Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool 2.0: What will the future of the Reds will look like?

Harvey Elliott
(Image credit: Getty)

They were separated by about 35 miles and 25 hours. They are separated by about eight months in another respect. Prodigies who came through the Fulham academy illustrated their promise with weekend goals in the FA Cup. Had negotiations gone a little smoother last week, teenagers could be team-mates – officially anyway – at a second club.

Liverpool have already lured Harvey Elliott north. While they ran out of time on deadline day to complete a deal for Fabio Carvalho and loan him back to the Championship leaders for the rest of the season, Jurgen Klopp said on Friday they would be “crazy” not to revisit their interest in him. 

The Portuguese offered an immediate explanation for Liverpool’s admiration. He put Fulham ahead at Manchester City, showing elusive movement in a performance brimming with promise and the verve Klopp tends to appreciate. He looked at home on such a stage.

A day later, Elliott capped his comeback, 21 weeks after a dislocated ankle seemed likely to rule him out for far longer, with a brilliant first goal at Anfield, a lovely touch followed by a technically superb half-volley against Cardiff. Over two days and two games for two different clubs, the future of Liverpool’s midfield may have been taking shape. 

The outstanding teenaged midfielder in this season’s Championship and the finest last season, when Elliott flourished on loan for Blackburn, could be teaming up into the 2030s. Klopp’s contract expires in 2024 but, as he said last week, he is looking long term. 

“We constantly prepare for today and tomorrow,” he said.

Elliott looked to have fast-tracked the future with his early-season excellence. Signed as a winger, he looked reinvented on the right of the midfield trio, forming a potent combination on that flank with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah, until his September injury. If one possibility is that he proves the Egyptian’s successor in the front three, should he leave when his deal ends in 2023, another is that he settles in the midfield.

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Carvalho has tended to be Fulham’s No. 10. There is no such position in Klopp’s system, but while he often selects the most solid and robust combination possible for big games, there can be a spot, either on the left or the right of his central trio, for a more attack-minded presence. Indeed, at times it feels as if the German is collecting players for a role that does not exist for some matches. 

Curtis Jones could have a decade competing with Carvalho and Elliott, or dovetailing with them, if future managers can find ways of accommodating each. Klopp has spent much of the past month responding to questions about Sadio Mane and Salah’s presence at the African Cup of Nations by praising Naby Keita. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the oldest of the options and while he stood in successfully for Salah, scoring twice as a forward in the last two league games, he is out of contract in 2023. He has long seemed a young player but Elliott is a decade his junior. Oxlade-Chamberlain was briefly, brilliantly, Liverpool’s best attacking midfielder since Philippe Coutinho, before injury cruelly cut him down in 2018, but perhaps come 2023/24, he will be elsewhere.

And there are signs that Klopp’s is building a second team, even if he is not around to manage it. So many of his key players were born in a 28-month period between June 1990 and October 1992, going from Jordan Henderson to Alisson via the departed Gini Wijnaldum, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah, while 2020’s flagship buy Thiago is in the same age bracket.


(Image credit: Future)

A manager who cared little for what came next could have wrung every last drop from them, and the slightly younger Fabinho and Andy Robertson, and then left. Instead, Klopp has started to address the question of the succession.

In Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota, he has attackers half a generation younger than his definitive forward line. In Ibrahima Konate, he has Matip’s understudy and probable successor. Get Carvalho to join Elliott and the midfield would ooze talent, even if it would bring a question not merely of how and when to integrate them but if they can belong in the same side. 

But perhaps this weekend showed that planning for Klopp’s Liverpool 2.0 is being accelerated.

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Richard Jolly

Richard Jolly also writes for the National, the Guardian, the Observer, the Straits Times, the Independent, Sporting Life, Football 365 and the Blizzard. He has written for the FourFourTwo website since 2018 and for the magazine in the 1990s and the 2020s, but not in between. He has covered 1500+ games and remembers a disturbing number of the 0-0 draws.