Liverpool head into the new season having had their European crown stolen from them by Bayern Munich, and are looking to win it back.
Speaking on a special Champions League preview Blood Red podcast, sports journalist Fabrizio Romano gave the ECHO the lowdown on the big club’s spending this summer around Europe – and what it all means for the Champions League.
Liverpool themselves signed Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota and Kostas Tsimikas, while the threat posed by other English clubs – chiefly Manchester City, who are still looking for a first Champions League title – is clear.
Romano believes the acquisition of Thiago puts Liverpool ahead of Bayern Munich. But what about the picture at the rest of the teams who currently make up Europe’s elite? And who else should the Reds be wary of?
The Spanish side were knocked out by Manchester City at the last-16 stage last season. They made around €80 million in player sales, but made no signings during the transfer window.
Listen to the full Fabrizio Romano podcast from Blood Red by clicking HERE
Romano: “Real Madrid decided to keep their team, stay with their best players and Zinedine Zidane, considering they are strong at the moment.
“But the decision to sell Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Reguilon, in my opinion, is something crazy! They needed money so they decided to sell players.”
Romano: “I think it is really difficult to see Barcelona fighting for the Champions League because the night against Bayern Munich was something terrible.
“After this kind of defeat, we were expecting a revolution, not just in the manager but also in the players. We expected a new era for Barcelona but it is not like this because they just signed Sergino Dest.
“It was not a real revolution. They lost Arturo Vidal, Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic but they have no new stars in this moment.
“This season for Barcelona is like: ‘let’s start the change, let’s sell players and prepare the revolution for next year with a new president and new team’. And we have to see without or without Lionel Messi.
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“Before, Barca were considering to sell Philippe Coutinho and he was on the list to sell, so his agents were working to offer him to Tottenham, to Arsenal.
“Arsenal were really close and at the start of August, they were ready. But once Koeman arrived, he understood it was difficult to sign other players, for example Memphis Depay.
“Ousmane Dembele [was not close to signing for Liverpool] because [Liverpool made] a simple loan with no buy option. Barcelona were considering the move to let him play but in September they changed their position because they needed money to sign Depay.
“Always, the player said no to Liverpool and Juventus – the player said it was not a matter of money; he wanted to stay [at Barcelona].”
Romano: “With Juventus, the big question is Pirlo, because he never did anything, not even with the academy.
“It is something new for Juventus. They have a good team and they are changing to become a younger team – it is the start of a revolution and you can see players like Gonzalo Higuain leaving the club.
“But they have signed one of the best players in the whole window I would say in Dejan Kulusevski. They have signed a future star and in my opinion, he will be the new star of the Champions League this season.
“No one knows him outside of Italy but trust me – on loan at Parma, he was on another planet!”
PSG did not strengthen at the back having lost Thiago Silva, so they are slightly weaker too, with manager Thomas Tuchel not entirely happy with his employer’s moves in the market.
Romano: “I was expecting PSG to sign a top centre-back – a move, for example, for Milan Skriniar or Kalidou Koulibaly. But they couldn’t sign this kind of player because of the financial situation – a crazy and difficult summer.
“Thiago Silva was the captain – not just a player, but a leader. But when you have Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi, you can have a fantastic season, so they will try to win the Champions League for sure.”
With questions to be asked at all of the big clubs around Europe this season after differing approaches in the transfer market, and with Liverpool have weakened last season’s champions Bayern Munich by signing Thiago, Jurgen Klopp’s men can be confident.
Even without the injured Virgil van Dijk for at least the knockout stages, if not longer, the Reds will have designs on going all the way.
Winning the Champions League is never easy, but Liverpool are rightly considered among those most likely to win it, which would make it seven European Cups for the club in total come the end of the season.