Since Jurgen Klopp took charge of Liverpool, you can trace the club’s evolution by assessing the type of players joining and leaving their ranks.
In terms of new signings, Liverpool have steadily evolved from useful pick-ups such as Georginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip, to excellent players ready to prove themselves in a top club, including Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, to established world-class players like Alisson and Thiago.
The same has happened with departures.
Initially, Klopp’s Liverpool focused on shedding unwanted players — Christian Benteke. Joe Allen. Then they started to part with previous first-teamers who could be replaced with relative ease, such as Emre Can and Wijnaldum. Now, they are preparing to lose those who have been key men throughout their run of success under Klopp, including Mane and — perhaps — Mohamed Salah.
It’s a new stage in Klopp’s near seven-year reign, and it remains to be seen whether Liverpool cope with it well, but their manager has put them in an excellent position to do so.
Until the current Klopp era, during the Premier League years — the club’s wilderness years — Liverpool generally had a single, god-like player who was treated as the club’s saviour. The first was Robbie Fowler. Next came Michael Owen. Then, most obviously, came Steven Gerrard’s time. There was Luis Suarez, after he scored 31 league goals in a season. And then, briefly, a spell when Philippe Coutinho was their talisman.
The sale of Coutinho, though, was transformative.
Not only did it mean Liverpool received an extraordinary fee for an inconsistent footballer, money which was invested in areas which required upgrades, it also meant they eschewed the player who had become their new god.
Coutinho was a good player for Liverpool. He won their Player of the Year awards in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, but the reverence with which he was treated by the fans was peculiar to outsiders and potentially damaging to the club’s chance of progress. His rumoured — and then actual — departure was treated as an affront. Liverpool’s decision not to sign a direct replacement was considered a lack of ambition.