Klopp clanger all too familiar for Liverpool fans

Two years into his stint as Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp -- a prolific striker as a player for Mainz -- has hit the target more often than not with selections and tactics.

Yet an aborted attempt to acquire Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk has tarnished his reputation, and reminded supporters of the club’s past transgressions in the player market.

On Wednesday, Liverpool publicly withdrew its interest in Van Dijk a day after Southampton lodged a complaint with the Premier League and two days after the defender indicated his preferred destinations were Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. Members of Liverpool’s ownership, Fenway Sports Group, discussed the matter and helped draft a statement by which the club, embarrassingly and perhaps damningly, pulled out of a negotiation it had not formally initiated.

“Liverpool Football Club would like to put on record our regret over recent media speculation regarding Southampton Football Club and player transfers between the two clubs,” the statement read. “We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk. We respect Southampton’s position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”

The Premier League has contacted both teams to obtain their version of events. Reportedly, Southampton has evidence that Klopp met with Van Dijk in Blackpool and sent texts to the player, both clear cases of “tapping up,” a term used to describe unauthorized contact between a player under contract and another club. Van Dijk’s contract with Southampton runs for five more years and a deal for him has been valued in the press at 60 million pounds ($75 million).

The alleged illegal contact predates the arrival of Peter Moore -- the former EA Sports president with more than 30 years of experience working in American soccer market -- as Liverpool’s new chief executive but he and the club’s FSG representatives, including John Henry and chairman Tom Werner, could be answering a lot of questions in the next few weeks if the Premier League decides to investigate the matter. The club’s track recent track record is not good.

Five years ago, Liverpool issued a public apology to Fulham, which had reported to the Premier League an illegal advance to U.S. international Clint Dempsey. So clumsily had Liverpool acted in the matter, on the FSG Web site appeared an announcement that Dempsey had joined the club, then managed by Brendan Rodgers.

Werner gave a personal apology to Mohammed al-Fayed, owner of Fulham at the time, and Liverpool’s then-managing director, Ian Ayre, said in a public statement, “Our club can do better and we pledge that it will.” Fulham officials withdrew the complaint.

Such violations are not confined to the first team. Liverpool is under a transfer embargo at the academy level for approaching a 12-year-old registered with Stoke City and offering him and his family inducements to change clubs.

Some of the club’s success under Klopp can be credited to its acquisition of players from Southampton. In the past three years, it has spent about $120 million to acquire Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert, Nathaniel Clyne, and Sadio Mane. But Southampton has rebuffed all attempts to lure away Van Dijk, who came to St. Mary’s two years ago in a $14 million transfer from Celtic and scored seven goals in 68 appearances prior to being sidelined by a severe ankle injury in January.

He sat out of the rest of the season but despite the setback, his talent, experience and age (25) plus a five-year deal will make for tough bargaining sessions when clubs come calling.

“The trading in the last three summers was often out of necessity,” Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger told the Daily Telegraph. “We have contracts in place like never before. We go into the first summer ever where we do not have to sell a player. We built longevity in the contracts and that gives you a chance to move with a core of players into multiple seasons and build some synergy. Our goal is to keep the core in place.”
2 comments about "Klopp clanger all too familiar for Liverpool fans".
  1. Gus Keri, June 10, 2017 at 8:54 a.m.

    I am confident that Van Dijk will not stay at Southampton for the next season. He eventually will move on to another club and after all the fuss, Liverpool may well be his destination.

  2. R2 Dad, June 10, 2017 at 12:53 p.m.

    I realize "Edwards clanger all too familiar for Liverpool fans" would not harvest cicks, but Michael Edwards is the Sporting Director and is largely responsible for the transfer function at LFC. Curious why he is not even mentioned here.

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