matter what happened in the Champions League final, Liverpool were going to return for summer discussions with Roma and when they did the landscape had changed.
Liverpool have not had a top-class reliable goalkeeper since Pepe Reina was in his pomp and it was a prerequisite that Klopp addressed the situation in this window. To be blunt, his reputation would have been scuffed a little had he not taken the appropriate action.
So can they do it? Liverpool might be synonymous with European competition but the quest to win the league again has become an obsession. It is not just a 38-game season that Klopp must manage — he also has to cope with the burden of expectation and emotion.
But there is no question that he has learnt since arriving in England almost three years ago. His Borussia Dortmund teams were able to play that high-intensity football for prolonged spells because they had a winter break. Without that luxury here, Klopp knows how to rest and rotate.
‘It is not just that we have to be more consistent, we have to create circumstances where we can be more consistent,’ says Klopp.
‘Nobody is consistent with 11 players. We are working on the depth of the squad because you need it. Create the circumstances that we can be more consistent and to improve individually and as a group. We have to reach the level of last year which was quite good and make the next steps. I know we have got enough quality in our squad.
‘It is all about having the mindset and the desire to want it enough and to fight for it enough. That desire and belief goes a long way.’
Can it carry them to first place? At the very least, it should carry them into the conversation. Liverpool showed in one-off games against Manchester City last season that they could come out on top. Now they have to be prepared to go hard from the first moment.
‘It’s not for us to say (if we can win the title) — other people can speculate,’ said midfielder Adam Lallana.
‘But, of course we are going to be in the pack who want to chase down City. Hopefully we and three or four of the other top teams can squeeze a few more points out of City. That would certainly make it interesting.’Daily Mail