July 13, 2017 12:06 GMT by bleacherreport.com

You Can Sign Any 2 Players in the World: Liverpool Influencers Take Their Pick

You Can Sign Any 2 Players in the World: Liverpool Influencers Take Their Pick

Hope turns to despair. Joy turns to anger. Positivity disappears no sooner than it had arrived, leaving irrational concerns over what might happen in the future. Yes, the summer transfer window has already been a roller coaster of emotions for Liverpool supporters. The drawn-out saga that was Mohamed Salah's signing from AS Roma tested the patience of many, but that just proved to be a precurso...

Hope turns to despair. Joy turns to anger. Positivity disappears no sooner than it had arrived, leaving irrational concerns over what might happen in the future.

Yes, the summer transfer window has already been a roller coaster of emotions for Liverpool supporters. The drawn-out saga that was Mohamed Salah's signing from AS Roma tested the patience of many, but that just proved to be a precursor for even tougher trials ahead.

Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk are the Reds' forbidden fruit. Heavily linked, they are no nearer to making it to Merseyside. Each day, there seems to be a new twist to the tale, yet no further progress is made.

But it is only July. The transfer window doesn't slam (and why must it always slam, by the way?) shut until the end of August. Relax—time is still on Liverpool's side.

Still, some of the club's passionate support have lost the plot on social media. As Henry Jackson wrote for Anfield Index: "Every single day is just a monotonous, unbearable wave of negativity, mainly due to the increasingly painful transfer window that is driving many to distraction."

At least the manager isn't panicking.

"We have until August 31," Jurgen Klopp said, per Andy Kelly of the Liverpool Echo. "We have time, and sometimes things need time. We'll do transfers because we want to do them. If not, it's because we don't want to do them. So we have to wait a bit, but tomorrow you can have a long sleep because nothing will happen tomorrow."

Bleacher Report understands your anguish, Reds fans. All the constant talk about Keita and Van Dijk—plus having to listen to the blue half of the city bang on about the return of the prodigal son—is hard to stomach.

To try to lighten the mood, we asked a collection of Liverpool influencers to pick two players they'd love to have at Anfield. No need to worry about release clauses, rival bids or their clubs' refusal to sell. We just asked them to name the duo they'd ideally slot into Klopp's starting XI.

Having handed them a blank canvas, here's what they opted to paint.

       

Joel Rabinowitz, The Anfield Wrap and Anfield HQ

Twitter: @joel_archie 

Players picked: Luis Suarez and Sergio Ramos

Not even Indiana Jones could find a Liverpool follower who is content to continue with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren as the starting centre-back pairing heading into the 2017/18 campaign.

It's not that Matip and Lovren aren't good—it's just that those who follow the club would like someone better. Anyone.

"The single biggest weakness for Liverpool over the past few seasons—in fact, since the Rafa Benitez days—has been the defence," Joel Rabinowitz said. "We've consistently conceded far too many goals in order to win that 19th league title despite often having an outstanding attack.

"We saw signs of promise with Lovren and Matip last season, as the pair struck a decent partnership. Yet one or the other always seemed to be unavailable through injury, and Lovren is still prone to making a howler here or there."

Klopp's pursuit of Van Dijk suggests the manager feels the same.

However, given carte blanche to choose whoever he wanted, Rabinowitz went for someone who knows what it takes to win big games.

"Sergio Ramos would be a phenomenal addition," he said. "His pace, strength, reading of the game and aerial ability are first class, and he has that experience of winning trophies at the highest level.

"Being comfortable on the ball is crucial for a side like Liverpool, who dominate possession, and Ramos is an expert at driving forward from the back and spraying passes from deep.

"He'd also bag you a handful of goals—often in key situations—every season, and that's never a bad thing for a central defender."

Rabinowitz's other choice would arrive from Real Madrid's biggest rivals, as he wouldn't be able to resist the opportunity to bring Barcelona's Luis Suarez back to Merseyside.

"Roberto Firmino is brilliant, but he's not prolific and Suarez gives you that relentless work rate and intelligent movement, as well as being an absolutely lethal finisher," he said.

"We've seen what he can do in the Premier League before, and the idea of having him back as the focal point of this Liverpool side, flanked by Salah and Mane and with Coutinho drifting in behind, is a tantalising prospect. You're looking at an absurd number of goals with the chances he'd get.

"That ruthless winning mentality and nasty side is something this relatively youthful Liverpool squad could do with more of. There's no better pure No. 9 in football right now."

Ramos and Suarez in the same squad? Now that would make for some interesting training sessions.

       

Matt Thielen, LFC Transfer Room

Twitter: @MelwoodDaily

Players picked: Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam

It's not just centre-back where Liverpool are perceived as having a hole that needs filling in defence.

James Milner did an admirable job at left-back last season, yet the converted midfielder—who relies almost entirely on his right foot to deliver crosses from out wide—cannot be relied upon for an entire season that will see the Reds back playing European football.

For Matt Thielen, the defence was the obvious area to upgrade. However, rather than get carried away with the idea of picking any player, he remained realistic in opting for a pair of reinforcements from Napoli.

Both his selections would slot straight into the back four, and by picking two players from the same team, it would surely make the transition to life in England that little bit easier to cope with.

"First things first, centre-back and left-back are positions that Liverpool desperately need to upgrade," Thielen said. "With that in mind, Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam would make immediate impacts and go right into the starting XI.

"Koulibaly is the definition of a bruiser. He is a no-nonsense defender, and partnering him with Matip would allow the latter to build play from the back.

"It reminds me of the prime Martin Skrtel-Dan Agger partnership. Agger was able to play with the ball at his feet, whereas Skrtel was just a madman at the back.

"And Ghoulam would also be a Day 1 starter for Liverpool. He has the ability to attack and defend, all without having to switch to his right foot to cross the ball."

Even better, Thielen believes Napoli might be willing to take some Liverpool players in return.

"Napoli have inquired about both Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno, which could make this deal easier than negotiating with two separate clubs," he noted. "Sakho and Moreno, plus whatever cash would be required to top up the deal, for Koulibaly and Ghoulam gets two players off our books while bringing in obvious upgrades as their replacements."

If only swap deals were that simple.

       

Sam McGuire, Football Whispers

Twitter: @SamMcGuire90

Player picks: David Alaba and Naby Keita

Liverpool's left-back issue stretches back far beyond the last season or two.

Andrea Dossena, Jose Enrique, Paul Konchesky and Djimi Traore (Champions League winner Djimi Traore, no less) could all lay claim to a spot on a Mount Rushmore of dreadful players to have filled the role. And then there's Aly Cissokho and Gregory Vignal, not to mention Moreno. The list goes on and on.

However, plonk Bayern Munich's David Alaba in the position, and it would help banish the bad memories of all those failed signings, according to Sam McGuire from Football Whispers.

"Liverpool have lacked a reliable left-back for a number of years," he said. "Milner, to an extent, did a job last season, but going into the new season with him starting would be negligent. To many, the full-back position isn't an important one, but Milner was a key outlet for Klopp last season, averaging 60 passes per match.

"With such involvement, you need someone comfortable on the ball, someone effective in wide areas when isolated and someone who can also influence proceedings in central areas.

"Alaba is the man for this. The Austrian can do it all and would no doubt look right at home in Klopp's system. He's a playmaker, winger and left-back all rolled into one."

Midfield is less of an area of concern for Klopp, particularly with captain Jordan Henderson back from injury—he played 45 minutes in the friendly fixture against Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday.

However, strength in numbers shouldn't automatically rule out looking for an upgrade. Klopp seems smitten by Keita (he's not the only one either), the Guinea international who scored eight goals and provided seven assists in his debut season in the Bundesliga, according to WhoScored.com.

"The 2016/17 season was a frustrating one for Liverpool fans, but at the same time, it was an eye-opening one," McGuire said. "The midfield in certain situations, especially at the beginning of the season, were a joy to watch.

"The combination play with the attacking trio, coupled with their off-the-ball movement, meant they were a threat and hard to contain. But as we saw after the turn of the year, when the opposition sat off and effectively dictated the space, the midfield looked blunt, lethargic and cowardly.

"It's why I feel Keita would be the perfect signing. Everybody knows all about what the RB Leipzig midfielder has to offer. He would add another dimension to this Liverpool team. He's a scorer, a creator, a match-winner and a game-changer."

       

Cameron Hogwood, Empire of the Kop

Twitter: @CameronHogwood

Players picked: Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Forget concerns about the back four (by the way, it's interesting to notice how no influencer opted to pick a goalkeeper). Never mind the possibility of adding extra power to a potent forward line, either.

For Cameron Hogwood, the opportunity to add two more high-class midfield options to the squad proved too good to resist.

"It's easy for Liverpool fans to lie and say they know what Keita is all about, but in truth, few are in a position where they can truly justify spending £70 million on him," he said.

"But it hasn't just been the countless video compilations that have fuelled an admiration for what the Guinean offers but also the rave reviews that have emerged from Germany.

"He runs, he tackles, he retrieves the ball, he beats defenders, he initiates attacks, he joins in with attacks and he even scores goals too. Keita's attributes make him satisfyingly compatible with Klopp's system and, in turn, make him a player this club has been in desperate need of for some time.

"Adding Keita would not only fulfil a need to reinforce the spine of the team but also bolster the kind of explosive dimension that has already seen Sadio Mane become vital to the way Liverpool function."

But what about Hogwood's other choice for Liverpool's engine room?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's future at Arsenal remains unclear, with Sky Sports sources recently reporting the likelihood of the England international signing a new deal stand at "virtually nil."

The same story also states how the Reds are one of several Premier League teams tracking the midfielder's situation.

"Oxlade-Chamberlain still represents a somewhat unproven commodity but one capable of finally shaking off the prospect tag and thriving under the guidance of Klopp," Hogwood explained.

"Not only does he boast the desired expertise of an all-action central midfielder, but he also promises a versatility that would offer Liverpool further strength in depth in wider attacking positions—thereby reducing the risk of suffering from a lack of alternative options in the way the team did following the turn of this year.

"With attacking ambition and a forward-thinking approach, he appears to be a well-balanced player with a work ethic and desire that would set him in good stead to become integral to overseeing Liverpool's all-important quick transition from defence to attack.

"All in all, his Premier League experience and his potential to take his game to new heights under Klopp makes him a risky but exciting summer target.

"A simple reason for wanting Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita? Klopp wants both."

      

Shane Kenny, Anfield Nation

Twitter: @Reds12thMan

Players picked: Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk

Like Hogwood, Shane Kenny has unerring faith in Klopp's ability to pick the right player for the Reds.

Rather than make pie-in-the-sky selections, he decided to stick to the German's grand plan by naming two major summer targets as his ideal additions.

"Obviously Keita was a standout in the Bundesliga last season, one of the best box-to-box midfielders out there right now," he said.

"Giving us great depth in the middle of the park, he would be an intelligent signing by Klopp. Still, it wiill be hard to get over the line in real life."

As is the case with Keita, Kenny believes the Reds' rather public pursuit of Van Dijk—including being accused of tapping up the player—could end in tears.

However, according to Steve Bates of the Sunday People (h/t the Mirror), the defender has informed employers Southampton that his heart is set on becoming one of Klopp's crop, at least ruling out him joining a Premier League rival instead.

"He's a must," Kenny said of the Dutchman. "He's a unique defender who has immense quality.

"I could see him and Matip forming a brilliant partnership at the heart of the defence. Van Dijk has got all the qualities needed to become world-class."

It's clear supporters have fallen hard for the idea of Van Dijk wearing a Liverpool shirt.

      

Rob Rogers, Liverpool Transfer Room, Anfield Index and Anfield HQ

Twitter: @RobRLFC 

Players picked: Juan Bernat and Kalidou Koulibaly

"A similar trend of Liverpool teams of late ensued in the 2016/17 season. An explosive attack was unfortunately matched by calamitous defending, and Klopp must therefore prioritise strengthening his leaky back four this summer."

Hands up if you've spotted a theme here? Rob Rogers' words echo the vast majority of not just those asked to offer their opinions for this feature but also those of Liverpool's fanbase in general.

The Reds were a joy to watch at times in the last campaign, playing high-tempo football at such speed that none of their top-six rivals could work out a way to beat them. A title push appeared wishful thinking—particularly once Antonio Conte's Chelsea built up a head of steam—but there was still cause for optimism.

However, there's little hope of sustained success if the team continuously shoot themselves in the foot with sloppy defending. Those gaps need to be plugged—and Rogers has two suggestions to do just that.

"Top-class central defenders are getting harder to find and much more expensive in today's market, especially if they are comfortable with a ball at their feet," he said.

"But Koulibaly has been instrumental at Napoli, passing the ball out from the back. He was one of the best ball-playing centre-backs around last season.

"Add to that the fact he rarely makes mistakes and is equally at ease facing crosses into the box as he is to attackers running at him, and you can see why the 26-year-old is in such high demand.

"Similar fees in excess of £50 million have been quoted for both Kalidou and Van Dijk, but with an extra year of experience in one of Europe's top five leagues and a near-flawless injury record compared to that of Van Dijk, you could argue Koulibaly would be better value for money for Liverpool."

Rogers followed in the footsteps of McGuire by looking to Bayern Munich for a new recruit to play at left-back—but didn't pick the obvious choice from the Bundesliga giants.

"With Alberto Moreno seemingly on his way out of Anfield, I'd love his replacement to be his compatriot Juan Bernat," he revealed.

"As understudy to Alaba, Bernat's game time at Bayern has been stifled, but the Spaniard could blossom should he get first-team football. Bernat would fit into Klopp's style of football seamlessly as a full-back who rarely wastes possession.

"A confident dribbler and an intelligent passer, Bernat often provides a competent attacking threat while remaining in control defensively. He has the potential to flourish on Merseyside."

The names selected may change, but the six Liverpool influencers have collectively offered a window into the supporters' desires. The message is clear, Jurgen: Strengthen that defence!

       

Rob Lancaster is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

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