Liverpool are leaving themselves at risk of heartache in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham. The Reds have suffered a serious domestic slump since their impressive Community Shield win over Manchester City in July. Jurgen Klopp’s side have won only two of eight Premier League matches and sit 14 points back on leaders Arsenal, albeit having played one game more. Bournemouth, the team Liverpool beat 9-0 at Anfield in late August, sit above them in the table at present.
Klopp has admitted the Merseyside outfit, who finished second with 92 points last season, are already out of the title race after just nine match-days. And given they sit 10 points back on Tottenham, six off Chelsea and five off Manchester United, Liverpool need a revival – and fast – just to keep their top-four hopes alive.
Their poof form is bad news regarding their interest in Bellingham. And make no mistake – Liverpool are huge admirers. Klopp admitted himself in the summer: “He’s not on the market, so that’s the first problem with that player. Well, that’s the only problem with that player!”
It is expected this coming summer Dortmund will field approaches for Bellingham from across Europe in the summer of 2023. But in the nightmare scenario that sees Liverpool miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time under Klopp in a season where he has overseen the entire campaign, Bellingham is off the cards for them.
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The rival interest in the 19-year-old almost guarantees that. The England international will go for well over £100million, perhaps around £130m, not including his wages which will also be handsome. That is a fee Liverpool will do well to meet even with a top-four finish given the stringent spending of their American owners Fenway Sports Group.
But without the riches of Champions League football, and with affluent rivals to compete with – namely Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid – for Bellingham, there is an incredibly small chance Liverpool would be able to sign the player.
Ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp noted as much on Sky Sports, saying: “The dream or the hope for Liverpool fans and I’m sure Jurgen Klopp is the same, to get Jude Bellingham as a midfield player for everyone because he’s the best midfield player in the country.
“He is someone who can completely change that midfield area but if you don’t make top four, he’s not coming to Liverpool and that’s the dilemma they have.” Why pick a Liverpool team on the decline over a City or a Real Madrid? Or over an exciting project at United or Chelsea?
That must be the question Bellingham and the people around him are asking themselves at the moment, regardless of Liverpool’s achievements under Klopp over the past five years. They appear a team on a downwards trend and in need of a rebuild.
Of course, the Reds are very much capable of rallying to finish fourth, or even qualifying for next season’s Champions League by winning this year’s, which then makes a move more plausible. If they do, they must then put together a strong sales pitch – and at Liverpool Bellingham knows he can be the team’s de-facto midfield leader.
But Liverpool first have serious work to do on the pitch before they come to matters off it. It may be a case of keeping their rivals at arm’s length before the World Cup break before a mammoth second half of the season to stay alive in the top-four race, and the battle to sign Bellingham.