Klopp will now feel vindicated over ‘exceptional’ Liverpool summer transfer call – opinion

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The worry which was etched across Jurgen Klopp’s face during stoppage time in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City on Saturday may well have masked an underlying sense of enormous relief.

Along with every Reds supporter, the manager was grimacing at the sight of Alisson Becker grasping his hamstring in obvious discomfort, playing through the pain barrier to help see out a deserved point for his team.

We’ve yet to discover the full extent of any injury the 31-year-old may have incurred, but there have been educated suggestions that he may have played his last match of 2023.

There might be only 34 days left in the calendar year (including today), but the trouble is that Liverpool play nine more times before New Year’s revellers blast out Auld Lang Syne.

While watching Alisson struggle through the final few minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, Klopp might also have been thanking himself over his stance on Caoimhin Kelleher during the summer.

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Klopp could easily have sold Kelleher in the summer

It would’ve been no great surprise if the Republic of Ireland international moved on from Anfield during the off-season, with his Brazilian teammate a virtually immovable object in the starting XI and other Premier League clubs reportedly showing an interest in our number 62.

The Cork native is no longer a prodigious youngster who can afford to think long-term. He turned 25 last Thursday, the same age at which Alisson joined Liverpool and slightly older than Steven Gerrard was when he captained the club to Champions League glory in 2005.

His status as second choice on Merseyside was also hampering him at international level, with Gavin Bazunu starting all eight of Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifiers despite playing in the Championship with Southampton. However, ‘playing’ is the word on which emphasis is to be placed.

It would’ve been impossible to begrudge Kelleher a move away from the Reds, such was Alisson’s unshakable status as number one, but the top-heavy workload that elite clubs must negotiate in the modern era has made football more of a squad game than ever before.

The Irishman will always get opportunities at Liverpool, particularly this season with the Europa League the continental diet being served up at Anfield, but he now looks set to be thrust into the limelight to a more sustained degree.

His tally of senior Reds appearances is only one greater than his age, but the 25-year-old has never let Klopp down when given the nod to start.

Klopp’s praise for ‘exceptional’ Kelleher

Caoimhin Kelleher holds the trophy aloft after the Carabao Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley on February 27, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

His clean sheet record is 10 out of 26 (38.5%), with Alisson’s clocking in at 108 out of 245 (44.1%), via Transfermarkt. No goalkeeper in Liverpool’s history has made more saves in penalty shoot-outs, with Kelleher making numerous vital contributions en route to our Carabao Cup triumph in 2022.

It was after that final against Chelsea that Klopp dubbed the Irishman ‘the best number-two goalie in the world’, also labelling him ‘exceptional‘ following his latest bout of penalty heroics in that competition against Derby County just over a year ago.

It’s a testament to the 25-year-old’s attitude that while he’s been prepared to leave Liverpool in search for more regular action rather than simply coasting as a backup ‘keeper, he’s never publicly moaned about being kept out of the starting XI by his Brazilian teammate for several years.

Goalkeepers know that they can often go for months without playing unless an opportunity presents itself through a colleague getting injured or suspended, but always need to be ready to step in at any moment incase the window to a starting berth opens.

With Alisson now looking set for a spell on the sidelines, Reds fans can take comfort in knowing that the very capable Kelleher is ready and waiting to come into the team.

With no disrespect intended to Adrian, he wouldn’t inspire the same confidence if he’d been first in line to replace the Brazilian, with flashbacks to those horrific performances against Atletico Madrid and Aston Villa in 2020 still likely to give Kopites nightmares.

Klopp made the right call

Klopp and Liverpool made it clear during the summer that they’d no intention of selling the Ireland international, unless a massive bid came in to persuade them otherwise.

It’s a stance that the manager – and indeed many Reds supporters – must be delighted he took, and he’ll now feel vindicated for recognising Kelleher’s true value to the squad, when other bosses or clubs could well have blinked and cashed in on the 25-year-old.

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