Deal Close: Boss confirms 'Liverpool' contact over transfer for 'incredible' €20m attacker. 'Offer' made

Is the Mario Balotelli saga finally close to being over? It looks that way, and after weeks of speculation, and false starts, new reports suggest that Balotelli may be on his way back to Serie A.

Last week, Sassuolo CEO Giovanni Carnevali confirmed that he'd 'refused' the opportunity to sign Balotelli, but according to Palermo Vice-President Guglielmo Miccichè this weekend:

“We made an offer [for Balotelli], and now it’s up to Liverpool and the player. He was born in Palermo and we consider him a Sicilian. He would be welcomed with open arms and adored by the fans. A player like him would be a dream for Palermo".

Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato adds:

"Mario Balotelli has accepted the idea of ​​moving to Palermo".

Gazetta Dello Sport further claims:

* Palermo have offer £850,000 a year, which would give Balotelli £16,000-a-week.

* Balotelli has less than 24 hours to decide on the deal.

Balotelli has his issues, but there are no shortage of clubs trying to sign him this summer, and at least eight of those have publicly declared interest in the Italian.

A move to Palermo (the place of his birth) makes sense, but unless Balotelli takes a massive pay cut, Liverpool will have to subsidise a huge chunk of his wages (£74k-a-week)

That's still cheaper than keeping Balotelli at the club and paying him £90k-a-week for nothing, so just do it.

* Jul 2016: Described as an 'incredible talent' by Crotone president Raffaele Vrenna. Cost Liverpool €20m

Contact Made: Liverpool submit €15m offer for 'unbelievable' record-breaking attacker. Agent confirms deal is unlikely

Earlier this year, Sport1.de claimed that Jurgen Klopp will 'pull out all the stops' to sign BVB starlet Christian Pulisic, and new reports this week suggest that Klopp has now taken the first concrete step towards signing the coveted attacker.

In April, the Daily Mail:

"Klopp has instructed his scouts to monitor Pulisic...and Klopp has put Pulisic on Liverpool’s long-term radar, viewing him as one of the premier talents in Europe".

According to ESPN on Friday:

"Liverpool have offered €15m for Christian Pulisic. Stoke have [already] bid €20m, with Leipzig and Stuttgart also linked".

When asked this week about Pulisic's future, the 17-year old's father (and Agent) told reporters:

"Christian has no interest in leaving the club. He had a good half year last season, and wants to continue to break through."

Klopp brought Pulisic into Dortmund's first-team squad during the 2014-15 season, and after watching him in training, he enthused:

"He did a good job. He can kick the ball around really well. And in a very intense training session with narrow spaces, he did not stand out in a negative way. That is a real sign of quality."

Talk about being damned by faint praise. Some info about Pulisic.

* 12 goals/assists in 14 games for BVB's U19s. 11 goals/assists in 8 games for the U17s. 12 apps for Dortmund's senior team (2 goals/assists).

* Youngest-ever player to appear in a World Cup qualifier for the US national team.

* Jan 2015: U.S. U17 manager Richie Williams raved: ""When [he's] playing that No. 10 position, Pulisic isn't scared, he's willing to take anybody on and he's super competitive".

* Mar 2016: Ex-BVB Coach David Wagner's view: "I spoke with Jurgen Klinsmann a year ago about Christian's unbelievable quality for his age. He's one of the biggest talents I've seen."

This is typical Klopp. The team needs full-backs, and a defensive midfielder, but Liverpool's manager is seemingly focused on bringing in yet another number-10.

What difference is a 17-year old with comparatively minimal experience going to make for Liverpool this season, and why would Dortmund accept €15m when another club has (allegedly) offered €20m?

In my view, it'll be a massive mistake for Pulisic to swap Dortmund for Anfield. Where's the fire? Just stay and develop alongside great players like Reus, Aubameyang et al. It's madness to leave such a great *Champions League* club at the age of 17.

Author: Jaimie K

Confirmed Teams: Klopp drops 'amazing' £30m attacker; surprise on the bench; reckless decision to start Coutinho?

Despite scoring two goals against Burton Albion on Tuesday, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has dropped Daniel Sturridge for today's crunch clash with Tottenham Hotspur.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Coutinho, Firmino

SUBS: Manninger, Grujic, Moreno, Lucas, Sturridge, Origi, Stewart

SPURS: Vorm, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier, Wanyama, Eriksen, Alli, Lamela; Kane (c)

* It looks like Sturridge has paid the price for daring to publicly question Klopp over his starting position this week. It could just be a tactical move, but Sturridge is the club's most effective goalscorer, and dropping him after scoring two goals is poor man-management (IMO).

* Klopp is taking a massive gamble by starting Coutinho, who suffered a hamstring injury just a week ago. In my view, it's a reckless decision, and it'll come as no surprise if the Brazilian gets injured again today.

* Klavan is dumped from the matchday squad, which seems harsh. It looks like Klopp prefers Lucas as central defensive backup (he's the only player on the bench capable of playing at centre-half), but again, that seems a tad reckless given the fact he's just returned from injury.

* It looks like Klopp is going to persist with playing Wijnaldum in central midfield. The manager's stubbornness knows no bounds. Probable formation:

----------- Mignolet
Clyne -- Lovren - Matip ---- Milner
--- Lallana - Hendo -- Wijnaldum
Mane ------ Firmino ---- Coutinho

Liverpool have a great recent away record at Spurs, and given the fact the team only bothers to turn up in big games, the Reds will probably win today's game.

^ Sturridge: £30m-rated. Described as 'amazing' by Lucas Leiva.

Done Deal: Liverpool confirm transfer for ex-Man Utd 'threat' who idolises Beckham

With Jon Flanagan, and Brad Smith already gone, Liverpool have now confirmed the exit of yet another full-back.

According to a statement on the official Liverpool FC website:

"Liverpool defender Sam Hart has joined Port Vale on loan, subject to EFL clearance".

Some info about Hart:

* 19-year old left-back. Poached from Manchester United in 2012. Football hero is Utd legend David Beckham.

* Description on the LFC website: "A left-back, who relishes going forward and poses a real threat down the flank. Can carry the attack with his fine athletic profile. Very strong in the tackle".

* Briefly featured in Liverpool's 4-0 pre-season defeat to Mainz.

Realistically, there's little change of Hart making the breakthrough this season, so a loan deal is probably the best option.

One thing is clear: Liverpool's development of full-backs is seriously flawed. Even with the current left-back crisis, none one of the club's academy full-backs is deemed to be good enough to provide cover, and that's an issue that needs to be addressed.

Liverpool XI vs. Spurs: Klopp confirms triple injury blow. Surprise starter? Drop £26m star?

After last week's debacle at Burnley, Liverpool face a tough trip to Spurs on Saturday, and with the international break immediately after, it's vital that the Reds get a positive result at White Hart Lane.

Pre-match news:

* Klopp on Can: “There’s nothing serious but it’s the ankle where he had problems in the past. It shouldn’t be too long but maybe too long for Tottenham".

* Klopp on Origi: “It’s nothing serious, but if you have cramp, you need to have a look at it too. So it’s not for sure that he will be available.”

* Klopp on Coutinho: “The muscle was a little stiff. He felt something [against Burnley]. We left him out of training. It is not a situation to take any risk".

* Lucas, Sakho, Karius, and Gomez remain on the sidelines.

* Klopp on Spurs: "They are a pressing team, a high-pressure team, so we need to know about this. They don't give away a lot of spaces but there are spaces, of course".

* Pochettino's pre-match view: "Sometimes people don’t realise how important last season was. We improved a lot and learned a lot; now we will be tougher than last season when we try to challenge again.”

* Jan Molby's view: "I've seen Spurs this season, and I think that this is the best time to play them. They're just having to restructure the team a little bit, and the rhythm of last season isn't quite there yet".

* Predicting a 1-1 draw, Mark Lawrenson mused: "The way the Reds are set up, I think they are going to win quite a few games easily but, when teams score against them first, it is going to be difficult for them".

Liverpool generally tend to turn up for the bigger games, so it won't surprise me in the slightest if the Reds end up winning this game. Probable Klopp lineup:

-------------- Mignolet
Clyne ----- Matip -- Lovren ---- Milner
------ Lallana - Hendo - Wijnaldum
------- Mane - Sturridge - Firmino

Team I'd like to see:

------------- Mignolet
Milner --- Matip - Klavan - Clyne
------------- Stewart
------------------ Hendo
Mane ------ Firmino -- Wijnaldum
---------- Sturridge

* Milner excels on the right, especially right midfield, so just play him at right-back. He'll get forward, but won't have to constantly cut in on his right foot and slow down attacks.

* Clyne has played on the left several times for Liverpool, and performed well.

* This team needs a dedicated DM, and with Can seemingly out of the picture, that means playing Stewart. He may be inexperienced, but he'll only improve with games, and so far, he's performed well in the role. I'd rather see aces in their places than have Wijnaldum or Hendo shoehorned into the role.

* Wijnaldum excelled in a more advanced role last season, so play him there for Liverpool, and give him the best change of making a game-changing impact.

* Play Sturridge through the middle. That's his best role, and central should be his starting position, not out wide. If it's not working, bring on Lallana, and move Firmino into the centre-forward role.

With 6 wins and 3 draws in the last 10 away games, Liverpool have a fantastic record at White Hart Lane, and with an average 2.3 goals per game, there's a strong probability of goals during the game. Can the Reds win the game?

Deal Close? Boss urges 'outstanding' £20m star to sign for 'Liverpool'. LFC favourites at 7/4

Over the last week, both Jamie Carragher and Mark Lawrenson have urged Liverpool to sign £20m-rated Man City outcast Joe Hart, and it appears that ex-Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is also in favour of the deal.

Speaking to reporters today, Rodgers - who is now in charge at Celtic - enthused:

"If he [Hart] got the chance to go to Liverpool then I’m sure he would look at it. Hart is an outstanding ‘keeper [and] his close friend James Milner is there. It would be a great move for Joe".

This follows glowing endorsements from Carra and Lawro:

* Carra: "As a Liverpool fan, I'd love to see him [Hart] come to Anfield. Joe is just below the elite level required in world football [but] he'll be a tremendous addition".

* Lawro: “If I were Liverpool, I’d be all over Joe Hart. He’s better than their three goalkeepers put together.”

On Wednesday, Liverpool were at 8-1 to seal the deal; today, the Reds are now 7/4 favourites to sign Hart before the end of the transfer window. However, according to the Liverpool Echo today:

"Liverpool are not interested in signing Joe Hart...as Jurgen Klopp isn’t looking for another keeper".

Hopefully, this will turn out to be true.

^ Reportedly on £120k-a-week.

Not Again: £40m Liverpool 'genius' suffers 3rd hamstring injury under Klopp. May miss Spurs

Last season, Liverpool suffered an incredible 18 hamstring injuries after Jurgen Klopp took over, and with the new season only three games old, Klopp's players are dropping like flies yet again, with Philippe Coutinho the latest victim of the infernal hamstring curse.

According to the Liverpool Echo:

"Philippe Coutinho is a fitness doubt for Tottenham [after] complaining about tightness in his hamstring. Coutinho only took part in light training on Thursday".

When asked on Thursday about Coutinho's injury, Klopp noted:

“The muscle was a little stiff. He felt something so we didn’t want to take a risk [against Burton]. We left him out of training. It is not a situation to take any risk".

This is no surprise whatsoever. I've argued for months that Klopp's 'heavy metal' approach is outdated, and counter-productive, and the endless run of injuries arguably supports this contention.

In my view, Klopp has learned nothing from his time at Dortmund, where his 'football madman' regime decimated BVB, and created one of the biggest injury crises the Bundesliga has ever seen.

Now, the same thing is happening at Anfield, with practically every senior member of the squad (including the freakin' goalkeeper!) suffering a hamstring injury at one time or another. Full list of hamstring injuries on Klopp's watch:

* Coutinho (x3), Allen, Benteke, Toure, Enrique, Milner, Sturridge, Mignolet, Skrtel, Firmino, Origi, Lovren, Ibe, Moreno, Sakho, Lucas. Hamstring XI:

------------- Mignolet
Toure --- Skrtel - Lovren -- Moreno
---------- Lucas - Allen
Milner ------ Firmino --- Coutinho
------------ Sturridge

SUBS: Benteke, Enrique, Origi, Sakho, Ibe.

Liverpool also suffer other regular injuries under Klopp, and although it's only August, the Reds currently have 8 players on the injury list, with Mane, Grujic, and Matip also suffering issues in recent weeks.

Plus, in a strange turn of events, Origi is somehow a doubt for Spurs due to cramp (!) Since when did cramp cause players to miss games? Only under Klopp, it seems.

The most damning statistic is this: After just 10 months in charge, Klopp has presided over more injuries per game (in the Prem) than any other LFC manager in the last 15 years:


Correct @ 17 Aug 2016

Last week, new Inter boss Frank De Boer made light of Klopp's counter-productive approach:

"I remember [Jurgen] Klopp taking over at Liverpool, and he immediately tried to impose his high-pressing style. This resulted in several injuries, nine in fact. Sometimes, it is better to slow down.”

Amen. The moral of this story? Expect more injuries, starting at Spurs this Saturday. My money is on Sturridge, Lovren, or Wijnaldum.

^ £40m-rated. Described by Klopp as a 'genius'.

Deal Almost Done: 'Exciting' £21m attacker scouted by Liverpool close to signing record deal with Southampton

Prior to signing Southampton star Sadio Mane, Liverpool reportedy scouted 'exciting' Lille attacker Sofiane Boufal (a long-time Liverpool target) and in mildly ironic twist of fate, it looks like Southampton are set to sign Boufal as a replacement for...Mane.

According to Sky Sports today:

"Southampton have agreed a club-record £21m fee for Lille striker Sofiane Boufal, according to Sky sources".

Some info about Boufal:

* Right winger, who can also play on the left, and as a number-10.

* Last season: 16 goals/assists in 34 apps (One every 170 mins).

* On his role models: "My biggest inspiration is Ronaldinho. For me, he is the best player of all time".

* Lille lynchpin Florent Balmont's assessment: "He has a good mentality [but] picks up too many yellow cards [9 yellows/1 red last season]. He must follow the example of Eden Hazard, who took a lot of hits but got up right away."

In recent years, Liverpool have financed Southampton's rise up the table to the extent that the Saints actually finished above the Reds in the league last season. Now, Mane's £34m fee has obviously allowed Southampton to break the club's transfer record for Boufal.

Mane has started well for Liverpool, but it'll be interesting to see who finishes the season with the most goals/assists for their respective clubs.

One thing is clear: the loss of Lallana, Lambert, Clyne, and Lovren did not affect Southampton in the slightest, and their replacements did a great job of helping to push the Saints to the next level.

Here's hoping Boufal doesn't continue this unfortunate trend, because if he does, it'll mean Liverpool finishing behind Southampton in the league (again).

Deal Close: Boss confirms transfer 'talks with Liverpool' to sign 'incredible' £90k-a-week attacker.

After yet another knockback, Mario Balotelli continues to be persona non grata in the world of football, but after weeks of false starts, there might finally be some good news on the horizon for the £90k-a-week striker.

Last week, Balotelli reportedy called Serie A minnows Sassuolo to offer his services, but on Tuesday, Sassuolo CEO Giovanni Carnevali told RaiSport:

"Mino Raiola [Balotelli's agent] offered us Balotelli, but we refused".

Ouch! Things could be about to change, though. FC Sion are interested, and on Wednesday, the club's president confirmed:

“We are in talks with Liverpool. I don’t know whether a deal will happen or not, but talks are underway. We’ve asked for him [Balotelli] on loan.”

Now the BBC claims:

"French club Nice have expressed an interest in signing Mario Balotelli. No deal has been agreed but Balotelli was not at Melwood on Thursday".

Signing Balotelli is one thing, but why make him one of the club's biggest earners? No wonder clubs are continually baulking at signing him. Given his history, this situation could've (and should've) been foreseen, but it's just the latest in a long line of ridiculous transfer-related decisions, which include:

* Giving Mignolet a new 5-year contract then signing his replacement a couple of months later.

* inexplicably giving average players like Jose Enrique massive, long-term contracts (to the extent that it became diffifult to get rid of them)

* Giving Klopp a new 6-year deal after only 8 months at the club (and finishing 8th in the league).

Fingers crossed that Liverpool can reach an agreement for Balotelli before the end of the transfer window.

* Jul 2016: Described as an 'incredible talent' by Crotone president Raffaele Vrenna.

Trouble Ahead? 'Amazing' £30m star reveals Liverpool frustration; Klopp hits back with nonsensical explanation

When fit, Daniel Sturridge is inarguably Liverpool's best goalscorer, and his superb goal record for the club is proof-positive that centre-forward is his best position. Alas, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is obsessed with 'versatility' and 'flexible football', and his frustrating penchant for misusing the club's players has now extended to Sturridge, and the striker is not happy about it.

In an interview this week, Sturridge outlined his frustration with being played out of position:

“It's more difficult for me to play wide. I’m a centre-forward. Everyone knows my best position. Everyone knows where I enjoy playing the most".

Sturridge also outlined why he's more effective as a central striker:

"I play on instinct. I'm on autopilot there. You do things because you are used to doing it. Out wide, you have to worry about different things. The way you move, the way you play – it's all different. You can’t play the same as you do as a centre-forward.”

Anyone who's ever played football knows that Sturridge is absolutely right, but what does Klopp think? When asked today about Sturridge's comments, Klopp claimed that:

- It 'makes no sense' for Sturridge to 'play in the centre and stay there'; he has to 'change positions'.

- When Sturridge has completed his 'defensive' duties out wide, he needs to get into the box to score goals.

- He 'doesn't want to play Sturridge as a wide player', but confirmed he can 'start there', and then, in 'decisive moments', he can 'be in the box'. According to Klopp, this is 'flexible football'.

- Liverpool 'didn't need offensive wingers against Burnley and Burton', and that the full-backs should've 'filled' those roles.

In my view, Klopp's reasoning here is questionable:

* There's a world of difference between playing out wide, and operating as a central striker, and the main difference is defensive workload. A winger's job is one of the most exhausting in the team, and Sturridge is simply not built for it.

* If Liverpool didn't need 'offensive wingers' against Burnley, then why play Sturridge out wide? Also, if Klopp 'doesn't want to play Sturridge as a wide player' then...don't play him out wide! It's that simple, or am I missing something here?

* Klopp's point about 'starting positions' is disingenuous as it ignores the reality of the role. Klopp appears to suggest that it's a nominal starting position, and that Sturridge can just drift into the box, but it's not that simple. If Sturridge's starting position is out wide, it means he will, by default, always have to revert to that position to retain team.

* It also means Sturridge will have a specific set of winger-centric defensive duties to consider, which cannot just be abandoned. Klopp even states that Sturridge should get in the box once he's 'completed' his defensive duties, which means that he'll always have to return to the 'starting position'.

* Sturridge's starting position should be central, and from there, he can drift out wide if/when it's beneficial. As a comparison, consider Thierry Henry; his starting position was almost always central; he may have drifted out wide, but he didn't have the massive defensive workload that comes with having a starting position out wide.

* Sturridge shouldn't be spending most of his time defending, tracking back, and/or dropping deep to collect the ball (as he did against Burnley); he should be in a central position, in and around the box, with a remit to score and create goals (whilst defending from the front). That's his game, and as Sturridge says, 'everyone knows' this (except Klopp).

* Additionally, Being out wide = more running, pressing, and defending, which obviously increases the possibility of injury. Sturridge also added:

"I have to do a job for the team. That's not saying I am happy to do it. That's saying I have got to do a job for the team".

If there were no other wide options available, then Klopp' decision would be understandable, but with Origi, Lallana, Coutinho, and Firmino in the squad (all of whom are better suited to playing out wide), there's no logical reason to force Sturridge to 'do a job for the team' out wide.

Klopp's obsession with 'flexible football', and player 'versatility' is increasingly maddening. Why is it so difficult to play aces in their places? Sturridge is a central striker, so if he's fit, and in the team, then he should play in that position. The proof is in the pudding: 64 goals/assists in 80 games as a central striker tells its own story.

As for Sturridge speaking publicly about this - who cares? He's not being disrespectful, and focusing on that is just another way for raging Klopp apologists to derail discussion and protect their deity from criticism.

Bottom line: Playing Sturridge out wide is setting him up to fail. If Klopp wanted a different style of striker, he should've signed one during the transfer window. Klopp's job is to utilise the playing assets for the benefit of the club, and that means playing the club's best goalscorer in his natural position.

After this transgression, Klopp will almost certainly drop Sturridge for Saturday's trip to Spurs. Just watch.

^ Sturridge: £30m-rated. Described as 'amazing' by Lucas Leiva.