The evolution of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool into ‘strongest squad’ he’s ever had

The Liverpool manager has praised his current squad as the best he’s had at Anfield - it’s come some way from the side he took over in 2015.

Jurgen Klopp has hailed his current Liverpool as ‘the strongest squad’ he has had during his time on Merseyside.

The Reds manager will be without Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson for the clash against Leicester on Thursday, but has everyone else available for a meeting with Brendan Rodgers - the manager he replaced at Anfield.

Liverpool are still fighting on all four fronts this season and have 12 games in the next six weeks. These include a Carabao Cup final against Chelsea, a Champions League last-16 tie with Inter Milan, an FA Cup fifth round game with Norwich and massive Premier League games against West Ham Uniyed and Manchester United.

And the Reds now have the squad to deal with these demands thanks to a steady flow of intelligent signings that bolster a squad that has come a long way since Klopp’s first game in charge.

The inheritance

When Klopp signed for Liverpool in October 2015 they were languishing in mid-table following one win in nine games.

Raheem Sterling had left Anfield the previous summer and over £100 million was spent on the likes of Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Ings.

The very frist team Klopp selected, for a 0-0 draw at Tottenham, was as follows: Simon Mignolet; Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Alberto Moreno; Lucas Leiva, Emre Can; James Milner, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho; Divock Origi

The German manager got the best out of a squad that lacked both quality and depth, but ultimately fell short in all competitions, losing in the League Cup final to Manchester City, the Europa League final to Sevilla and the FA Cup fourth round to West Ham.

They also finished eighth in the league.

2016/2017: the overhaul

Sadio Mane signs for Liverpool in 2016. Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Klopp said in March of 2016: ““We have to change a lot of things to be successful,”, and he wan’t joking.

The summer of 2016 saw the departure of 13 first-team players including Christian Benteke, Jordan Ibe, Joe Allen and Martin Skrtel.

Around £76 million was raised and the majority was then spent bringing in Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum from Southampton and Newcastle respectively.

Klopp also dipped into the Bundesliga, signing Loris Karius and Ragnar Klavan for nominal fees and Joel Matip from Schalke on a free transfer.

The Reds were knocked out of both domestic cups within the space of three days in January but finished fourth in the league and qualified for the Champions League.

2017/2018: “...And we sold Coutinho”

Mohamed Salah (R) of Liverpool celebrates with teammate Virgil van Dijk after scoring their side's first goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on December 11, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Klopp’s second summer at Anfield has since proved a pivotal moment in his side’s success.

Star-man Phillipe Coutinho went to Barcelona for over £120 million and the funds raised from the sale went to Southampton and Roma for the services of Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah.

The Reds offloaded Mamadou Sakho and Lucas while bringing in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - they also spent just £8 million on a little-known left-back at Hull City by the name of Andy Robertson.

A huge tally of 43 goals from Salah helped Klopp’s side to another fourth-placed finish and a Champions League final where they were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid.

2018/2019: considered additions

Fabinho celebrates opening the scoring for Liverpool against Brentford. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Just 48 hours after the Champions League defeat to Madrid, Liverpool announced the signing of Monaco midfielder Fabinho for just over £40 million.

It kicked off a window in which Klopp spent over £160 million on the Brazilian, his compatriot Alisson Becker, RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita and Xerdan Shaqiri in a bid to sure up the core of the side.

The strengthening of the spine won the Reds the Champions League in 2019, beating Spurs 2-0. They also won their last nine Premier League games and finished second on 97 points.

2019/2020 & 2020/2021: cutting fat, adding muscle

Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara, left, and Diogo Jota. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images

The two seasons that followed were as much about trimming the fringes of the squad as it was about adding to the core.

Funds were raised through the sales of Danny Ings, Simon Mignolet, Ryan Kent and Dejan Lovren, while the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne were moved on for free.

Those moves were significant - it meant that, of Klopp’s first-ever starting XI at Liverpool, only James Milner and Divock Origi remained.

Takumi Minamino was the only major signing of the 19/20 window, but as Mane, Salah and Firmino shone, Liverpool won their first Premier League title.

Of their most prominent starting-XI during the title winning season, only four - Firmino, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson - were not signed by Klopp.

The Reds consolidated their title-winning squad that summer with Thiago and Diogo Jota - the latter signed with an eye to being replacing their ageing front three.

But a season ravaged by injuries to key players led to a cumulative 227 games missed in all competitions through injury - Liverpool still managed to finish third and make the Champions League quarter-finals.

2021/2022: the ‘strongest squad’

Klopp - now with a squad built almost entirely by him - just needed to add finishing touches.

The scarcity of senior centre-backs during the previous season pushed Liverpool to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig - activating his £36 million release clause.

And then in January, the Reds swooped in ahead of Spurs to land long-time target and planned summer-signing Luis Diaz from Porto for £37 million.

Salah and Mane returned from AFCON during the week and there is only Jordan Henderson injured, with Klopp’s squad now fully evolved and the strongest under his tenure.

They have a chance to win a trophy as early as February 27 should they win the Carabao Cup final and should advance into the latter stages of both the FA Cup and the Champions League.

And while there are 12 points behind Man City in the Premier League, the Reds have two games in hand and will play Pep Guardiola’s side in April.