It will take a “superhuman effort” for Liverpool to win the Premier League again unless they sign another top-quality player such as Thiago Alcântara, Gary Neville has warned.
Neville said history had taught him to expect a drop-off from Jürgen Klopp’s side this season, and predicted it could lead to Manchester City pipping them to the title next May. “To get to a Champions League final, win it the following season, and then to go again to win the Premier League title is a huge emotional drain on that group of Liverpool players for three years,” he said. “To ask them to go again and achieve that same standard would be a superhuman effort.
“It wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest there will be a slight drop-off, if they don’t somehow stimulate that squad by doing something to give them that lift again. Thiago would be the big one. He is world class and would give them a world-class presence in an area of the field where they don’t have one.”
Thiago’s contract with Bayern runs out next summer, and while Liverpool have been linked with the Spain international they are yet to make a bid. But Neville warned: “Liverpool are not perfect. They have a world-class goalkeeper, centre-back and strikers. They have really good midfield players with good work ethic but with Thiago would be another step. He would control the game with that weight of pass, that nous.”
Neville also expressed his disappointment in Manchester United’s board for not doing more to back Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the transfer market this summer – and said he was also concerned that the battle for the No 1 spot between David de Gea and Dean Henderson could prove an unwelcome subplot.
“It’s never an ideal situation,” he said. “You’re always better having an excellent No 1 and a quite clear, very good No 2. Henderson isn’t going to sit around and wait. And every time De Gea makes some mistake we’ll be asking: is this Henderson’s moment?
“Certainly when we had a changing goalkeeping situation, say between Roy Carroll and Tim Howard, it was unhealthy as none of them really knew who the No 1 was. None of them probably felt fully supported – and they always probably felt like they were one mistake away from the other one playing. That could happen with De Gea and Henderson. It’s going to be a real challenge of Ole’s management skills to keep them both happy, because I think that’s impossible.”
Neville also urged United’s board to move quickly to bring in new players to help Solskjær get closer to Liverpool and City. “A trophy and breaking that top two has to be the next step. But that’s going to be difficult. Ole needs more players and support from the board to do that.
“When you look at the bench, the game changers aren’t there, the depth is not there. They definitely need a centre-back, a midfield player, a forward and a right winger, and potentially another defender, maybe a left-back too. I am disappointed because I wanted the players that Chelsea signed to go to United.”
Neville said that while he expected City to win the Premier League he remained concerned with their defensive failings. “Last season, with Vincent Kompany leaving and Aymeric Laporte getting injured, the reaction in transition to losing the ball was nowhere near as good as it had been in the previous two seasons, but I think Pep Guardiola will want to bounce back.”
The Sky Sports pundit also predicted Leeds would provide “the most fascinating story” of the season. “When people say football was better 20 years ago, absolutely not. Promoted teams were rigid but nowadays we’re seeing managers come up with philosophies. Marcelo Bielsa is front foot. They are going to Anfield on the first day, and while they might get a bloody nose they’ll get one fighting the way he wants to fight.”
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