Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp wants Adam Lallana to sign a one-year contract extension to avoid him leaving on a free transfer, but the Liverpool manager is resigned to losing the midfielder at the end of the season.
Lallana’s contract expires this summer, and he can discuss and agree terms with other clubs from Wednesday with a view to joining in six months. A queue is forming at home and abroad, eager to open negotiations for what will be one of the most sought-after Bosman deals of 2020.
The midfielder’s inclusion — and star performance — in the 1-0 win over Wolves on Sunday underlines why Lallana will remain a pivotal member of the Liverpool squad for the rest of this campaign.
The commitment he showed in that victory reaffirms why Klopp is so keen to retain the 31-year-old.
However, Klopp is also realistic and respectful of the player’s predicament. He understands Lallana is too good to be a backup player, and with competition so intense in the Liverpool squad — a situation that will only intensify with the arrival of Japan international Takumi Minamino tomorrow — there is no pressure on Lallana to commit to Anfield beyond this season, nor will his contract situation impact on selection.
For his part, the player feels he has three or four years left at the highest level and must decide if he wants to use that time to be a squad player at one of the world’s biggest clubs — most likely regularly competing for the highest honours — or begin afresh at a club where he will be guaranteed more starts.
Liverpool owner Fenway Sports Group will back Klopp, and offer Lallana a year’s extension if he indicates he wants to stay, but the fact the contract situation has gone this far is the surest sign a mutual parting will come in May.
Lallana’s Liverpool career has been blighted by injuries. Signed by Brendan Rodgers from Southampton for £25 million in the summer of 2014, Lallana suffered a knee injury in his first pre-season, and that kind of disruption has plagued his career on Merseyside.
His best spell at Liverpool immediately followed Klopp’s appointment in October 2015, when he was the symbol of the high-pressing, attacking style the new manager implemented. The start of the Anfield renaissance under Klopp owed much to the tactical and technical ability of players such as Lallana, which is why he is one of the few players the German manager inherited who have remained part of the four-year journey to becoming European and world champions.
England manager Gareth Southgate was similarly enthusiastic about Lallana’s ability, eager to make him a central figure before ill-timed injuries. That has been the major frustration of recent years.
Despite these setbacks, Klopp has continually selected Lallana when he is fit and available, which is why he will be disappointed if the player leaves.
In the meantime, Lallana is likely to feature as Liverpool’s busy schedule continues with the visit of Sheffield United on Thursday, and an FA Cup third-round tie against Everton three days later.
Despite preserving their 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League, the most common phrase heard at Anfield for the next few months will be “It’s not over yet”.
Virgil van Dijk is the latest player to reaffirm the message.
In real terms, Liverpool need to win 14 of their remaining 19 league games to secure their first title in 30 years — providing their closest challengers win every match.
That is still a formidable task at the halfway stage.
“Last year we saw anything can happen, and this year we just focus on the game ahead of us, and we will see at the end when it will be decided, hopefully in our favour,” Van Dijk said.
The defender believes last year’s narrow failure behind Manchester City is driving the players on.
“We came very close,” he said. “Unfortunately, City was just a little bit better, but that spurred us on to try even harder this year. We are halfway now, and we hope to finish the season on a high.”