Jordan Henderson’s potential move to the Saudi Pro League, where he could earn a mouth-watering £700,000 weekly, has sparked a mess of worries and moral dilemmas.
However, when the news of the interest in Fabinho broke, it suddenly shone a light on the perilous decision made in front of Jurgen Klopp and his team.
The departures of James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita had been settled months in advance and were key to the midfield refresh which saw the arrivals of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai.
A shock exit for the Liverpool skipper wouldn’t be ideal, but it could still be overcome. But also losing Fabinho and starting the campaign which starts on August 13 with a completely different midfield trio could spell danger.
At a very basic level, Liverpool could lose a combined 45 years of experience at Anfield this summer if Henderson and Fabinho join the first-team stars already.
Jordan Henderson could be set for a shock move to the Saudi Pro League if a fee can be agreed
Liverpool are planning an offer of around £40m for Fabinho, who joined the club in 2018
Jurgen Klopp will have to decide if it’s worth cashing in on the aging pair this summer
These are not years of practicing the sport. Those are years spent playing for Liverpool, one of the world’s premier clubs, facing the spotlight and constant pressure to compete for the top honours.
The German, and his team by extension, have been a beacon of stability even when last season’s turbulence threatened to throw them off course.
But now, ahead of a campaign that promised redemption, are they about to squander any chance of winning big in 2023-24?
Criticizing Liverpool’s tired old midfielder was the biggest and most easily accessible stick to beat the Reds last season.
The average age of Klopp’s squad was the third highest in the division at 27.2, but slightly younger than the previous season. Several key players in a variety of positions appeared to be on their last legs.
Chief among them was Fabinho, who joined the club after their 2018 Champions League final loss to Real Madrid. The Brazilian’s form fell off the proverbial cliff last season which saw him lose his place in the starting line-up to youngster Stefan Bajcetic.
The 29-year-old found some semblance of form towards the end of the season as Klopp changed his approach in possession and found a companion for Fabinho in the deep midfield position.
This system has helped the Reds win seven of their last nine games as they mounted a late charge for Champions League qualification that ultimately proved futile.
Fabinho lost his place in the starting line-up at the start of the year after a dismal performance
Youngster Stefan Bajcetic enjoyed a first-team run after the World Cup last season
Still, the former Monaco man appeared to have saved his Liverpool career with the short spell, but Liverpool’s interest in Southampton’s Romeo Lavia and their apparent willingness to take an Al Ittihad approach point to a different outcome.
In Lavia, the Reds see an exciting prospect who caught the eye of Saints during his maiden Premier League campaign aged just 19.
The Belgian is a much more dynamic player than the languid Brazilian, registering impressive numbers of tackles, interceptions and successful holds. Although standing at 5ft 11, Lavia’s aerial ability is vastly inferior to Fabinho’s.
And his number of clearances, attempted passes and completed passes is far below that of Liverpool’s experienced midfielder – acknowledging the differences in their teams’ tactics.
There is no doubt that Lavia will become an exceptional talent, but to assert his superior form and ability over Fabinho is overkill at this point in their respective careers.
Fabinho’s case basically comes down to whether or not he finished at elite level, was last season just a blip or the first signs of a serious decline? While at 33, Henderson’s situation is less clear-cut.
When Milner left the club earlier in the window, several players and staff struggled to point out that the 37-year-old was not just admired and feared for his leadership qualities. He also greatly contributed to the quality of the team.
Henderson played 492 games for Liverpool and won seven trophies as captain
Romeo Lavia (L) and Moises Caicedo (R) are two of the midfield options for Jurgen Klopp’s side
Not to overshadow a modern club icon, but that description is far more apt for Henderson. The Liverpool skipper played 35 Premier League games last season and continued to influence the ties into his 12th season at Anfield.
With the arrival of Szoboszlai, his playing time will be reduced. Even so, Milner’s departure could have seen him adopt a new role. Club captain. Culture creator. Trophy lifter.
Reviving interest in Nice’s Khephren Thuram or entering the race for £100million-rated Moises Caicedo could fill the tactical void, but there is no move this summer that could address the brain drain organizational.
The Reds appeared to have succeeded in their rebuilding mission, but selling Henderson and Fabinho will require further forays into the market and leave them dependent on players untested for the system and unproven in their new surroundings.