Football: Some Reds need to shape up or ship out in off-season

Liverpool players following their penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester City during the League Cup final.
Liverpool players following their penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester City during the League Cup final.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Liverpool are facing another summer of change after Juergen Klopp was given the green light to overhaul a squad that has fallen short of expectations again.

While defeat by Manchester City in the League Cup final on Sunday on penalties did not seal the fate of anyone, the setback is one of a number of triggers that will result in the English Premier League side refreshing their playing staff.

The strong likelihood is that a number of high-profile stars are now on borrowed time.

Christian Benteke, who rejected overtures from Chinese Super League clubs in January, is among those who will be made available for transfer unless he is able to force his way back into the starting line-up.

The Belgium international has fallen out of favour to such an extent that he was an unused substitute in Liverpool's 1-3 shoot-out loss at Wembley.

After becoming the second-most expensive player in Liverpool's history last summer when he signed from Aston Villa for £32.5 million (S$63.7 million) at Brendan Rodgers' request, Benteke must prove his worth to a manager who did not recruit him and who is showing mounting reluctance to select him.

Simon Mignolet's first-choice status is also not guaranteed despite the Belgium custodian recently signing a five-year contract.

Liverpool are looking to sign a goalkeeper who will put his place under pressure, with Adam Bogdan also set to leave at the season's end.

Mignolet's latest costly error allowed City to take the lead at Wembley and, while the goalkeeper also made a number of good saves in the final, the 27-year-old appears increasingly vulnerable.

Publicly, Klopp remains committed to his squad in the hope that they will help Liverpool (ninth on 38 points) to have a strong finish to the season, with the Europa League now the main target.

Privately, though, work is under way to revitalise their fortunes, with Liverpool continuing to show an interest in Bayern Munich attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, Udinese midfielder Piotr Zielinski and Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell.

With Marko Grujic and Joel Matip confirmed to sign, Klopp is hoping to have the bulk of his new-look squad available for pre-season.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'Some Reds need to shape up or ship out in off-season'. Print Edition | Subscribe