With the shortened transfer window, there is now only less than a month to go before the summer window slams shut for another year.
The World Cup has slowed the number of deals taking place on the market, but as the showpiece tournament in Russia draws towards its conclusion, the transfer action is slowly beginning to heat up once again.
Manchester City have confirmed the signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for a whopping £60m, Arsenal look to have finished their major summer business with the capture of Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira and Chelsea signing midfielder Jorginho to follow new manager Maurizio Sarri from Napoli.
The big clubs are finally starting to strut their stuff, keenly aware that time is running against them as the beginning of their lavishly commercial pre-season tours draw nearer, let alone the start of the Premier League season in August.
Most managers want their new signings in as soon as possible so they can adjust to life at their new club and have a pre-season under their new manager.
However, in this shortened of short summers, clubs may have to make do with some last-minute deals or reduce the number of signings they need to make, pushing transfers back to January or the following season.
But what of Liverpool? Jürgen Klopp in particular likes to have all of his players ready for the entire pre-season but the World Cup and frustrating transfer business shattered those hopes.
Brilliant start to the window
The summer window started brilliantly, with the Reds immediately alleviating some of the pain of losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid by announcing the signing of Monaco midfielder Fabinho. The Brazilian is highly regarded and had interested most of Europe’s elite in the last two years as he developed into one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
Liverpool needed a replacement for Emre Can, who joined Italian giants Juventus on a free transfer, but also a player who could finally succeed Javier Mascherano. The Argentinean was arguably the best anchorman around when he departed for Barcelona, but that was eight years ago and Liverpool have not come close to finding a player of similar level and attributes since.
Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson have all tried admirably to fill the gap that Mascherano left, but not to the same quality. Fabinho can finally bring that frustration to an end.
The 24-year-old’s capture followed the year-long wait to welcome Naby Keïta to the club, after a deal had been agreed for the Guinean last summer with RB Leipzig.
The 23-year-old will join Liverpool for a fee of around £53m, emphasizing Klopp’s desire to work with the dynamic midfielder, who has been inaccurately compared at times with Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté.
Instead, Keïta at his best can be seen as a mix of Gerrard and Andrés Iniesta, and it is fitting that Keïta has been handed the number eight shirt, which has not been worn since Gerrard left Anfield in 2015.
Together, Keïta and Fabinho will transform a midfield that fought, dominated and harassed opponents, but lacked top quality in the most important moments.
Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are similar players who will be brilliant members of the squad, but Liverpool became too reliant on them towards the end of last season.
Keïta, Fabinho and, to a lesser extent, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provide all-round attributes that Klopp requires from his midfielders and together tick all the boxes, including some sorely-needed creativity.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury last season was bitter blow – who knows, he could have made the difference in Kiev and for England in the World Cup, but that is football.
However, Oxlade-Chamberlain may struggle to get into the side if the reports are to be believed about Liverpool remaining interested in Lyon captain Nabil Fekir.
Fekir almost signed for Liverpool before the World Cup, but apparently, the club pulled out due to injury concerns. Yet that does not seem to have stopped the Reds from returning to the negotiating table.
If Klopp really, really wants a player, recent history suggests he will wait to get them, as Keïta and Virgil van Dijk have proven. Fekir could be following suit, only Liverpool may not have to wait six months or a year to land their replacement for Philippe Coutinho.
Last gap to fill
Liverpool cannot rest on their laurels – they do not need many more pieces to complete the puzzle, but Klopp knows Keïta and Fabinho is not enough. He needs more.
Alongside Fekir, Liverpool need a winger to provide competition and depth for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané (Xherdan Shaqiri has since signed from Stoke City for around £13m), and a new goalkeeper to replace Loris Karius, who looks to be completely devoid of any confidence so far in pre-season, despite the weeks that have passed since his mistakes in Kiev.
Karius needs a fresh start, even on a temporary basis, so perhaps a loan would do the young German good, and Danny Ward could be promoted to compete with a new goalkeeper, as Simon Mignolet is also set to leave Anfield.
AS Roma’s Alisson appears to be the top target, with the Reds closing in on completing the deal. AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma could have been another target, but Klopp will have surely been aware that Karius can no longer be relied upon – in the short-term at least – no matter how much he defends his player in public.
A central defender would be a bonus, given the inconsistencies and injury issues of both Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip, but they are also both experienced, international-level footballers. With van Djik leading the backline, Lovren and Matip competing for a spot alongside the Dutchman and Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan in reserve, Liverpool are not in dire straits in this position.
If Liverpool want to maintain their status as a top-four side and regular Champions League qualifiers, let alone think about a first Premier League title in nearly three decades, then they cannot allow their closest rivals to leapfrog them through the transfer market.
Liverpool’s stock has never been higher since the best days under Rafael Benítez – Klopp and the club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, must recognise this and strengthen properly in order to maintain the progress that Liverpool’s German manager has built up since arriving at Anfield.