Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted the club’s stance would not waver on Mohamed Salah, despite speculation of a potential world-record bid for the forward arriving this week.

The club rejected a £150million deal for the 31-year-old from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad on Friday and said at the time, they considered the matter closed.

That has not prevented suggestions the Pro League champions are prepared to return with a bid of around £200m but Klopp said even though the Saudi transfer window remained open until Thursday, the position of owners Fenway Sports Group would not change.

“I didn’t realise a little bit of a distraction in the whole week, besides answering questions about it – not from people inside (the club) but people outside,” said Klopp after his side’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa in which Salah scored the third after Dominik Szoboszlai’s first goal for the club was followed by Matty Cash putting through his own net.

“I have no clue, nobody came to me and told me something could happen or whatever. I’m pretty sure I would have got a call but I didn’t.

“And Mo didn’t look for a second like he thought about anything else other than about Aston Villa, being involved in all the goals.

“He has unbelievable numbers but it’s not a surprise that he has the numbers. And he had chances on top of that and (is) involved in creating and setting up and all these kind of things.

“He’s a world-class player, no doubt about that and I’m really pleased he is in my team.”

Szoboszlai said in a post-match television interview to that Salah wanted to stay.

“You know it is football, everyone is talking. We are really happy that he has stayed,” said the Hungary captain.

“We are of course speaking between each other but he wants to stay, he wants to be here and be with us. We are really happy – we need people in the team like him.”

Klopp was asked whether Salah had conveyed that message to him.

“No. He didn’t tell me, but he didn’t have to. He speaks with his training and performances and behaviour,” he added, after admitting the only downside to the afternoon was a hamstring injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold which was likely to rule him out of England duty in the coming international break.

“We had meetings this week and the meetings were not about what we did in the past, it was about what we will do in the future.

“Mo was with the players’ (leadership) committee and had his moments where he was talking and it was nothing like ‘By the way, this is only until next week’ or whatever.

“He is completely here and if Dom said that, fine. Mo doesn’t have to come into my office and tell me ‘By the way, boss… (I’m not going)’.

“For me it wasn’t a subject for one second, to be honest, besides the questions (from the media).”

Villa were never really in the game after Cash’s 22nd-minute own goal, and head coach Unai Emery admitted – after conceding three in the last half-hour at Newcastle on the opening weekend – he was conscious of getting torn apart at Anfield.

“It is difficult to win here and first half was the key. We had chances, we were not clinical and 2-0 was not really the result we deserved for the first half,” he said.

“Second half we stuck to our gameplan and they scored the third goal and it was match finished.

“We tried to be focused because here, like in Newcastle, we lost the last 30 minutes and we didn’t want it today. I can’t accept to let them have more goals.”

Liverpool are determined to rebuff further approaches from Al-Ittihad for Mohamed Salah but the next few days are likely to prove every bit of the challenge manager Jurgen Klopp predicted.

Mike Gordon, president of owners Fenway Sports Group, politely but firmly rejected the Saudi Pro League’s offer of a £150million deal for the Egypt international and declared the matter closed as far as the club were concerned.

However, with the Pro League’s transfer window open until Thursday, there is the very real prospect Al-Ittihad will return with an improved bid which will have even more of a destabilising effect.

Which is why Klopp again expressed his concern about the discrepancy as “nobody (in Europe) can react any more”.

When Saudi interest in the 31-year-old first reared its head last month, the Egyptian’s agent Ramy Abbas wrote on Twitter on August 7: “If we considered leaving LFC this year, we wouldn’t have renewed the contract last summer. Mohamed remains committed to LFC.”

Abbas has not been as forthcoming this time around and although the Salah bid has undoubtedly loomed large over preparations for Sunday’s visit of Aston Villa, Klopp said he had seen “absolutely nothing” to worry about and that Salah was “super-committed”.

However, this week’s developments look like the start of a long goodbye for Salah, who will be 32 next summer and in the final year of his £350,000-a-week contract – which easily makes him the highest-paid player in the club’s history – with Liverpool more likely to be amenable to a sale at that point.

While the focus of Salah, who has scored scored 138 goals in 221 Premier League appearances, has never been in doubt, Klopp also believes fellow forward Darwin Nunez has a renewed drive following his match-winning two-goal appearance off the bench at Newcastle last week.

“Massive, massive, that’s clear. That’s what he wants, what we want,” Klopp said of the effect it would have on the Uruguay international, who started the season as fifth-choice forward.

“It’s exactly how it should have been – being a massive threat. You could, of course, see it the next day. But everybody could feel it.”

Villa have impressed under Unai Emery this season as, after an opening-day defeat at Newcastle, they have won four successive matches in all competitions.

“Aston Villa is a machine – counter-attack, good organised, everyone committed 100 per cent. When they defend deep then they defend with their all and from there they go,” said Klopp.

“It’s a massive game, no doubt about it. Yeah, we have to play a top game to get something out of it.

“After that it is the international break, so we could make a good start (and) turn it into a really good start to the season result-wise.

“But there are a massive 115 minutes in between now and then.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp loves his reinvented midfield and believes the club have done good business this summer.

The £35million signing of Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch, with the deal expected to be finalised before the deadline after the 21-year-old flew to Merseyside for his medical on Thursday, will complete a total rejuvenation of the Reds’ engine room.

Klopp was always planning to revamp his midfield this summer but even he did not expect to change the whole unit, only for the departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Saudi Arabia to force him into a radical overhaul.

Argentina’s World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and RB Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai were early arrivals as part of the planned revamp, but the addition of Wataru Endo and Gravenberch, who was a long-term target but was considered unavailable, came much later than expected after Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia both turned them down for a move to Chelsea.

“We pretty much had to reinvent the team. The midfield is all ready and will be completely new,” he said.

“We had to do that in a season where we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, which has a massive impact.

“I know people expect it to be different but it is how it is. I really think we did good business, the players we brought in are really good, will help the team.

“We are less experienced but that is normal, but we are full of desire and I love this team.”

Mac Allister, who was initially asked to play an unfamiliar holding role, and Szoboszlai have both settled in quickly, which was to be expected as they had a full pre-season to adapt to Klopp’s methods.

The manager expects them to make bigger strikes, although he conceded Endo will take longer after only arriving from Stuttgart mid-August, but believes they have the capability to match the successes of the players they have replaced.

“The natural skill-set is obvious but we had to replace the most successful midfield in the young (recent) history of this club,” added Klopp ahead of Sunday’s visit of Aston Villa.

“Fabinho, Henderson, Milner, Gini Wijnaldum a few years ago. All had big parts in the team. Naby (Keita), (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain, they all played big parts in that midfield.

“In our best periods I remember you asked me the question if we had enough of a goal threat from this midfield when we scored all the goals from the front line.

“I think we have much more goal threat in midfield now but the work-rate these guys put in, the stability they gave us was second-to-none and that is what we have to create as well.

“We will see how we do that because we can play different systems, we have to think about that during the season definitely.

“But I think it is clear the players we brought in have real quality, are young and in a super way really excited about the opportunity of being here, so that’s a cool mix.”

Jurgen Klopp insisted he has never experienced anything like 10-man Liverpool’s dramatic comeback win at Newcastle in his long managerial career.

The Reds were trailing 1-0 and were down to 10 men following skipper Virgil van Dijk’s first-half dismissal before substitute Darwin Nunez struck twice to claim all three points at St James’ Park.

Asked what the stunning comeback said about the spirit of his team, Klopp said: “Absolutely everything. In my more than 1,000 games as a coach, I never had a game like this, that is the truth.

“There have been other games, but with 10 men in an atmosphere like this against an opponent like this… It’s not that I can’t remember, I’m pretty sure it never happened because these moments are rare and super-special.

“But I thought the boys deserved it today because with 10 men, we played better and gave Newcastle a proper game.

“Three things were clear at half-time: Trent [Alexander-Arnold] cannot get another yellow card; we cannot concede a second and if that happens we have a chance, and that’s what the boys obviously did.”

Nunez had been introduced as a 77th-minute replacement for Alexis Mac Allister – who was sent off against Bournemouth last weekend before his red card was rescinded – with the Reds resisting Newcastle’s efforts to kill the game off, twice with the help of the woodwork.

The £85million Uruguay international endured a difficult first year on Merseyside, but he took his latest chance with both hands.

Klopp said of Nunez: “Everything will be fine, it is just maybe it had to be like this. If he hadn’t been that angry and started the game today, he wouldn’t have scored in the last six minutes or whatever.

“Let’s take it like that.”

As the game reached the 80-minute mark, the Magpies looked to be heading for victory courtesy of former Everton man Anthony Gordon’s 25th-minute strike, with Van Dijk having departed prematurely shortly afterwards, sent off for felling Alexander Isak on his way to goal.

Klopp said: “I don’t think it is a red card. There’s pretty much no contact, very little, but what can I say? The decision is like this and I cannot change it.

“Would I whistle in a training game? Definitely not, but there are reasons why I am not a ref.”

However, Nunez pounced on an uncharacteristic error by Sven Botman to level with nine minutes remaining and then repeated the dose in stoppage time from Mo Salah’s through-ball to clinch victory.

Magpies boss Eddie Howe, who had earlier seen Alisson Becker pull off a spectacular save to turn Miguel Almiron’s shot on to the crossbar before the Paraguay international later fired against a post, admitted his team had been made to pay for not being ruthless enough.

Howe said: “I thought we played really well today. The opening stages of the game can’t be forgotten by me in regards to the team’s performance and reflection on how the game went. I thought we were excellent, individual performances were really strong.

“The sending-off almost harms us, really, in the match, although the chances were there for us to kill the game and I think the second goal changes everything.

“We didn’t get it and when Nunez comes on, they’re looking for one moment – and they didn’t just get one, they get two and they took them.”

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool must be “lucky” with the availability of their centre-backs this season as he hinted he was unlikely to add to his options before the transfer deadline.

Ibrahima Konate is a doubt for Sunday afternoon’s trip to Newcastle because of a muscular problem and Joe Gomez or Joel Matip could instead partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the Reds’ defence.

Nat Phillips is another alternative but Klopp is well aware that a shortage of options and a spate of injuries could spell trouble as he had to get creative with his backline during the 2020-2021 season.

A total of 20 different combinations were used during the turbulent campaign and Klopp is keeping everything crossed that he does not have to deal with a defensive crisis in the forthcoming months.

“In an ideal world, we have six, seven, eight centre-halves and cover for absolutely everything,” the Liverpool manager said. “No, we need to be lucky with injuries, there is no doubt about that.

“I have no doubt about the quality of the boys we have. We have (academy player) Jarell Quansah, a super-talented player, available as well.

“In this moment we are covered but it is not dreamland where you can be prepared for absolutely each situation. We had to learn that in the past as well a couple of times.

“We will try to do our absolute best to have a squad for next week, a squad for us where we can react on pretty much everything. Is that possible? We will see.”

Liverpool were the only side to do the double over a Newcastle side that lost just five times in the Premier League and qualified for the Champions League last season.

Despite their rapid improvement under Eddie Howe, Newcastle are on a 13-match winless sequence against Liverpool stretching back to December 2015 – although Klopp is wary of what they will face this weekend.

He feels two of their signings in particular this summer were among the shrewdest of any team.

“Newcastle are an incredibly strong team, qualified for the Champions League, fully deserved,” Klopp said. “Super development under Eddie Howe, I have to say. Eddie is a super coach, a super manager.

“Smart business. I don’t want to miss anybody but probably the two standouts in this window: (Sandro) Tonali and (Harvey) Barnes. Really good business.

“The speed they have is really good. Newcastle, since last year at least, they don’t concede a lot but score. So that’s a proper game.”

While Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones are missing once again, Klopp will be able to call upon fellow midfielder Alexis Mac Allister after his red card in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth was overturned.

Mac Allister – signed from Brighton in the summer for £35million – was shown a straight red by referee Thomas Bramall after catching Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Christie on the foot at Anfield last weekend.

“When I saw the pictures back I was pretty sure that it’s not a red card but that doesn’t mean then immediately that our appeal will be successful,” Klopp added.

“You don’t have that a lot of times, that pretty much everybody agrees this is not a red card and should not be a red card. Harsh tackles should always be punished, I absolutely support that 100 per cent.

“But it was not a harsh tackle, it was just a touch in the situation. It was a massive relief when I heard that it is overturned. Very good news.”

Jurgen Klopp dismissed fresh speculation linking Mohamed Salah with a move to Saudi Arabia, insisting the Egyptian forward is “essential” at Liverpool.

Al-Ittihad have snatched Fabinho from Liverpool this summer, signing the midfielder for £40million, and have reportedly renewed their interest in Salah, who still has two years left to run on his contract.

The sums being mentioned are staggering, with a £60m fee touted for the 31-year-old, who could allegedly pocket £155m over two years to become one of the highest paid footballers in the world.

However, Klopp revealed Liverpool have had no contact from any of the big-spending Saudi Pro League clubs, adding any official bids exceeding even £100m for their star asset would be rejected.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Newcastle, the Liverpool manager said: “It’s always a bit difficult to talk about media stories because there is nothing to talk about at the moment.

“We don’t have an offer, Mo Salah is still a Liverpool player, obviously for all the things we do, he’s essential and will be. There’s nothing there. If there would be something, the answer would be no.

“My life philosophy is I think about a problem when I have it. At the moment, there’s absolutely nothing. I said already if there is something, the answer would be no.”

Salah, who has scored 187 goals in 308 appearances since switching to Merseyside from Roma in 2017, is just 12 months into a three-year deal which is the most lucrative contract in Liverpool’s history.

It is barely two weeks since his agent, Ramy Abbas, insisted on Twitter Salah remains “fully committed” to Liverpool, and asked whether that remains the case, Klopp responded: “One hundred per cent.”

Jurgen Klopp was delighted with Wataru Endo’s Liverpool debut in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth after admitting the new signing would have had “no clue what to do” tactically.

The Japan captain only completed his £16million move from Stuttgart on Friday and was a late addition to Liverpool’s matchday squad after his international clearance narrowly came through on time.

But the 30-year-old was thrown in at the deep end when asked to come on moments after Alexis Mac Allister was sent off just before the hour mark – even if the task was made slightly easier as Diogo Jota made it 3-1 to Liverpool as Endo was waiting to come on.

“It was a horrible first game coming in,” Klopp said. “He did absolutely all right. But he came there, he had no clue what to do. I spoke in the morning with him about how with 11 players it would look, but 4-4-1 was not involved in our conversation.

“I don’t think he slept a lot in the last two nights but he came on and threw everything he had on the pitch.”

Endo’s job was to help Liverpool shut up shop at the end of a frantic fixture, in which Antoine Semenyo had fired Bournemouth in front just three minutes in amid a terrible start from Liverpool, before Luis Diaz levelled and Mo Salah’s penalty put the hosts in front before the break.

While Endo was making a full debut quicker than expected, Saturday’s match was a first Anfield appearance for both Mac Allister and fellow summer signing Dominik Szoboszlai.

The 22-year-old Szoboszlai won the penalty when he made the most of an outstretched leg from Joe Rothwell, and it was his shot which Neto could only parry to allow Jota to make it 3-1.

“His away debut was not too bad either,” Klopp said of the £60million signing from RB Leipzig. “I had to hold him back a little bit. He was the only one who has the power for more.

“He was part of the double six, running everything, but the general performance level he showed since he was here is really, really good. And his involvement in the goal is obviously super important.

“His shooting we didn’t see properly yet but we will probably see more in the future. Macca’s home debut was impressive as well, it just wasn’t as long.”

The win takes Liverpool to four points from their opening two fixtures after last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

“I think it’s the minimum we should expect from these two games,” Klopp said. “When we look at the games we don’t say where we should win or lose but when you start at Chelsea I don’t think anybody goes there and books the points in, ‘OK we have them already’.

“Of course against Bournemouth, our first home game, we want to win. It’s an OK start. If we wouldn’t have won we would think differently.”

Bournemouth goalscorer Semenyo was the one change Andoni Iraola made to his starting line-up and the January signing from Bristol City suggested he is fully over the shin surgery he had at the end of last season with a strong display.

“He was really good (last week against West Ham) when he came in and gave us a lot of energy for 20 minutes,” Iraola said. “He has been training well and here he has scored. He finished really tired like a lot of players did but it’s good news.

“I think he can play both wings and as a number nine. He is physically powerful and we need this.”

Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai will bring "energy and quality" to Liverpool, says former Reds midfielder Lucas Leiva.

Liverpool are hoping to bounce back from a disappointing season that saw them fail to win a major trophy for only the second time in five campaigns, while they also failed to qualify for the Champions League.

They have looked to freshen up their midfield in this transfer window, with Mac Allister and Szoboszlai for sizeable fees from Brighton and Hove Albion and RB Leipzig respectively.

Naby Keita and James Milner left on free transfers at the end of last season, though the departure of captain Jordan Henderson, and the impending sale of Fabinho, both to Saudi Pro League clubs, have perhaps left Liverpool with more work to do than they initially planned.

Lucas believes Mac Allister and Szoboszlai will bring an exciting new dimension to Liverpool, who have been known for their workmanlike midfield in their hugely successful recent period under Jurgen Klopp.

"I think they bring energy, a lot of energy and quality," Lucas said. "Things that to play for a club like Liverpool you must have.

"A lot of players departed so it was important to replace these players, especially in midfield where it's an area of the team that is very demanding. Jurgen asks a lot from the midfield players.

"These players for sure bring a lot of energy and I'm looking forward to watching them too, for sure."

Despite the potential for nerves at joining such a big club, Lucas feels Mac Allister and Szoboszlai will hit the ground running at Anfield.

"When you change a club or you move, of course there is a time that you need to adapt," Lucas explained. "But I think in the preseason, that's why starting from the first day is really important and they did that.

"I think the structure of the team as well with a lot of experienced players, I think they will help them.

"It's really important now in the preseason that they take part of the preseason, the full preseason, so they will understand the way the team and Jurgen wants to play, and I'm looking forward to seeing these two players, especially because they are young and very promising."

Lucas was only 20 when he joined Liverpool. The midfielder explained he struggled initially before going on to make 247 Premier League appearances and becoming an Anfield favourite over a 10-year spell with the club. 

He believes that the previous experience of Mac Allister and Szoboszlai playing in Europe's top five leagues will give them an easier start than the one he had.

"Well my first seasons for Liverpool to be honest, were very difficult," Lucas added. "I was very young, I was only 20 and I left Brazil straight to go to the Premier League, so I took a bit of time to adapt.

"But these players that arrived, I think it's different. Mac Allister, he already knows the league. I think it will be it will be easier for him. So that's very important.

"[Szoboszlai] has got experience as well, he played at a great club in Germany. So I think it's a bit different than when I joined Liverpool. I think the team is more robust I would say."

Gary McAllister believes Liverpool are a "couple more additions" away from challenging at the top level again.

The Reds endured a disappointing campaign last season, finishing fifth and outside the Champions League places for the first time since Jurgen Klopp's debut 2015-16 season at Anfield.

Since then, Klopp has led Liverpool to both Premier League and Champions League glory while finishing runners-up in those competitions a combined four times during his tenure.

As they look to bounce back from only their second season without a trophy in the last five campaigns, McAllister believes Liverpool are only a couple of signings away from once again fighting for silverware.

McAllister said: "I think last season, when you look for the reasons why they were quite a bit behind Manchester City, I think there'll be loads of things you could come up with and they always seem to sound like they are excuses.

"But the way the club finished the season and the way the manager and the players got together to finish the season really well, even though they just missed out on the Champions League, I feel with the signings, I think everybody must feel really positive.

"I'm looking at the recruitment and looking at some of the players we have been linked with as well, with a couple more additions I'm sure Liverpool can be challenging at the very top."

The Reds have made it a priority to refresh their ageing midfield, with key men of recent years such as Jordan Henderson and James Milner allowed to leave Anfield while talents like Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai have been brought in to replace them.

McAllister is particularly enthused by the arrival of Mac Allister, who boasts a World Cup winner's medal after playing a key part in Argentina's triumph in Qatar last year.

"Yes, there's been some interesting new signings," McAllister added. "Well, first and foremost, they bring quality.

"You’ve also got the added bonus of Mac Allister being a World Cup winner, it brings the confidence that comes with that. Both are very, very talented young players. Younger players [who] are more vibrant but also with the ability to score a goal and make a goal.

"He [Mac Allister] is somebody who can play in two or three positions. But the big thing for me with Mac Allister when you watch him, he's a very good player when his team is in possession of the football, but more importantly, when you look at the other side of the game when you don't have the ball. I think that's where Mac Allister has caught my eye as well.

"He's not frightened of hard work; he works really hard for the team out of possession. You see a player that ticks a lot of boxes, and then the impressive thing is out of possession. That's a big thing."

Liverpool's spending for the window might not be over yet with the Reds reportedly keen on Southampton's Romeo Lavia, while Fabinho's impending move to Al Ittihad is set to bring in £40m.

McAllister has faith the club will give Klopp the financial power many fans feel his work has merited, explaining: "The recruitment is and has been pretty good over the last [seasons], certainly during the period with Jurgen.

"There's a new head of recruitment and I'm sure they're continually watching the market and they're continually watching who's available and who can be bought.

"I think when somebody of quality becomes available, I'm sure Liverpool will be there competing against everybody to try and bring the best players that are needed at Liverpool."

Liverpool great John Barnes is not convinced Trent Alexander-Arnold is at his creative best when used in the central role he adopted last season.

Having attracted criticism for a series of defensive mishaps as Liverpool failed to challenge Manchester City last term, Alexander-Arnold switched to a central role in the season's closing weeks.

Liverpool won seven of their last nine Premier League games to finish fifth, a run that started with Alexander-Arnold producing two assists in a 6-1 rout of Leeds United, drifting inside from his right-back position to a hybrid role.

Alexander-Arnold then played in midfield during England's wins over Malta and North Macedonia last month, but Barnes is not sure it will become his permanent position.

"It depends on the games, if you can dominate position," Barnes told Stats Perform. "Possibly when you're playing against City, you're not able to do that.

"Are we going to get a right-back and Trent plays in midfield, or [will he] move into midfield in possession? 

"When he moves into midfield, if you lose the ball, is he able to get back to the right-back position? It really depends on what they want and how they see that. 

"Trent probably produces more playing in the right-back position, in terms of the crosses he puts in for people to score. Playing in midfield, he still creates more from a right-back position. 

"We may look at that situation and say we haven't got a midfield player who's going to produce that kind of pass, but we lose what he has at right-back in terms of his crossing."

With Liverpool bolstering their midfield with the signings of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, Barnes believes there may no longer be a need for Alexander-Arnold to play centrally.

"I don't necessarily feel that Trent creates more goalscoring opportunities playing in that role. But once again, it really depends on necessity," he added.

"Now that we have the midfield players we have, I'd be surprised. We may still do it on the odd occasion, but I think that was more out of necessity than anything else."

Former Liverpool midfielders Lucas Leiva and Gary McAllister, however, believe Alexander-Arnold has the quality to be a good option in either position.

"I think Trent showed that he's got the quality to play in midfield," Lucas said. "As a full-back, you have a little more time on the ball because in midfield you're always under pressure.

"But Trent has the capacity to play in both positions, which is very good. That gives another option to Jurgen [Klopp], depending on the game and depending on the system.

"For sure, he is capable of doing that. I'm looking forward to it also because every year, Trent is improving and getting better and better. He's a world-class player but he's still very young and coming into midfield shows another improvement from him."

McAllister echoed Lucas' thoughts, adding: "He's got the ability and has got such an amazing range of passing, first and foremost.

"But I'm sure Jurgen is going be very careful not to take away his ability to get high and wide to deliver crosses for the forwards.

"Being able to adapt with Trent in two or three different positions is a massive bonus for Jurgen. I thought it was really exciting watching him come off the side.

"I thought he was outstanding and it did marry in with fact that Liverpool finished the season really well. He hit a dozen passes that nobody else in the league could hit."

John Barnes backed Liverpool for a top-three Premier League finish next season, although the Reds great believes the title race will be between Arsenal and Manchester City again.

Pep Guardiola's City overcame Arsenal in a two-horse title tussle last campaign, with Mikel Arteta's Gunners already strengthening for next term by signing Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber.

Jurgen Klopp's side were far from their best in the 2021-22 season but battled to a fifth-place finish to secure Europa League football for the upcoming campaign.

Liverpool have bolstered their midfield options by bringing in Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, with Barnes expecting the Reds to return to the top four this time round.

"As I've mentioned in the last year the injury situation really worked against us last season," Barnes, a two-time First Division winner with Liverpool, told Stats Perform.

"And of course, from that perspective, in terms of the age of the players we have to reduce the age and we did that in terms of the young players we had.

"So, it's a bit of a transitional period, not just in terms of the injuries and not having all the players available, but also in terms of having younger players coming into the squad.

"We have to give them time to develop and to grow to show their consistency. So, I have no doubt that we will be back, I'm not going to say we're going to win the league, but we'll be much closer to the top and I fully expect us to be in the top three next season."

Experienced midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, two staples of Liverpool's title-winning side under Klopp in the 2019-20 term, are expected to depart for Saudi Arabia.

The additions of Mac Allister and Szoboszlai will aid Klopp's cause but former England international Barnes believes Guardiola's City will again have too much quality to be overthrown at the top.

He added: "City are favourites, I think Arsenal have strengthened very well in terms of the players they've got with Declan Rice and Havertz, therefore they will be strong once again.

"There was a little bit of inconsistency towards the end of last season, but that will stand them in good stead. So I'll make those two, alongside ourselves, those two will be the main targets.

"Manchester United will also be stronger as well because of the harmony that they have within that squad and the lack of uncertainty in terms of the manager and the players and who's in charge.

"Chelsea will be interesting, to see how [Mauricio] Pochettino handles that situation. And Tottenham, with a new manager [Ange Postecoglou] from Australia, are they going to take that if all of a sudden they don't win matches?

"Are they then going to be negative because he's not a European? So yeah, I think that probably leaves ourselves, Arsenal and Manchester United [for the top four]."

Former Reds midfielder Lucas Leiva echoed Barnes' sentiment, suggesting Liverpool are strong enough to compete alongside the likes of City, Arsenal and United for the title.

"The top six, normally you expect all of them to challenge," the Brazilian said. "City is in a great moment, Arsenal are improving every year as well.

"I think Chelsea are playing only in the league this year. I think that could be better for them. I would say they could concentrate only on the league.

"And Liverpool like every season will be stronger. United as well. So the teams that we expect to challenge. City today are the team to beat but Liverpool are strong enough to compete for sure."

Liverpool have landed two midfielders perfectly fit for their system in Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, according to Reds legend John Barnes.

Jurgen Klopp secured the services of Mac Allister for a reported initial £35million from Brighton and Hove Albion, while Szoboszlai arrived from RB Leipzig for £60m (€69m) ahead of the 2023-24 season.

The pair will likely be utilised as multi-functional midfielders, adding energy to an ageing Liverpool midfield, which is expected to lose Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to Saudi Arabia.

Having initially played as a winger before moving to a central role, Barnes believes the versatility of Mac Allister and Szoboszlai makes the duo a tailormade fit for Klopp's men.

"Last season I think it was fairly apparent that we needed midfield players," Barnes told Stats Perform. "Of course, what you do is you use every opportunity to get who you can.

"So, in the strikers that we've got, I think that bodes well for the future. But I think you can see that we were a little bit short in midfield from an age perspective but also from a quality and intensity perspective.

"We knew we were going to lose two or three midfield players, so they are welcome additions to the squad from a positional point of view and also from the quality point of view too."

Mac Allister was also the only player to average two-plus shots (2.68), two-plus tackles (2.18) and 50+ passes (56.2) per 90 minutes in last term's Premier League, among players with 1,000 or more minutes.

That all-round approach and energetic demeanour makes the 24-year-old a suitable fit for Klopp's high-pressing philosophy, in the opinion of Barnes.

"It's not all about what impresses me, but he's the type of player who will suit our style," Barnes said of Mac Allister, who hit 10 league goals for Brighton last term.

"He may not be able to play for Manchester City but that doesn't mean he's better or worse. It's just that we have to sign players that suit our style and are hardworking all-action midfield players.

"He's not a Bernardo Silva type, but he suits what we want. Liverpool have always done that and looked to get players who suit their system, regardless of how other good other people think they are, or not.

"He suits our midfield profile and the template of a midfield player that we want. Hardworking, aggression and playing the ball forward quickly. He suits our style perfectly."

While Mac Allister impressed for Brighton and also Argentina during their triumphant World Cup campaign in Qatar, Szoboszlai arrives as a lesser-known star on English soil.

The Hungary international again fits Klopp's criteria for free-flowing aggressive football, having been involved in 163 open play shot-ending sequences in last season's Bundesliga – 49 shots, 48 chances created, 66 in the build-up – the fourth-highest figure of any player.

Barnes added: "I haven't seen much of him. But once again, you look at him in terms of his size, his aggression, his ability to get up and down.

"And once again, I trust in Jurgen Klopp and the staff to know exactly what they want. Not many people have heard of him, I'm one who didn't hear of him but they would have done their homework on him.

"So I have faith in them because they know the type of player they want. As I said, I haven't seen much of him but he seems to be quite impressive."

Jurgen Klopp insists he does not need a break from Premier League management following a disappointing campaign with Liverpool.

The Reds missed out on Champions League qualification after finishing outside the top four for the first time in a full season under the German.

Sunday’s thrilling 4-4 draw at relegated Southampton stretched Liverpool’s unbeaten top-flight run to 11 games but the late resurgence was not enough to make up for earlier poor results.

Klopp, the division’s longest-serving manager, maintains he is “full of energy” and ready to revive the club’s fortunes going into the summer.

Asked if he needs time off, the Reds boss replied: “No, no, no, not at all. Honestly, I’m completely fine.

“If you’d asked me 11 games ago, ‘do you want to have a break?’, I would have thought about it, to be honest.

“But I’m absolutely fine, full of energy.

“I have a break – I don’t have training and these kind of things. But a really busy period hopefully starts now in a different area of the game. I’m more than happy to do that.

“I will find time to reenergise and then we start again in July.”

Liverpool’s fifth-placed finish was their lowest since they finished eighth in 2015-16 – the season during which Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers at Anfield.

The Reds looked destined to sign off this term in style following early strikes from Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino at St Mary’s.

But quick-fire second-half finishes from substitute Cody Gakpo and Jota were required to avoid a major shock after Kamaldeen Sulemana’s double and goals from James Ward-Prowse and Adam Armstrong turned a chaotic contest in Southampton’s favour.

Klopp believes his club has stuck together during some difficult moments and is determined that they regain a fear factor for rival sides.

“There is not a lot to learn (from the season) but a lot of clubs when the expectations are as high as ours when things don’t go well pretty quickly you start blaming each other,” he said. “That didn’t happen here.

“The better you behave in a crisis, the better you get out of it – and I really thought that was the case for us.

“We’re really, really not happy about it and for a club like us it’s massive not to qualify for the Champions League.

“If we improve, we are all of a sudden again a team nobody wants to play against and that’s what we have to become again.

“There were a lot of games in the season where I think teams were happy to face us. That’s actually the worst thing that can happen to you and I hated these moments. But that’s over and now let’s start again.”

Southampton are preparing for life in the Sky Bet Championship following an exhilarating end to a dismal season.

Saints manager Ruben Selles, who will leave the club and is likely be replaced by Swansea boss Russell Martin, conducted a performance review ahead of his departure.

“We discussed the points we can do better, the points we need to hold,” said the Spaniard.

“We needed to end in a professional way and that’s not a discussion because it’s not about us as a technical staff, it’s about Southampton and the information we can pass to the future people working here is key in not repeating the same mistakes.

“If they find themselves in the same situations that we did, at least they have this footage and experience of what we did.

“We did our review as a technical staff together. We got some conclusions for us and somebody will present it in the proper place to present it.

“It’s not for us to decide for the future but it is for us to say what we think can be different next season.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits his side failed to live up to expectations this season and has no issue with Mohamed Salah saying the team let down fans.

Writing on social media after Manchester United’s win over Chelsea on Thursday night consigned Liverpool to Europa League football, the Egypt international said he was “devastated” and there was “absolutely no excuse” for not making the top four.

Klopp had already resigned himself to not playing Champions League next season and admits he even thought fifth place was out of reach prior to their current 10-match unbeaten run, which includes seven victories.

“It was a just a normal description of his situation, of his feeling, and in that moment directly after the game he’s right, it’s not the moment to immediately send any optimistic messages,” said Klopp.

“But I saw him now in the canteen and he was smiling. I don’t know for which reason as I didn’t ask him, but he is not in a bad mood. That’s it.

“We didn’t deliver what everybody wanted or expected but but we are still really united, that’s the good thing about it.

“The dressing room is not in a bad mood. We have learned to deal with the situation. We didn’t get divided in one moment between manager and team, which is super helpful.

“For a long time and it was clear from a specific point on it would not be a historically good season. We made mistakes, we couldn’t deliver often enough and were not consistent enough.

“We didn’t point fingers at each other. That’s all good. If you don’t qualify for the Champions League, the best place you can possibly end up is fifth, so that’s what we did.

“If you’d have asked me 10 games ago if that was possible, I’d have said no. That the boys did that is really good but it’s not perfect.

“We didn’t end up fifth because of the last 10 games, we ended up there because of the lack of consistency before that.”

Failure to qualify for the Champions League is set to cost Liverpool at least £50million next season but there may be implications in the shorter term as UEFA’s second-tier competition is likely to be less attractive to leading players.

The club have already pulled out of the running for primary target Jude Bellingham after the asking price for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder became prohibitive and reports this week suggested Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount’s preferred destination is Old Trafford.

Klopp is keen to get his business done early and is hopeful finishing fifth will not put a spanner in the works of their planning.

“I don’t think so but we will see. That is obviously possible, it’s always possible things don’t go as quick as you want. It’s not only possible, it is probably likely,” he added ahead of Sunday’s final match of the season at Southampton.

“The better the players you want the lesser is the desire of the other club to let him go and that’s exactly what we are prepared for.

“But it’s a long window and a long pre-season and a long break in-between so we have time. If we get in players tomorrow or in six or seven weeks it is not a game-changer for me to be honest.

“In an ideal world they all sign tomorrow and I can tell them when to be and we can start giving them the plans for the summer break but that will not likely happen likely.”

Jurgen Klopp’s poor disciplinary record and his failure to heed previous conduct warnings were aggravating factors which led to the Liverpool manager receiving a two-match touchline ban for implying bias by referee Paul Tierney.

Klopp was fined £75,000 and will not be in the technical area for their final Premier League home game of the campaign against Aston Villa on Saturday but the second match of his punishment has been suspended until the end of next season.

The German admitted a charge of improper conduct in that his comments about Tierney implied bias, questioned the integrity of the referee and brought the game into disrepute.

Klopp, who was booked for celebrating in the face of fourth official John Brooks after Diogo Jota’s added-time goal in the 4-3 win over Tottenham last month, suggested in post-match interviews what Tierney had said to him in issuing the caution was “not OK” and went on to add “we have our story, history, with Mr Tierney. I really don’t know what this man has with us”.

The independent disciplinary commission, in its written reasons, said the Professional Game Match Officials Limited viewed Klopp’s comments as an “unwarranted attack on Mr Tierney’s integrity” and so immediately issued a statement in defence of the official.

Klopp later apologised, clarifying his words and denying he had questioned Tierney’s integrity and while that, and his letter to the commission, were deemed “considerable mitigation” it was his history which counted against him.

“Mr Klopp has a poor record for disciplinary offences, having appeared before commissions on three occasions in the past five years,” said the commission in its written reasons.

“In November 2022 in an appeal in which two members of the present commission sat, Mr Klopp received a touchline ban, a fine and a warning.

“Those sanctions plainly failed to deter Mr Klopp from committing nine similar breaches of the rules. Mr Klopp is a high-profile individual in the football world. He must have known that what he said would attract widespread publicity.

“He should have realised that it was incumbent on him to restrain himself and to behave properly.

“The statements that Mr Klopp made/adopted were not limited to comments on the immediate match, but extended to allegations of persistent bias against a blameless referee.

“The intense media interest that followed Mr Klopp’s remarks was highly damaging.”

Klopp created a problem for himself when he charged down the touchline following Jota’s goal after Tottenham’s 90th-minute equaliser had cancelled out Liverpool’s earlier 3-0 lead.

From evidence obtained from the officials’ audio, Brooks told Tierney “Jurgen Klopp has just run and celebrated in my face. I think it’s a yellow card mate, minimum”.

VAR backed up Brooks’ opinion and in booking Klopp, Tierney said: “I have to show you yellow… it could be red, but I am going to show you yellow. We will give you the benefit of the doubt, don’t do anything more.”

Those were the comments Klopp deemed “not OK” but it was not his behaviour on the pitch which produced the disciplinary charge but the aspersions he cast at Tierney, which he subsequently withdrew in a press conference a couple of days later and in a letter of apology to the commission.

Liverpool, in their own letter, stressed Klopp may have misunderstood Tierney and “they do not believe that Mr Tierney purposely gives decisions against LFC and that any suggestion that Mr Tierney was biased or not wholly impartial was totally unintended.

“Mr Klopp did not wish to suggest that Mr Tierney was dishonest, just that there were a long list of key decisions which he felt aggrieved by that have involved Mr Tierney.

“Both LFC and Jurgen Klopp regret that his comments have become a story in themselves and that there has been any question mark cast over Mr Tierney’s impartiality – that was not intended.”

Klopp spelled out his regret in his own letter, saying: “Although it was not my intention I accept now it appears that I was questioning Mr Tierney’s integrity. I take ownership of this. On reflection, the words I used were inappropriate.

“To be absolutely clear, I know that Mr Tierney, along with all other officials, do their work without any pre-conceived bias or prejudice.

“Although not an excuse, I believe we have made up a high percentage of Mr Tierney’s matches this season? Something in the region of 20 per cent of the matches he has officiated have involved my team.

“I do not offer this as a defence, rather it is an observation and could be a reason for both the build-up of frustration governed by an inadvertent accumulation of incidents over an extended period.”

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