Liverpool’s summer transfer option takes unexpected twist after Klopp admission

It’s been a long and arduous season for Liverpool, but there is light on the horizon.

After a campaign where their squad has been ravaged by injury, the Reds now have a top four place in their grasp to finish on a relative high despite their title defence crumbling months ago.

Jurgen Klopp described his team’s league position as “insane” after a 3-0 win over Burnley lifted them into fourth with just one match remaining against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

And in their times of struggle, what has been equally as surprising is the unexpected twist in Liverpool’s summer transfer plans, as Klopp weighs up his potential options for next season.

Jurgen Klopp’s transfer plans may have altered in light of an unexpected development

Even poor Ozan Kabak hasn’t been able to avoid Liverpool’s injury curse despite only joining in January.

Klopp has already admitted the Turkish international’s season is over, having made just 13 appearances for the club during his loan.

Liverpool must now make a decision on whether to keep hold of the 21-year-old based on what they’ve seen so far, with the option to buy Kabak at the end of the season for £18million.

And while he has shown promise, that reality now looks to be less probable – but not so much through Kabak’s own doing.

As throughout Liverpool’s difficult period an unlikely hero has emerged.

Few would have predicted Nat Phillips would even have got a game this season. And that wasn’t part of Liverpool’s plan either, as the defender was up for sale prior to the campaign kicking off.

Klopp must decide whether to keep on-loan defender Ozan Kabak
Klopp must decide whether to keep on-loan defender Ozan Kabak

However the dependable if slightly rough-round-the-edges centre-back has become an important figure in his side’s battle for Champions League qualification this season.

Phillips put in a man of the match display against Burnley, scoring Liverpool’s second to ease any tension, and Klopp now seems to be considering a U-turn on his future.

Speaking after the win, Klopp said: “I am very pleased for Nat, very pleased, I love the boy. If he really makes it or not, let’s sort it out after the Crystal Palace game.”

Klopp has already admitted Liverpool will not be doing a great deal in the transfer market this summer, and said just last week: “No one will be forced to stay. My understanding is that the boys want to stay. We want to prove we are better than this year.”

One caveat in that could be the reports linking RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate with a move to Anfield.

That would push Phillips further down a pecking order which will already see him drop from first choice to at least fourth once Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip return from injury.

Nat Phillips has emerged as Liverpool's unlikely hero and could now stay on at Anfield
Nat Phillips has emerged as Liverpool’s unlikely hero and could now stay on at Anfield

However Phillips’ durability is something Klopp can rely on with more certainty than that of Matip, or even Gomez, who have both had a string of injury issues.

There is of course youngster Rhys Williams to consider, but he is behind Phillips in the queue and his chances will be limited if Liverpool welcome back all their senior pros for pre-season.

Either way, it seems unfeasible for Klopp to now commit to spending £18m this summer on Kabak when he already has the ideal back-up in Phillips in his squad.

The question of whether Phillips stays does also centre around his own ambitions though.

At 24 he’s not getting any younger, and his stock will be high this summer if he did choose to move on.

Regardless of his performance this season, only further injury problems would put him in the starting XI for the first game of next term, so it will be down to Phillips to decide if he is happy playing a bit-part role after being so heavily involved.

Yet speaking last month, that seemed to be a challenge Phillips was happy to take up.

“I know I’m not the most pleasing on the eye – when you compare me to someone like Virgil and how cool and calm he looks,” Phillips admitted.

“By all accounts from the manager, he was the same. I’ve heard him describe himself as having a first division brain but third division feet and I think that’s where he draws the similarities.

“And I think it gives him joy to see someone like me succeed.”

Klopp will no doubt be honest with his reliable star though, and if there are no new arrivals, it won’t be a surprise to see Phillips still at Anfield next season.

He added: “I’m aware Liverpool have three centre-backs who are ahead of me in the pecking order all injured, so when those circumstances change mine are likely to change also.

“But for me to strive [to be a long-term starter] is going to bring the best out of me and I’m only going to benefit from setting that as an ambition.”

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