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Dembele & Liverpool: Why Klopp serious second time around

COMMENT: Jurgen Klopp must fancy it. He's in play. Up for sale. And for a price within reach of the European champions. After losing out to Borussia Dortmund for his signature three years ago. There's every chance Klopp can bring Ousmane Dembele to Liverpool at the second time of calling...

The World Cup winner is available. Bayern Munich would never have made their move over the weekend without encouragement. A €70m offer slapped in. But falling short. Not rejected. But falling short. Barcelona will sell their French winger for closer to €90-95m. In other words... in Scouse... Dembele can leave for Van Dijk money.

Klopp will be interested. Just as he was three years ago when Dembele was preparing to leave Rennes. The Liverpool manager doesn't drop players he really fancies. He simply parks the idea and waits for the next opportunity. Sadio Mane. Naby Keita. There's been plenty of players whom have found their way to Klopp's cause at the second or third time of asking.

Recalling his move from Rennes to Borussia Dortmund, Dembele has admitted he met up with Klopp as negotiations were being ironed out, "I saw Klopp in Paris but I told him I'd made up my mind to sign for BVB". The German had left his move too late, but has never lost his appreciation of the versatile attacker.

A year ago, it was put to Klopp that Dembele could be available from Barca, "Dembele? Oooh, is he on the market? Now I am interested!" he joked, before switching topics.

But there's truth in Klopp's jest. Just as he followed Mane from Metz to RB Salzburg to Southampton. Klopp has done the same with Dembele. Never short of a positive word for the Frenchman, he's remained a fan.

Now Dembele is in play - and you just know Klopp and Michael Edwards, LFC's sporting director, have been actively debating about whether to strike. With Daniel Sturridge now gone. His potential successor, Bobby Adekanye, just confirmed a Lazio player. There is room in Klopp's squad for a new attacker. And no matter what some among the Catalan press claim, Dembele fits the bill.

Like Mane and Mohamed Salah, Dembele can play anywhere across the front three. And for the player, along with those close to him, he sees a long-term central future for himself. Something which could benefit Liverpool if that talk of Salah giving it one more year before skipping off to Spain has any truth behind it.

But why are Barca now prepared to sell? And at a loss? The LaLiga champs paying €105m up front to BVB two years ago, with built in bonuses taking their potential outlay to €140m.

The problem hasn't had anything to do with the player's talent. Nor his personality. While not the loudest in the dressing room, Dembele is well liked amongst his Barca teammates - including the senior players. Where it's falling down is off the pitch. Away from La Masia.

But this is no story about partying and booze. Quite the opposite. Dembele's problems have been timekeeping. Sleeping in. Late nights in front of the TV or game console. And a poor diet. In other words, like anyother young 20-something living on his own. And a problem say those in Dembele's corner - including the likes of Leo Messi and Gerard Pique - he will grow out of.

Indeed, two former Barca directors have admitted they signed Dembele knowing his bad habits. But were confident the culture inside La Masia would straighten him out.

"Dembele has incredible potential, he's young and he can still add a lot," said Urbano Ortega, "We knew when we signed him from Borussia Dortmund that he'd had some problems.

"But we assessed, above all, the profile of the player we were signing."

Robert Fernandez, who oversaw Dembele's signing as sports director, also confirmed: "I knew everything. I knew about his situation, that in Dortmund he was arriving late to training. I also arrived late at Barça with Johan [Cruyff] as coach and I played every Sunday.

"There was no problem."

But for the current management team at Barca, there is a "problem". And with plans to bring in Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid and potentially re-signing Neymar from PSG, the Blaugrana need to sell - and Dembele appears the one to make way.

Bayern have caught wind of the situation and made an opening offer. But whether they have the stomach for an auction, given their public complaints about Manchester City and Leroy Sane, is another matter.

In contrast, Liverpool have shown they're prepared to go the extra mile. And have been rewarded for this approach. If Klopp fancies it, he'll be backed. That three-year Dembele pursuit could be coming to a positive end.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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