Liverpool abandon all hope of signing Jude Bellingham

Pragmatism has won out in Liverpool’s decision not to go for Dortmund and England midfielder

It would have been a summer like no other for Fenway Sports Group had they beaten Europe’s richest clubs to Jude Bellingham and committed in excess of €200 million to one Liverpool transfer. Bellingham or not, and it’s now not for Liverpool, the pressure has increased on the club’s owners to deliver a summer like no other to prevent a season of regression leaving lasting damage.

When Jürgen Klopp, in a rare but minor dig at his employers earlier this season, expressed a wish for FSG to take greater risks in the transfer market and act more decisively, pulling out of the race for a long-time leading target in April was presumably not what he had in mind. If the Liverpool manager knew that was the case last Friday, however, when warning that “Whatever we do next year will never be enough from people’s point of view, but with smart recruitment we will improve”, he appeared extremely relaxed about a situation that has dismayed the fanbase.

Pragmatism has won out in Liverpool’s decision not to go for Bellingham, as it often does with FSG and Klopp. This is a club that competed in every game it was possible for them to play last season, reached three cup finals, including a third Champions League final in five seasons, took the Premier League title race down to the final day and increased their commercial revenue by €33 million to €280 million. They made a profit last season of €8.5m. Before tax. And angry Twitter is asking why Liverpool, whose owners are seeking fresh investment, are not competing with UAE and Qatar for a player who could command a €150 million-plus transfer fee and a contract worth at least €90 million over five years.

The possibility that Borussia Dortmund might not sell their prized asset this summer, with Bellingham under contract until 2025, or may sit back and watch an auction develop between Manchester City, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and other interested parties also influenced Liverpool’s decision to withdraw. But other factors are entirely of their own making, not least allowing a Premier League and Champions League winning squad to fade to an extent that major investment is needed in several areas rather than on one statement signing.


Liverpool were lauded for a transfer strategy under FSG that, allied to Klopp’s brilliance, helped win a first league title for 30 years and six successive seasons of Champions League football. And the revenue that is essential to the owners’ sporting model. The transfer strategy, though, has looked increasingly muddled over a past year in which Michael Edwards departed as sporting director and his replacement, Julian Ward, only a few months into the job, announced he was also heading for the exit. Ward remains in situ until the end of the season and Liverpool need him to leave with several deals done given they have yet to install a successor.

Klopp claimed there had been constructive progress on transfers during the recent international break. He insists FSG will fund an overhaul of the squad this summer. With Champions League qualification unlikely, Liverpool cannot afford to stand still once again. Bellingham was courted for more than 12 months by Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson did their part during and after a World Cup that increased the midfielder’s value and put him out of Liverpool’s reach.

The manager abandoned his policy of not speaking about transfer targets to pour lavish praise on the 19-year-old on several occasions. Steven Gerrard was even at it while working as a pundit on England’s recent win over Ukraine. To U-turn now, when Bellingham was never going to come cheap and was receptive to a move to Anfield, appears a belated admission on Liverpool’s part of how much work there is to do to reclaim their place as City’s closest rivals. And of how Klopp’s patience has frayed.

Liverpool have tormented their manager this season with performances that have suggested they are a spent force or not far off their relentless best, even with a forward line in transition. Arsenal on Sunday was the latest example of both faces being shown in the same game.

Given the increased competition for the top four and the importance of Champions League money to Liverpool, Klopp does not have the time he once had to polish rough diamonds into title winners. He needs, and has stated as much several times recently, Liverpool to act smartly and swiftly when the transfer window opens.

The club has committed to transfer fees worth up to €200 million on forwards Darwin Núñez, Luis Díaz, Cody Gakpo and Fabio Carvalho since January last year. The midfield is in similar need of attention, with Mason Mount, Matheus Nunes, Ryan Gravenberch and Moisés Caicedo among the candidates for the overdue overhaul. This season has also exposed defensive weaknesses that require addressing. #FSGOUT was the predictable reaction on social media to news of Liverpool ending their pursuit of Bellingham.

Of more concern to Klopp will be the message it sends to the dressing room. The club does not have the resources to compete for the best English midfielder on the market because there are so many expensive holes to plug. But please make a concerted effort to qualify for the Champions League in the meantime. – Guardian