There is a very solid reason why Jurgen Klopp appears a touch less upbeat than usual at training this week.
The Liverpool boss was SO CLOSE to signing Jeremy Doku himself, but Manchester City picked him up instead, and he missed out because the player he would have eventually replaced encouraged the Belgian NOT to come to Anfield.
City and the Rennes winger, who many predict will become the next European superstar, have reached an agreement on a price of more than £50 million. Roberto Martinez, the manager who awarded the player his first Belgium cap, called his potential “frightening.”
Nevertheless, Klopp believed he had personally signed the dynamic forward five years prior when a deal was so near that Doku’s former club Anderlecht had granted Klopp access to speak with the player directly due to their resignation to losing him.
They were so impressed, in fact, that they included Doku in a deal to sign Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic on a summer loan.
When the now-21-year-old was just 15 and set to sign his first professional contract, Klopp was very eager to bring him to Anfield. Only recompense for his development would have been included in the sum, which was probably in the neighborhood of £500,000.
The Reds veteran Steven Gerrard, who was coaching the club’s U18 team at the time and would have accepted the boy into his youth programme, as well as Klopp himself spoke with Doku in-depth.
However, Klopp also requested that Gini Wijnaldum talk with the winger.likewise Sadio Mane, who played in the same position as Doku and might shed light on expectations in Merseyside.
Even during a tour of the Melwood training facility, the Liverpool boss informed him he might eventually replace Mane in the starting lineup.
The issue, as Doku later admitted, was that Mane didn’t really try to “sell” the 15-year-old, but rather spoke to him honestly and advised him not to accelerate his development.
“I was about to become 16, the legal age to sign a professional contract. Liverpool was the team with the most overt interest in me, but there were also visits from Arsenal and Chelsea, he subsequently told Ouest-France.
“I went with my parents, and we got a tour of the stadium, the practise pitch and even the school I’d be attending. I got to meet the guys and received an autographed Salah shirt.
“I was able to talk to Jurgen and Gerrard about the development. We looked at some film clips. We met players like (Simon) Mignolet, a Belgian, and Wijnaldum, a Dutchman. Mane and I had a lot of conversations, but we didn’t really discuss football. We discussed everything.