The old sports trope whereby staying at the top is tougher than getting to the top might not apply to football the way it once did, but it's clear that after winning the Premier League and Champions League in successive seasons, Liverpool will want to think carefully about how to maintain their edge. This is especially true in a landscape shaken by the economic effects of the pandemic -- which is affecting all clubs -- and at a club where chemistry has been so central to recent success.
With that in mind, here's some unsolicited advice from me and Mark Ogden: a player-by-player assessment of the squad, what might make sense and under what circumstances. Where you see a simple "Keep," you can assume we agreed and there wasn't much to talk about. Otherwise, we weighed in with our comments.
It's not just about performance, either. It's about age, wages, personality fit and contract length (we went with Transfermarkt for contract expiry dates for consistency). And there will be moving parts, too: departures or arrivals that cause chain reactions, sometimes unexpected.
Alisson (27 years old, contract expires in 2024)
Adrian (33, 2021)
MARCOTTI: "He's been a solid back-up, but there's no rush to extend. The club have all the leverage. He may want to be a No. 1 elsewhere when his deal expires. Wait and see."
VERDICT: Keep, do not extend
Loris Karius (27, 2022)
OGDEN: "He didn't cost a lot, he's still relatively young and he was a starter for two seasons at Besiktas on loan, so you can get something for him now. He has rehabilitated his reputation in Turkey and he's not on huge wages."
MARCOTTI: "He fell out with Besiktas over unpaid wages, which is a shame because that would have been a potential destination. But I agree, it shouldn't be hard to find a taker, perhaps in Germany."
VERDICT: Dump (Estimated fee: £5m-£10m)
Caoimhin Kelleher (21, 2022)
OGDEN: "They like him, but obviously he needs to play. Send him on loan and then decide what to do."
Andy Lonergan (36, 2020)
MARCOTTI: "He was an emergency signing, he's fine as a third keeper who never plays. Release him and then, once you've placed Karius and Kelleher, decide whether you want to bring him back."
VERDICT: Release, then re-evaluate
Virgil van Dijk (29, 2023)
Joe Gomez (23, 2024)
Joel Matip (28, 2024)
Andy Robertson 26, 2024)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (21, 2024)
Neco Williams (19, 2021)
OGDEN: "They like him and are hoping to extend his deal. I think it's the right choice."
MARCOTTI: "You want to keep him around and, unless his demands are excessive, lock him down for a few years and see what he can do."
VERDICT: Keep and extend
Konstantinos Tsimikas (24, 2025)
MARCOTTI: "They moved quickly to fill the Robertson back-up role."
*Adam Lallana has been released and has joined Brighton on a free transfer.
Fabinho (26, 2023)
Georginio Wijnaldum (29, 2021)
OGDEN: "He's an influential voice in the dressing room, he's important to the team, it's important to extend his contract."
MARCOTTI: "I think he's been great, but you need to start getting younger. Unless the club get a sweetheart deal, I'd look to sell while he still has some value in the market. I appreciate though that Jurgen Klopp may feel different."
VERDICT: Split: Extend/Dump (estimated fee: £20-30m)
Naby Keita (25, 2023)
OGDEN: "If Liverpool hadn't been so successful the last couple years, people would be questioning him more."
MARCOTTI: "I agree, he hasn't lived up to his fee, but he's locked in to a long-term deal and it makes sense to give him another year."
Jordan Henderson (30, 2023)
OGDEN: "I agree you need to freshen up, but out of Henderson and Wijnaldum, Henderson is the one I'd move. He's been at the top level for 12 years -- that's a lot of miles on the clock, and given where he plays, you need to be able to get around the pitch. Right now he can still do it, but for how much longer? You'll find an English club panicked enough to give you £20m for him, either this year or next year."
MARCOTTI: "It's one or the other, most likely. Maybe I'm not as ruthless as you, but I can't see off-loading your title-winning captain like that. Unless he wants to leave, he stays."
VERDICT: Split: Look to sell (estimated fee: £15m-£20m) / Keep
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (26, 2023)
Marko Grujic (24, 2023)
MARCOTTI: "He's been a solid starter for Hertha Berlin the last two seasons on loan. They have money to spend, so I'd sell him if he's happy there. And I don't think Klopp wants him back."
VERDICT: Dump (estimated fee: £10m-£15m)
James Milner (34, 2022)
OGDEN: "He's a great guy to keep around, but he hasn't played much and his minutes are only going to go down. You keep him unless he decides he wants to leave, which he might want to do if he finds he's playing less and less. And if he asks to leave, you won't get much back for him given his age and big wages."
VERDICT: Keep, unless he moves
Curtis Jones (19, 2025)
Ben Woodburn (20, 2022)
OGDEN: "He was the next big thing, wasn't he? But he hasn't really done it. He's had enough opportunities. I'd sell him."
MARCOTTI: "He's been on loan in the Championship [Sheffield United] and League One [Oxford United], but suffered serious injuries in both seasons. I'm not sure you get much for him now. Better to loan and see if he can at least increase his value."
VERDICT: Split: Dump/Loan
Harvey Elliott (17, 2025)
OGDEN: "You want him to gain experience, but 17 is too young to loan him out I think. He'll learn more by being around the squad for a season."
Takumi Minamino (25, 2024)
Sadio Mane (28, 2023)
MARCOTTI: "He's the most saleable of the front three -- the other two are a bit unorthodox, but Mane's plug-and-play -- as you can drop him in any system and he'll make a team better. You don't want to break up the front three, but you also don't want them all getting older at the same time. I think if a big enough offer comes in -- and I'm not sure that will happen -- you have to consider moving him now and look for a younger replacement."
VERDICT: Keep, but if a huge offer comes in, consider selling (estimated price: more than £80m)
Mohamed Salah (28, 2023)
OGDEN: "I think we agree that Liverpool at some point have to replace one or more of the front three. But I feel about Salah the way you feel about Mane. Mane may be more oven-ready, but Salah has more of that star quality that would appeal to other clubs for box-office reasons. I'm thinking of, say, a team like PSG. His market value is probably higher than his actual value."
VERDICT: Keep, but if a huge offer comes in, consider selling (estimated price: more than £80m)
Xherdan Shaqiri (28, 2023)
OGDEN: "He barely plays, he doesn't really fit in; I think you can find a buyer for him. Maybe you can get £15m for him."
MARCOTTI: "I agree about selling him -- he has a good reputation and he's not that old. But I think even if it's half that, you let him go at this point. In the current climate and with his wages, I'm not sure you'll get much more than that."
VERDICT: Dump (estimated price: £8m-£15m)
Sheyi Ojo (23, 2024)
MARCOTTI: "He's been on loan at Rangers with Steven Gerrard, but failed to really establish himself. He's 23 now -- I think you move him on if you find a buyer."
VERDICT: Dump (estimated price: £3m-£5m)
Roberto Firmino (28, 2023)
Divock Origi (25, 2024)
OGDEN: "I think you let him go if you find a buyer at the right price. If you're dealing with a panicking club, you might get as much as £30m. He has scored big goals in big games and people value that."
MARCOTTI: "He contributes off the bench, but he's not a super-sub and I don't see him ever becoming a starter. I think £30m is optimistic; I'd let him go for £20m and clear the path for someone else."
VERDICT: Dump (estimated price: £20m-£30m)
Harry Wilson (23, 2023)
OGDEN: "He's at that age where you have to make a decision. He was great on loan at Derby County, less so at Bournemouth. Keep him and make a decision in January."
MARCOTTI: "He started 20 games in a relegated team and scored seven goals, all of them from open play. I think that's worth a long, hard look. Bring him back for Klopp to assess. Then, if it doesn't work out, you can always loan him in January."
Rhian Brewster (20, 2023)
MARCOTTI: "He played half a season on loan at Swansea and scored 11 goals. That's pretty good for a guy who turned only 20 in April. And he's a striker. Let Klopp assess his progress, you can always loan him out later."
There obviously aren't going to be any significant weaknesses to address in a team that won 196 of a possible 228 points over the past two seasons. However, the fact that Firmino, Mane, Salah, Van Dijk, Henderson and Wijnaldum are all 28 or older is something the club will have to deal with.
Klopp has committed himself through 2024 and that's encouraging because he won't just be thinking short-term; he won't want a squad that gets old all of a sudden. They don't necessarily need to break up the front three of Firmino, Mane and Salah that has done so well for them straight away, but if a big offer comes in (however unlikely in this COVID-19 affected transfer window) Liverpool will want to consider it. If they don't, a forward with enough quality to share playing time and eventually replace one of them might be a more realistic goal this summer.
Klopp also needed a reserve left-back and moved quickly to secure Tsimikas at a reasonable price (around £12m). He'll likely need another central defender, but when you consider Liverpool ought to be able to raise at least £40m from sales and factor in their transfer budget, it shouldn't be hard to address that. There's a tough choice ahead on Wijnaldum's contract and, if they opt to move him on -- or move Henderson instead -- they'll also want to make a major signing in midfield.
As difficult as it may be to imagine this club without players like Mane or Salah, Henderson or Wijnaldum, it's worth remembering how they've been unafraid to make bold moves and sacrifice stars like Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez in recent seasons ... and benefited in the long run. Beyond that, you expect Liverpool to continue to be on the lookout for young talent regardless of position.