When a Liverpool transfer plan goes all the way to a phone call from Jürgen Klopp, it usually indicates that things are quite advanced. Nonetheless, in the summer of 2020, the manager used some of his international minutes to no avail – he didn’t get his man, Roman Abramovich’s riches and Chelsea eventually prevailing.
Timo Werner seemed destined for Liverpool. Besides the aforementioned discussion, one had to consider the close relationship between the club and RB Leipzig. Not only that, but the striker has reportedly been sold on a transfer, even despite Klopp couldn’t offer immediate game-time assurances.
However, Liverpool were not betting on a global pandemic. FSG balked at the matchday’s sudden loss of revenue. As a club looking to operate sustainably, the extreme reaction was perhaps understandable – although the initial attempt to use the government’s furlough scheme remains a major blot on the owners’ notebook.
In any case, paying RB Leipzig almost £50m up front to trigger Werner’s release clause was certainly out of the question. Only clubs whose resources were not so intrinsically tied to income could enter into such a deal at such a time. Enter Abramovich: Chelsea racked up the cash and one of Europe’s hottest properties was heading to Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool, in hindsight, will not regret this turn of events. They opted for Diogo Jota instead, with Wolves ready to structure a deal in a way that involved a small upfront payment. The versatile striker became a huge success at Anfield, disrupting the traditional ‘top three’ and scoring 30 goals for the club. Werner, meanwhile, struggled at Chelsea. Of his 19 goals, only seven have come in the Premier League.
The German suffered unfair criticism in his debut season, no doubt thanks to some high-profile misfires. His under-the-radar return of 12 Premier League assists was actually quite impressive – and exactly the kind of thing Klopp would have been looking for in an heir to Roberto Firmino.
However, things have undoubtedly gotten worse this season, with reality catching up with perception. Werner struggled to crack Thomas Tuchel’s plans, playing just 575 minutes in the Premier League. Meanwhile, he has a goal and an assist. Now he is said to be considering his future at Chelsea, with the Daily Mail claiming his representatives are ‘ready to hold talks’ amid growing ‘frustration’.
Liverpool could sense a late opportunity. FSG’s finances have rebounded healthily, with the latest accounts impacted by the pandemic showing remarkably resilient revenue. Likewise, Chelsea will struggle to secure a price in the region of the £47.7m they paid; Werner is still a young striker, so the discount won’t be massive, but the transfer fee will surely have gone down a bit.
Moreover, despite signing Jota and the subsequent arrival of Luis Díaz, Werner could still have a place in Klopp’s ‘Liverpool 2.0’ plans. The Portuguese star possesses the versatility to play on the front three; the Colombian has really only played on the left in his career to date, but even in his budding career at Anfield he has already appeared on the right flank quite often in the game. This leaves a possible gap in the middle, a role that Werner played incredibly well at RB Leipzig.
Obviously, there is the small problem that Salah is still at the club. The best player in the world will not be moved in a hurry. But in that sense, the situation is the same as when Klopp and Werner had their first phone call – playing time is not guaranteed, but there will be chances at Liverpool if the striker can fulfill his potential.
Werner isn’t the only one looking for a way out of Chelsea either. Abramovich has confirmed he will be looking to sell the club. What effect this will have on transfer business is still a big unknown, but it will certainly shake up the apple basket. As such, relationships between the “big six” – a rarity lately – could conceivably come back on the table.
Werner won’t be high on the list of transfer priorities for Liverpool, but another young striker is certainly on FSG’s wishlist. Klopp was fond of the striker in the past, and even since his move to Chelsea he will have seen plenty of understated positives. With the player eager to move on and Abramovich’s situation causing turmoil, it might finally be time to complete the plan.