Liverpool mailbag: Jude Bellingham, Oxlade-Chamberlain future and Keita contract

From Jude Bellingham to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita’s contract situation, pre-season plans, the academy youngsters in contention for a senior breakthrough in 2022-23 and the stadium redevelopment, you wanted to know about a wide range of topics in our latest mailbag.

Thanks very much for all your questions and sorry if yours wasn’t selected this time.

Mohamed Salah’s future might now be assured after the 30-year-old signed a new three-year deal worth £350,000 a week but there’s plenty more to get stuck into.

Let’s dive in…


What are the return dates for the players in pre-season? (Andrew O)

It will be a staggered return. Those who didn’t go away on international duty after the end of last season will report back to Kirkby on Monday — just over five weeks after the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp has given those who were involved in Nations League and friendly international games in June some extra time off. I believe they will link up with the squad on July 9 for the flight to Thailand.

Will there be any more signings? I feel like Oxlade-Chamberlain should be replaced. (Adi M)

With the window open for another two months, I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty that there will be no more incomings. However, as things stand, senior Anfield figures have indicated that they don’t expect any further signings.

Klopp is happy with what he’s got. Strengthening the midfield is obviously a hot topic of debate but unless they can recruit the right player at the right price they’ll wait until next summer to further bolster that department.

As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool won’t stand in his way if they receive an acceptable offer and he decides he wants to move on in search of regular game time elsewhere. The 28-year-old, who has a year left on his contract, is valued at around £10 million.


Oxlade-Chamberlain will be allowed to leave if the right offer comes in (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Oxlade-Chamberlain endured a difficult final few months of last season when he fell out of favour completely, but some of the contributions he made before that, especially during the Africa Cup of Nations, shouldn’t be forgotten. He played 29 times (17 starts) in 2021-22. Unless he pushes for a move, he will stay as a squad player.

Jude Bellingham. Is it likely? If so this year or next year? (Colm O)

Very interested. The England midfielder is a class act and it’s hard to believe he’s only just turned 19. However, he won’t be leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer. Having already sold Erling Haaland to Manchester City, the Bundesliga club don’t intend to lose another star name in the same window.

There will be serious competition for Bellingham’s signature in 2023. Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United are also in the race, with reports in Germany this week suggesting it would take €120 million (£103 million) to sign him. Bellingham doesn’t have a release clause and has three years left on his contract.

Liverpool will certainly be in the conversation and it helps that Bellingham has a good relationship with captain Jordan Henderson from their time together with England.

I don’t think that fee would scare Liverpool off as you’re talking about a player who could be at the heart of their midfield for a decade. However, the wage demands could be a potential stumbling block.

I’m a bit confused as to the plan with Nat Phillips. How come there’s talk of loaning him rather than selling? (Robin B)

Liverpool value Phillips at around £15 million. Bournemouth want to keep him after his impressive loan spell helped them clinch promotion back to the Premier League but they don’t want to pay that much and would prefer another loan.

Phillips is set to start pre-season with Liverpool and then his future should become clearer in the next few weeks. If there’s not an acceptable permanent offer for the 25-year-old centre-back then Liverpool will sanction another temporary move for a loan fee.

Nat Phillips trains with Liverpool


Phillips training in pre-season with Liverpool in July 2021 (Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Where do you see Kaide Gordon playing this season? Is he likely to go on loan like Harvey Elliott did? (Chris J)

I’m not aware of any plans at this stage to loan Gordon out. The gifted winger is still only 17. He impressed everyone with his maturity as well as his ability when he stepped up to the senior ranks last season.

If he has a good pre-season I can see him playing a bigger role for Klopp this time around, especially given the departures of Sadio Mane, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi.

Regarding Darwin Nunez, will he adjust to Liverpool levels of pressing or will Klopp plan something more ‘laidback’ this season? Generally, are any tactical changes expected already? (Kostis P)

Liverpool’s mantra of “our identity is intensity” won’t change. Darwin Nunez will adjust to what’s demanded from him off the ball — Klopp and his staff don’t have any concerns about that. How quickly he starts games is down to him but I don’t envisage a long adaptation period. I think he’s got all the attributes required to make a massive impression at Anfield.

Nunez’s arrival does give Klopp the option of playing 4-2-3-1 more regularly with the Uruguay frontman as the focal point. You could have Luis Diaz on the left, Salah on the right and then Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino or Fabio Carvalho as the No 10 operating behind Nunez. But he won’t just ditch playing 4-3-3. The manager wants his team to be unpredictable so there are bound to be tactical tweaks for the season ahead.

darwin-nunez


Liverpool hope big-money signing Darwin Nunez will hit the ground running (Photo: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Twelve months ago we saw Trent Alexander-Arnold’s role evolve with Salah staying wide more often and the right-back occupying more central areas when attacking. Klopp and Lijnders also brought in the guys from Neuro11 to work on the mental side of taking penalties, free kicks and corners. That relationship will continue and it will be intriguing to see what’s added to the mix this time around.

Do you think the squad is not as strong as last year? (James A)

Liverpool have lost Mane, Origi and Minamino, and gained Nunez, Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay. Answering that question is tricky at this stage as we don’t know what kind of impact the new boys will make. But from what I’ve seen of them previously I don’t believe the squad will be weaker.

I thought Klopp would sign another midfielder this summer (obviously Carvalho can play there as well as further forward). We know they were very keen on Aurelien Tchouameni before he opted for Real Madrid so it’s not like they aren’t looking at possibilities.

Centre midfield is the only area where I’d question the depth. But if Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones kick on like Liverpool hope they will and Thiago stays fit, then Klopp should have enough quality in that department for the challenges ahead.

Do we think Sadio Mane did LFC a favour saying he wasn’t extending early so we could make some money on him? (Rich B)

I wouldn’t say Mane did Liverpool a favour, it was just the way things turned out.

The situation with Salah was different because the Egyptian always wanted to stay but only if he got a contract offer which he felt recognised his status in world football. In contrast, Mane was reluctant to hold talks over a new deal. His head was turned by the offer of a new challenge and a bumper pay rise at Bayern Munich. He left on good terms and rightly so because he gave Liverpool six years of brilliant service.

Mane, Bayern Munich


Mane moved to Germany with Liverpool’s blessing (Photo: S. Mellar/FC Bayern via Getty Images)

Mane could have sat tight and left on a free in 2023 but he didn’t want to wait and Liverpool ultimately got what they wanted from Bayern with that £35 million deal.

One thing Liverpool had to avoid was losing Mane and Salah in the same window. That would have left a huge void. Salah would have stayed put this summer, regardless of his new deal. With the signings of Jota, Diaz and Nunez, we’re seeing the gradual evolution of Klopp’s frontline but Salah is still the main man.

What’s happening with Joe Gomez? (Harvey J)

Liverpool hope Gomez will stay and sign a new contract. The 25-year-old’s current deal runs until 2024.

It was a tough season for Gomez with Ibrahima Konate’s impact and Joel Matip’s resurgence limiting his game time. He only made four league starts in 2021-22 but he’s still got so much to offer. Liverpool know he wants to play more regularly but it would take a big offer for them to even consider selling.

Why haven’t Liverpool been able to keep Naby Keita injury free and why offer him a new contract given his injury record? (Philip M) 

Liverpool are looking to get Naby Keita tied down to a new contract and talks are ongoing. I know he divides opinion among fans but I thought for the most part he did very well in the second half of last season.

As for his injury record, of course it’s frustrating and he’s had a lot of misfortune. However, he still made 40 appearances in all competitions in 2021-22. As well as the fact Klopp still believes in him, a new deal protects the 27-year-old’s value. Otherwise you risk losing a £52.75 million signing for nothing in 2023.

Any idea why Michael Edwards left? (John H)

Edwards made it clear that he felt the time was right to step away and have a break after a decade of service to the club. It’s a stressful role and he’s got a young family.

I think the fact there was a gradual handover to Julian Ward over the course of last season proved that it was all very amicable behind the scenes.

The owners were gutted to lose Edwards but understood his reasons for not wanting to sign a new contract. He’s been inundated with job offers and I’m not surprised that Premier League rivals are lining up to employ him. Last I heard he was going to take some time out. He’s earned it.

What are the expectations for Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott this season? With no major midfield signings it seems like Klopp is betting on one (or both) to step up in a big way this season. (Sam C)

Elliott was starting Premier League games on merit before that horrible afternoon at Elland Road. He did brilliantly to get back so soon but I think it was always going to be this coming season when we saw the best of him again. If Elliott performs like he can in that midfield role then he’s going to be a huge asset as he’s incredibly gifted.

elliott-jones


It will be a big season for youngsters Elliott and Jones (Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Jones is a couple of years older and in many ways this actually feels like a bigger season for him. Consistency was an issue for him in 2021-22. He went from starting to not even making the bench at times. He’s got so much potential but it needs to be fulfilled on a regular basis.

Klopp loves versatility in players. Elliott and Jones can both operate out wide but I think most of their game time will be in midfield.

How long is Kelleher going to be happy as a back-up? (Drew L).

Caoimhin Kelleher is developing into a fantastic goalkeeper. He will undoubtedly be a number one at the top level in the coming years but Liverpool want to hold on to him as long as possible because he’s a brilliant deputy for Alisson. It was a smart move by Klopp giving him the honour of starting the Carabao Cup final and that faith was rewarded.

Kelleher is still only 23 so hopefully it will be another year at least before he moves on. The goalkeeping department will have a new look to it this season with Marcelo Pitaluga loaned out and Loris Karius having left on a free. Adrian, Klopp’s third choice, has one more year on his contract.

What did you have for lunch today James? (Dimitri A) Are you vegan? (Peter S).

Finally, the big issues!! Chicken and salad, and definitely not a big bag of pickled onion Monster Munch on the side.

I’ve signed up for the Great North Run, a half-marathon, in September so desperately trying to shift some weight before stepping up the training runs. Peter, no vegans here I’m afraid. I just love steak too much.

With the mid-season break due to the World Cup, has there been any word regarding LFC’s plans for the players who will not be part of the tournament? (Lee S).

Nothing decided yet but I’d expect that month to be a mix of time off to rest and then a training camp. It’s going to be such a strange period for the likes of Diaz, Salah and Andy Robertson.

After playing on the weekend of November 12/13, Liverpool’s next Premier League fixture will be on Boxing Day – eight days after the World Cup final.

How is Anfield’s redevelopment coming along? (Tehchad K) Any plans to upgrade the Sir Kenny Dalglish stand and the Kop? (Rami N)

The £80 million redevelopment of the Anfield Road end is really taking shape and remains on course to be completed in time for the start of the 2023-24 season. It will add around 7,000 extra seats, taking Anfield’s capacity to around 61,000. Around 5,000 of the extra seats will be general admission with another 2,000 in new hospitality lounges.

Liverpool have around 20,000 supporters on a season-ticket waiting list, which has been closed to new applications since 2011. I asked managing director Andy Hughes about the possibility of expanding other parts of the stadium a few months ago and he said that wasn’t under discussion.

Do you feel that FSG are wasting the four years that they have left with one of the top three coaches in the world by not giving him what he exactly wants right now in order to win the Premier League again? (Vinnie J)

Let’s not forget Liverpool are coming off the back of a season when they won two cups, missed out on the Premier League title by one point and were unfortunate to lose the Champions League final to Real Madrid. I certainly don’t think Fenway Sports Group is wasting Klopp’s best years and neither does the manager.

He only signed that new contract in April because of the strong relationship he has with the owners and his belief that more great days lie ahead. I asked Tom Werner before the Champions League final and he was clear that FSG remains committed for the long-term.

I understand the frustration among fans at times because Liverpool can’t complete financially with Manchester City but nothing has changed on that front. FSG continues to do what it has always done, reinvest all the money generated by Liverpool back into the club rather than taking anything out. The wage bill has rocketed over the past five or six years.

It was only a few weeks ago when FSG sanctioned the £85 million deal for Nunez. And now Salah is the best-paid player in the club’s history.

salah-liverpool


FSG has pushed the boat out to agree a new £350,000-a-week deal for Salah (Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Do you think there will be any hangover from last season considering how hard we pushed in all competitions? Do you think it will be difficult to push like that again, especially after falling just short in the last week? (Cameron D)

It’s a good question. Of course there was heartbreak with missing out on the Premier League and the Champions League in such quick succession. And it will certainly be tough to maintain a challenge on all fronts like that again — no club had ever come so close to pulling off the Quadruple. But I honestly don’t think there will be a hangover.

Speaking to staff and players after the season had finished, they were all buoyed massively by that parade through the streets of the city. They didn’t know what to expect after losing the final but the reaction from the fans, with 500,000 people turning out, blew them away.

It meant they all went off for the summer on an emotional high rather than a crushing low. When you throw into the mix Klopp’s famed motivational skills and the lift provided by the new arrivals, I don’t see any lingering feelings from 2021-22 holding Liverpool back this time around.

(Top photo: Markus Gilliar/Getty Images)

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Liverpool mailbag: Jude Bellingham, Oxlade-Chamberlain future and Keita contract

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