By Peter Hall
(Reuters) – Many managers have spent big in their pursuit of glory, but Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp has adopted a different approach ahead of the new season, trusting his current crop to end the club’s long wait for a first Premier League crown.
In 2008, after Manchester United clinched a second straight league title, chief executive David Gill said: “I think it is the best league in the world and therefore if we want to continue being at the top we have to make sure we look at the squad, improve it.”
United won the Champions League a few weeks later but still went on to splash the cash on Tottenham Hotspur’s Bulgaria striker Dimitar Berbatov despite already possessing forwards Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
Klopp’s approach is very different, with Liverpool having yet to make a major signing in this close season.
“Next year there will be another transfer window,” Klopp said. “This team is really good and we have invested a lot in it. Now we have to work with that.”
The German is well within his rights to keep faith with his existing group of players. Before clinching a sixth Champions League crown in June, Liverpool had amassed 97 points last season — the third highest total in Premier League history.
They did all they could but relentless Manchester City beat them to the title by one point despite Liverpool losing only one league game all season — a scenario unlikely to be repeated.
Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are feared across Europe, and a settled defence conceded fewer goals than any Premier League side last season.
“They have paid massive money to retain this group and Klopp must be relishing the chance to discover what he can do with a squad so cohesive,” former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler said.
“Maybe he knows — just like with (defender Virgil) Van Dijk and (goalkeeper) Alisson — he needs one particular player, and that player isn’t available. So wait, rather than spend for the sake of it.”
Long-term injury absentees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez and Adam Lallana are all back, bolstering Klopp’s options.
Liverpool have been busy in the close season, incorporating a tour of the United States with friendlies in Scotland and Switzerland, with mixed success.
While Manchester City finished their schedule of friendlies unbeaten in normal time, Liverpool slipped to three defeats — against Napoli, Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund.
While the matches are more about fitness than results, Liverpool’s performances will have caused Klopp some concern, although key players Alisson, Firmino and Salah were missing after being given a break following international duty.
The challenge this season is likely to remain the same, overcoming a City side who have strengthened in midfield with the club-record signing of Rodri for 70 million euros ($79 million).
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have added some big-money signings but a sustained title tilt may still be beyond them.
But while City will have one eye on the Champions League — where they have yet to get past the semi-finals — Liverpool will have other priorities after conquering Europe again last season, with that elusive Premier League title in their sights.
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(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)