Manchester City are set to close a deal to sign Erling Haaland from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, and how Liverpool react will have a major bearing on the fate of the trophies next season.
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If it is now cautiously accepted that Manchester City’s rivalry with Liverpool is the greatest in football, then the question begs: will they enter an arms race with each other?
Two of the greatest teams in football history are already producing numbers that no other team in any era could match in a matchup that is producing, statistically at least, the best football ever.
Every time one raises the bet, the other responds. We saw it back in 2017 when Pep Guardiola he shocked football by signing four defenders and giving him the platform he needed, for a combined total of over £200m.
Jurgen Klopp he responded with the signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, for around £150m. The signings of both managers gave their teams the stability to challenge like never before, and the benefits have been obvious. Last summer, when Guardiola surprised the world of football with a record fee for Jack GrealishKlopp calmly responded by fielding a player he finally signed in January in Luis Diaz, who many will argue has had more of an effect this season.
The question is, though, what happens when City go nuclear in the summer? Perhaps goaded by Liverpool, perhaps fearful of the challenge they have faced on all fronts this season, the Manchester club have opted to sign a goalscoring machine Erling Haland. It has been repeated so many times that Guardiola’s team would be invincible with a proven goalscorer that it has almost become a cliché. However, there might be some truth to that. Imagine this manchester city team, with THAT striker and the number of goals he brings.
how could Liverpool possibly answer. Are they looking to do the same and find an upgrade in Roberto Firmino, who has targets way down on his priority list as a false nine facilitator in Klopp’s team? There are many who fear that Haaland’s signing could turn the Premier League into a horse race again, make English football the procession it surely would have been, had Klopp not performed so many heroics in producing a team that equals City and surpasses them at times.
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However, there is perhaps not one, but TWO signings Liverpool could make to enable them to continue competing next season and beyond, until 2024, when Klopp is due to leave Anfield. If there’s been one thing we’ve seen in recent months when the Reds have put together a remarkable streak that shows their remarkable quality, it’s the enduring brilliance of Mohammed Salah Y sadio mane.
Between them, they have surely produced the best form of their record-breaking careers at Anfield, which requires some work. Salah has once again reached 30 goals on the campaign, the third time he has recorded that incredible milestone, and leads both the Premier League goals and assists charts. And when he had a dry moment, by his standards, Mane took full responsibility for producing what many observers believe to be his best form in a Liverpool shirt, with five goals in his last five games.
Mani is 30 years old. Salah will turn 30 in June. However, both are putting up numbers in terms of distance covered, sprints per 90 and dribbling that are the envy of any player, of any age. Perhaps most importantly, neither shows any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Klopp said last week that Mane can play until he is 30 if he wants. And he has said the same of Salah. So signing those two to new long-term contracts, to keep them at Anfield for the next four years, seems like a no-brainer.
Not when they are improving and are already ranked among the world elite. Liverpool are notoriously reluctant to saddle themselves with long contracts for older players with deep pockets, after their owners burned out when they inherited many suicide deals when they bought the club. It took them five years to sort out that mess, so they’re cautious about extending contracts for 30-year-olds. However, players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema have shown that age is not a barrier these days, with the medical and dietary support players now have.
They both don’t drink either. And take care of yourselves like the world-class athletes that you are. While both use rhythm as a weapon, neither relies solely on it. Most important of all, both have shown a hunger in recent weeks that sets them apart from most players. And that’s the key. If they are given new deals, that will not quench their desire for more trophies, more prizes and more glory. Given how important both clearly remain to Liverpool at the moment, it seems inconceivable that both would not stay on beyond their current deals, which expire in the summer of 2023.
Klopp now has five top-class strikers to choose from, but it’s clear, when it really comes down to it, it’s Salah, Mane and one more. Mane destroyed Manchester City last weekend, Salah did the same with Manchester United on Tuesday. They are the two Liverpool signings that Guardiola will fear the most, the reds will worry him more, not less. And they are the two signings who could ensure that, even with Haaland in their ranks, City continue to look down on the red menace looming just behind them.