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.


Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

Updated 15 September 2019

Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

  • Tokyo is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games
  • Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games

TOKYO: The mayor of a town in northeastern Japan that will host Olympic soccer games says his city has received no funding from the central government that has promised to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to help in the reconstruction of the region.

The Japanese government and Tokyo 2020 organizers are hoping to use the Olympics to showcase Japan’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Several Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, will be held in northeastern Japan.

But with less than a year to go before the opening ceremony, Yutaka Kumagai, the mayor of Rifu in Miyagi Prefecture, says his city has seen no funding from the central government.

“There is no help from the government, we don’t have any budget from them, none,” Kumagai said on Saturday. “Tokyo 2020 is said to be a symbol of the reconstruction but when it comes to the budget, we don’t have any budget from the Olympic games here in Rifu.”

Kumagai made the comments during a media tour of Miyagi Stadium, a 49,000-seat facility in Rifu that will host men’s and women’s football at the 2020 Olympics.

About 50,000 people are still displaced in the Tohoku region as of August, according to the Reconstruction Agency. Yoshiaki Suda, the mayor of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, concurred with Kumagai. Like Rifu, Onagawa is a coastal city that sustained heavy destruction.

“We haven’t received any subsidy, even one yen, from the central government,” Suda said. “Whatever we do for the venues, for the hospitality for the Olympics, we have to do ourselves.”

Some media reports have made the claim that the Olympics have hampered the reconstruction efforts, taking workers away from the region to help with construction in Tokyo.

Japan is one of the most earthquake- and tsunami-prone areas in the world. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 quake offshore caused a tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The quake and tsunami heavily damaged coastal neighborhoods in northeastern Japan and took more than 18,000 lives.

Tokyo, which projected total costs of about $7.5 billion in its winning bid for the games in 2013, is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games.

A group of anti-Olympic activists, many from outside Japan, have held small protests and other events this summer under the Japanese title “Han-gorin no Kai” — which translates roughly to No Olympics. They oppose Olympic spending, which they say cuts into budgets for housing and environmental issues.

They also call for more money to rebuild Fukushima prefecture located northeast of Tokyo. Organizers say Fukushima is a main focus of the Olympics, staging baseball, softball and soccer games there to persuade the world the area is safe.

Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games. In August, Tokyo’s summer heat forced an Olympic women’s triathlon qualifying event to be shortened because of high temperatures that are likely to impact next year’s games.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to quit earlier this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the games. He has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged he signed off on about $2 million that French investigators allege went to buy votes.