It is likely to be confirmed on Sunday that Liverpool have let the Premier League title slip through their fingers, but there are still huge positives to be taken from a season that has exceeded all expectations. And, while some claim it represents a missed chance that they may not get again for a long time, there is reason for optimism going forward.
Qualifying for the Champions League means the squad will need to be greatly strengthened, but also gives the club the carrot with which to attract top talent. Manager Brendan Rodgers recently stated his belief that playing in club football’s premier competition combined with the attractive style of play he has implemented will make this a more fruitful summer in the transfer market than a year ago.
"We will need to bring in players over the summer, and the great plus about being in the Champions League is that it makes it easier to attract the top ones, but we have developed a style of football over this past year that is already being recognized,” he said, according to The Guardian.
"Last summer when we were speaking to certain players they said they respected what we were trying to achieve but they wanted to play at the top level. We are at that level now, ahead of schedule, so I suspect this summer will be a totally different proposition.”
Among the players Liverpool missed out on last summer was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who instead opted for Borussia Dortmund and a place in the Champions League. This time around strengthening the attacking areas would not appear a priority, although the Reds continue to be linked with offensive players.
Rodgers could again move for Ukraine international Yevhen Konoplyanka, although the Daily Mirror believes that Liverpool’s long-standing interest in Barcelona winger Christian Tello could finally bear fruit. The fresh speculation comes on the back of a frank exchange of words between Tello and Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino when he was called from the bench in injury time of Saturday’s 2-2 result with Getafe.
The Mirror claims that display of disrespect has led to Barcelona deciding to sell Tello. Some doubt regarding that assertion comes from the fact that it is almost certain that Martino will not be manager at the Camp Nou next season. Perhaps more likely to contribute to Tello’s departure, if it does occur, is his lack of first-team opportunities. The 22-year-old has started just two La Liga games this season. Still, he is likely to seek a conversation with Barcelona’s new manager, expected to be Luis Enrique, before deciding upon his future.
Another wide man to have been linked with Liverpool is Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri. Like Tello, the talented Switzerland international could be motivated to seek a move by a lack of minutes on the pitch. The 22-year-old has only completed 90 minutes twice in the Bundesliga this season. However, when asked at a recent sponsors’ event where he would be playing next season, he replied with “still at Bayern Munich,” according to German publication Bild.
Defenders are sure to be in Rodgers’s thoughts, though, especially after Liverpool’s late collapse against Crystal Palace on Monday. According to the Daily Express, the Reds are one of the clubs monitoring Ashley Cole’s situation at Chelsea. The veteran left-back will be out of contract in the summer and his tears after the club’s final home match of the season last week have led many to suggest that he could be set for a departure. Real Madrid have also been linked with recruiting the 33-year-old on a free transfer.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are also said to be interested in Cardiff City center-back Steven Caulker. The Daily Mail reports that the England international has a release clause in his contract that has been triggered by his club’s relegation from the Premier League. Caulker, 22, only signed for Cardiff from Tottenham for a fee of £8 million last summer. He has previously worked under Rodgers during a season-long loan at Cardiff.