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true red How Liverpool look to have found another gem in new man Luis Diaz

Calculated’ transfer strategy at Anfield aims to unearth signings before rivals come calling

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Liverpool's Luis Diaz appears to be another inspired acquisition by the club's recruitment team. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Luis Diaz appears to be another inspired acquisition by the club's recruitment team. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Luis Diaz appears to be another inspired acquisition by the club's recruitment team. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's acclaimed recruitment team look like they have struck gold again. Luis Diaz’ full Premier League debut was described by Jurgen Klopp as “one of the best first games I have seen from a player”.

Meanwhile, last season’s bargain buy, Diogo Jota, reaffirmed his growing stature with two goals to take his tally to 17.

Since Klopp became Liverpool boss, the club’s hit rate with signings has been the envy of most of the Premier League and Europe, whether for their record £75 m deal for Virgil van Dijk or the free transfer of Joel Matip.

It is a far cry from the days under Klopp’s predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, when the “transfer committee” were mocked for wasting resources on Mari|o Balotelli and Christian Benteke. So contaminated was the initial description of Liverpool’s recruitment team, the word “committee” itself was banished from Anfield.

Liverpool have thrived since then because of the collaboration between the football operations. “Smart people in the right positions,” is Klopp’s summary.

“We have brilliant people here who make really good proposals and we, as coaches, make good proposals as well. So far, we have found more often than not the right solution for this team.”

There is rather more to it, of course. Where before Klopp there seemed mistrust between departments, there is now cohesion.

Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon, sporting director Michael Edwards and his assistant (soon to be replacement), Julian Ward, lead the recruitment process.

Once a player has caught Klopp’s eye, or that of his coaches and the talent spotters, Gordon will report back on whether the player is affordable, or the price is in line with the club’s strategy.

If so, chief scout Barry Hunter and head of recruitment Dave Fallows will produce background reports, commission thorough data analysis, offer all the most positive and negative feedback and provide video summaries. Klopp is informed each step of the way.

“Transfers are a very emotional business for the outside world and a very calculated one for us,” Klopp said.

“Fans think about it with the heart and we have to think about it with the head. What do we need now? What do we need tomorrow? That’s the transfer business and it is not so easy.

“It’s about timing as well. I am 100 per cent sure that a year later Diogo Jota would have had offers from other top clubs. It is similar to Mo (Salah). If he had played another season at Roma in the same manner, then there probably would have been other clubs in for him.”

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Klopp also feels the weight of responsibility to ensure he minimises risk.

“There is no secret here, but our situation at this club is that our transfers have to hit the ground (running) because we can’t make a £40 m or £50 m signing and say if they are not playing then that is not important.

“It’s not, as we say in Germany, that we ‘swim in money’. It’s a wealthy club, there are no problems here, but the policy is clear: we spend what we earn. If we earn more, we can spend more and if we earn less, we spend less.”

The deals for Diaz and Jota followed the template of previous signings. With Diaz, the background work – on this occasion led by Ward as part of the transition to him becoming sporting director this summer – aligned with Klopp’s enthusiasm having seen the player up close for Porto. The only hesitancy as such came from an initially prohibitive £60 m valuation.

Once it dropped to an up-front £37 m, Liverpool pushed the accelerator, although Klopp is the first to admit the idea of a “bargain transfer” should be put into context.

“It was not that Ali (Alisson) was not expensive. But I think today everyone would say, ‘Yes, that is the least price I would pay for him if I’d known how good he is’,” he said. “That is similar to Virgil, then we have brought Fabinho in, Naby Keita, Sadio, Mo . . . so many players.

"The club have also had some incredible free transfers with (James) Milner and Matip. We brought in some real talents like (Andy) Robertson. It is just a mix of everything.”

Figures released this week indicated that over the past 10 years, Liverpool’s net spend has fallen below that of Arsenal, Everton, West Ham and Aston Villa. For Klopp, it helps that each new recruit is joining a well-drilled unit.

“For all the players it is the same. The most important thing for a signing and that a transfer works is that the team they join is in a good place. It helps massively that it is a settled team so the new signing doesn’t have to come in and change the world on his first day.”

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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