DONE DEAL: Liverpool complete Arne Slot’s first signing before transfer window even opens

Numerous free agents based in England have been linked to Liverpool; they are eligible to sign pre-contract agreements with the team starting on June 1.

The 23–24 season of Liverpool is over, Jurgen Klopp’s nine-year reign is coming to an end, and Arne Slot has been formally announced as the Reds’ new head coach.

What then should we do with the next six weeks, as Euro 2024 provides little distraction in the meantime, until Liverpool reports back for pre-season? Naturally, we focus on the transfer window now!

The summer transfer window will open on Friday, June 14 and close on Friday, August 30. This was confirmed by the Premier League last week. However, if the Reds wanted to, they could theoretically sign a player before the transfer window even opens.

Since January 1, they are free to speak with overseas players who are out of contract this summer about pre-contract agreements. They can begin negotiations with soon-to-be free agents based in England on June 1.

It’s true that Anfield hasn’t seen many of these transfers lately. Liverpool signed just seven players on free transfers during Klopp’s tenure.

In the past, the Reds have usually acquired an out-of-contract player in exchange for a backup goalkeeper or a young player with exceptional talent who would still fetch a compensation fee. Among Klopp’s seven free agents signed since October 2015, Andy Lonergan, Harvey Elliott, Dominic Solanke, and Fabio Carvalho fulfilled the latter requirement, while Alex Manninger, Adrian, and Andy Manninger checked the former.

Thus, Joel Matip is the only high-profile Bosman deal that was finalized under Klopp’s direction. Liverpool confirmed in February 2016 that they had inked a pre-contract agreement with the defender, who was then playing for Schalke. The last time the Reds signed a domestic free agent was in the summer of 2015, when they brought in Adam Bogdan and James Milner from Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City.

Nonetheless, a few high-profile Bosman moves are expected this summer, with Kylian Mbappe being the most high-profile player expected to leave Paris Saint-Germain after agreeing to sign with Real Madrid. Liverpool has also been connected to a number of other soon-to-be free agents, despite the fact that they have long since been left out of the Frenchman’s conversation.

The Reds are currently looking for a new center back because Matip is officially leaving at the end of his contract. Tosin Adarabioyo of Fulham and Lloyd Kelly of AFC Bournemouth have both been linked to the team in recent months.

Granted, the Daily Mail has reported that Adarabioyo is nearing a deal to join Newcastle United, so it appears the former will be moving on. They also say the Magpies are interested in Kelly, just for the record.

However, Kelly was already under Liverpool’s notice twice before his recent connections with a Merseyside move. In the summer of 2019, after catching the attention of Bristol City in the Championship, the Reds attempted to sign the then-20-year-old as Andy Robertson’s deputy. However, the player turned down Anfield bosses by joining Bournemouth for a fee of £13 million.

And after the Cherries were relegated a year later, the defender was once more considered as a possible target. After failing to pursue Kelly in 2019, the Reds decided to move for the Greek, making Kelly their “fourth-choice” target on a four-man shortlist that also included Kostas Tsimikas, Jamal Lewis, and Sergio Reguilon.

But Kelly is well known to Richard Hughes, the new sporting director who joined Liverpool from Bournemouth, as Hughes was instrumental in luring the defender to the Vitality Stadium in the first place.

He disclosed the extent of the Cherries’ pre-signing scouting on the defender in an interview with the Official AFC Bournemouth Podcast in April 2021.

He remarked, “Lloyd Kelly, we had scouted him for more than just his appearances for Bristol City’s first team and England Under-21s.” He had done a lot of work in Bristol in earlier age groups, which, in my opinion, makes you more capable of acting quickly.

“Thus, if you looked at Lloyd beforehand, you kind of knew that was always going to happen when he comes on and does really well in one Championship game.”

It is obvious that Hughes is familiar with the player, and that Liverpool and their new sporting director have researched him extensively over the years. If he believes the defender can succeed at Anfield, he would also be in the best position to advise the Reds to sign him; if not, he should advise them to look elsewhere while the team considers their options for a center-back.

Adarabioyo and Kelly are free to sign pre-contract agreements starting on June 1st, regardless of Liverpool, and as a result, their futures are currently expected to be settled swiftly. Despite transfer rumors throughout the season, the Reds have been linked to a number of domestic free agents, even though moves for either defender may seem unlikely.

This summer, Slot will probably also need to sign a new goalkeeper because there is still uncertainty surrounding the futures of Adrian, Caoimhin Kelleher, and Alisson Becker.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly showing a lot of interest in Alisson, and after five years as the Brazilian’s backup, it seems impossible that Caoimhin Kelleher, Anfield’s second choice, would stay if the 25-year-old is to remain the only backup.

Even though the Republic of Ireland international could take over as Liverpool’s starting striker if the Brazilian left, it seems more likely that Kelleher will leave in search of playing time with the first team than Alisson.

In other news, veteran third-choice Adrian has already made it known that, although he and the Reds have not discussed his future, he plans to leave this summer when his contract expires and return to Spain. But unlike other would-be Bosmans Matip and Thiago Alcantara, the Spaniard’s departure from Liverpool wasn’t officially confirmed last week, leaving his future unclear.

In any case, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Reds waived the contracts of one or both of their veteran goalkeepers this summer. The arrival of a new goalkeeper at Anfield this summer seems logical, even though players like Vítezslav Jaros could try to push their way up the pecking order at Anfield after a successful loan at Sturm Graz.

In fact, Liverpool has already been connected to a few goalkeepers. There are rumors circulating in the Netherlands that they might be considering Feyenoord’s Justin Bijlow, and the Daily Mail reported earlier this month that they are keeping an eye on Southampton veteran Alex McCarthy while they compile a backup goalkeeper shortlist.

The former England international has performed admirably for the Saints this season since taking over for the injured Gavin Bazunu. He is expected to help the South Coast team win promotion back to the Premier League by winning the play-offs.

Though McCarthy’s contract expires in the summer, his homegrown ability to select 25-man squads for both domestic and European competition and his potential status as a free agent may make him an appealing option for Premier League teams looking for a backup goalkeeper. Consequently, he would be an option if Adrian were to leave.

As a result, McCarthy is reportedly being considered by Celtic, led by former Reds manager Brendan Rodgers, as they look to replace the recently retired Joe Hart. Newcastle United, them again, is also rumored to be interested in the goalkeeper. Coincidentally, in recent months, Kelleher has also been connected to a move to the Hoops.

McCarthy was actually a target for Liverpool when they made a move for the goalkeeper back in 2014, with Rodgers serving as manager at the time.

McCarthy ultimately turned down Liverpool’s advances after receiving an eleventh-hour call from Harry Redknapp, the manager of Queens Park Rangers at the time, just as he was ready to board a train to Merseyside. The two had previously worked together at Reading and were set to reunite at Anfield.

However, ten years later, the Reds may be ready to pique their interest in the seasoned stopper once more as they are in need of a backup goalie.

Furthermore, if Liverpool wants to move for McCarthy, they could sign a pre-contract agreement starting on June 1 to make him Slot’s first signing before the transfer window even opens. However, McCarthy’s future is probably not going to be decided until after the Championship Play-Off final on Sunday.

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