Liverpool bank on stability over signings to end 30-year title wait

Liverpool's prolific trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino during the Champions League semifinal first leg tie against AS Roma. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 August 2019

Liverpool bank on stability over signings to end 30-year title wait

  • On the evidence of last season, there is precious little for the Reds to improve on

LIVERPOOL: Missing out on the Premier League title despite a record-breaking campaign was eased by winning a sixth European Cup for Liverpool last season, but ending a 30-year wait to be crowned English champions is now more important than ever on Merseyside.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are expected to strike first blood in the title race when they kick off the Premier League season against newly promoted Norwich under the Friday night lights of Anfield.

However, unlike most of their competitors who have delved into the arms race for talent in another transfer window where Premier League clubs have spent over £1 billion ($1.2 billion), the European champions have been conspicuously quiet in the transfer market.

Teenage talents Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott have been snapped up with an eye to the future, while Spanish goalkeeper Adrian will replace Simon Mignolet as backup to Alisson Becker in three low-key arrivals.

Klopp, though, believes the foundations are already in place for another tilt at the title after spending over £230 million in the past two years on the likes of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah.

“You should never do transfers because other clubs are doing transfers,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

“That makes no sense, it’s not about that. And if you sit back for a second and have a look at the squad, do we need more players?“

On the evidence of last season, there is precious little for Liverpool to improve on. A Premier League points tally of 97 would have won the title in any season bar the last two as Manchester City have set a new bar under Pep Guardiola.

City have further strengthened the squad that won a first ever domestic treble of trophies in England last season with the club record signing of Spanish midfielder Rodri and will be the benchmark for Liverpool to beat. A 1-1 draw between the sides, with City edging a penalty shootout 5-4, in the Community Shield last weekend again highlighted how little there is to separate the English and European champions.

Yet, in contrast to last season when Liverpool were the least affected of England’s big six by the late return to pre-season of players at the World Cup, Klopp has a tougher time in ensuring his side hit the ground running.

The prolific front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were all involved in international tournaments again this summer.

Liverpool have decided against investing heavily in backup for that trio and their presence was missed in a bumpy pre-season that saw an under-strength side beaten by Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Napoli. But Klopp believes the squad he has assembled will be bolstered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Rhian Brewster’s return to fitness, while Naby Keita can have a bigger impact in his second season in English football.

“People think that players from other clubs, other countries, are better than the players we have here but without really having the proof, because those players haven’t played here,” he said.

“It means whoever wants to start has to be at his top level. We have proper competition and that’s exactly what you need.”

Winning the Champions League also booked Liverpool’s place in next week’s UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup in December, meaning they have five trophies to play for this season.

However, it is ending 30 years of hurt by winning a 19th league title come May that will determine whether Liverpool’s season has been a success or failure.


Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated 19 min 32 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

  • Dalma Malhas ‘honored’ to be part of national team
  • Equestrian star began riding aged four

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star Dalma Malhas is counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in a series of crucial qualifying events.

Malhas, who has been riding since the age of four, told Arab News that she was honored to be part of the Saudi national team after “years of work and dedication.”

Next month she and her fellow showjumpers head to Morocco to take part in a series of qualifying events.

The 10th edition of the Morocco Royal Tour takes place in three cities — Tetouan, Rabat, and Eljadida —  on three consecutive weekends. The top two teams, based on their results, will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Malhas wants to be at the prestigious sporting event in Japan. 

“The work that has been done in the past few years will manifest itself now and I’m enjoying what I’ve been working on ... I believe in destiny and hard work,” she told Arab News. “Anything could happen, but I’m hopeful and trying to focus on peak performance because it is important that, when it comes to the horse and myself, we want to be there, energetic and motivated.”

She was the first female athlete from the Kingdom to compete at an Olympic-level event, riding at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore and winning a bronze medal. She participated in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to snag an Olympic medal.

She said it was easy to buy a horse that was already trained and compete with it. But the challenge for her was to get an inexperienced horse and train him from scratch.

“I dedicated time, effort and energy. I had a vision of how he could be and transformed him into a skilled and talented horse, and step-by-step I followed that. You build a strong partnership when you go through that process. It’s an affinity you can’t really buy. This is a very big part of horsemanship and one of my biggest achievements since the Youth Olympic Games. It’s priceless, having a combination and partnership like this.”

Malhas was born in 1992 in the US. Her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, is a prominent equestrian and has been a board member at the Saudi Equestrian Federation since 2008. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Malhas has had a thoroughly international upbringing. At 12 she moved with her mother from Saudi Arabia to Rome to train with her under Italy’s former showjumping national coach, Duccio Bartalucci, spending a decade under his tutelage.

After studying and training in Italy she joined a two-year professional program at the Forsan Equestrian Center in Chantilly, France. She has been training with Olympic champion Roger Yves Bost since 2016. 

She started 2019 by participating in several tournaments, crisscrossing Europe and gradually moving up the leaderboard. 

She has won several awards to date, including Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, and can be regarded as a pioneer and role model.

Malhas said there were great opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of sports and equestrianism. She talked about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan and how it empowered women. She also saw an opportunity to become more involved. 

“I want to give back too. I’ve been mostly focused on showjumping and training, so hopefully I’ll start giving back and contribute to society and motivate my peers in the country. I don’t mind though I’ve been enjoying the ride and after years of work I’m finally being rewarded in the best way possible.”