News that Liverpool have agreed a deal to sign Naby Keita next summer may not be all that surprising to most people.
The Reds have been tracking the RB Leipzig midfielder all summer as Jurgen Klopp looks to sort out a problem position just in front of an often leaky defence, but hopes had all but disappeared that the midfielder would appear in a red shirt this season.
It would have been surprising, then, if the deal that’s reportedly been agreed had been for this summer, but instead it appears to be one to bring the Guinea international to Anfield next summer, which is what Leipzig seemed to want all along: they didn’t want to sell their best midfielder until after their maiden Champions League campaign.
There has, however, been an even more surprising development on the Liverpool transfer front, as Jurgen Klopp has reportedly turned his attention to Thomas Lemar of Monaco, and is set to test the French champions’ resolve with a large bid.
That seems to have come out of the blue, but maybe there are reasons for that.
For one thing, Liverpool have now definitely qualified for the Champions League, and as a result they are in a stronger position to sign players than they were before the Hoffenheim tie. But it might also have to do with a potential end game in the Philippe Coutinho saga.
It’s no secret that Barcelona would like to add the Liverpool playmaker to their squad, and although it would seem that the Brazilian is more of a long-term Andres Iniesta replacement than anything else, their moves have stepped up since the departure of Neymar. That’s probably a gesture designed to keep fans happy in the face of the humiliation of losing one of their best players to a club not usually thought of as one of European football’s traditional elite.
It seems like a case of buying a player they might have wanted next summer a year earlier, both to save face and to spend the money they’ve been given by the French club whilst they have it.
That might work into Liverpool’s hands somewhat. Since Coutinho’s transfer request saga the other week, plenty of comparisons have been drawn with the Brazilian playmaker and Luis Suarez, who wanted to leave Liverpool in 2013, but was persuaded to stay another year and then got his move to Barcelona. But whilst that might be an accurate summary, it might just be the quirks of transfer timings that see Coutinho stay another season.
The signings of Lemar and Keita might seem to suggest that Liverpool are splashing money they know might be coming in from Barcelona and are attempting to replace Coutinho, but not getting Keita for another year scuppers that idea to a certain extent, even if Lemar does look like a more direct replacement for the Brazilian.
Nailing the Keita transfer down for next season, though, might embolden Liverpool to keep Coutinho for a year and let him go next summer safe in the knowledge that Keita won’t be pinched by another club in the meantime.
There are of course caveats and anything can happen in this market. There is so much money floating around that it can’t help but turn heads, both for players and for clubs.
There’s also the fact that Barcelona’s board in in such a difficult position with its own fans that they might simply look elsewhere over the next few days to bring in a quick purchase simply to placate supporters who were horrified to see Neymar leave and Paulinho arrive as the first signing after the sale.
But it looks like Liverpool’s joyful last week or so, with three wins, Champions League qualification and a massive win over a top six rival will be topped off with some genuinely exciting transfer business which will make the feeling around the club even more buoyant than it already is. And that’s no bad thing when your next two fixtures are Manchester City away in the Premier League and Sevilla at home in the Champions League.