Richard Buxton: Missing out on Timo Werner could haunt Juergen Klopp
German forward's likely move to Chelsea could make them title rivals to Liverpool next season
The one that got away is becoming a regular occurrence for Liverpool under Juergen Klopp.
A litany of high-profile names that were destined to breeze through Anfield's doors never even made it as far as the pavement outside the English Premier League leaders' home.
Regrets are not something that Klopp will openly admit to harbouring and history suggests his carefree approach on transfers has been vindicated, with Julian Draxler, Nabil Fekir and Alex Teixeira all failing to convince him that their respective failed moves were missed opportunities.
He continues to subscribe to the theory that you can always recover from the players you don't sign, rather than those you actually do.
But the Reds manager could soon need to reassess that outlook. Timo Werner's imminent switch to Chelsea could threaten to haunt him.
SCALING NEW HEIGHTS
With 31 goals in 41 club appearances this season, the RB Leipzig striker's stock is already scaling new heights and appeared set for further elevation on Merseyside under his compatriot.
Liverpool's legwork in their pursuit Werner is proof that this was not a mere passing fancy.
Little more than 18 months ago, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were publicly urging him to consider joining them for the next chapter of his burgeoning career.
Werner, too, made no secret of his admiration for the EPL's champions-elect whenever the subject was broached during that period.
Yet, the 24-year-old is set to be the second long-term target that Klopp has lost out on to the west Londoners since the turn of last year.
Klopp previously chased a reunion with Christian Pulisic with an unsuccessful £11m (S$19.4m) bid in 2016 for the player whose senior breakthrough he had personally facilitated at Borussia Dortmund.
By the time the American moved to Stamford Bridge, his valuation had spiralled to £58m while his eventual replacement Julian Brandt became an eminent force at Signal Iduna Park, barely three years after himself reportedly turning down a switch to Anfield while still at Bayer Leverkusen.
Neither player appears to have been a huge loss to Liverpool's cause, with Takumi Minamino's cut-price £7.3m capture from Red Bull Salzburg in January expected to supplement the pair's shortfall.
A reluctance to meet Werner's £52m release clause, however, is likely to have a greater impact in the long term than the immediate benefit of preserving first-team harmony.
Exasperated Liverpool supporters are already bemoaning the decision to pass up on Europe's most prodigious striker as the biggest missed opportunity in Klopp's nearly five years at the helm.
The German's team remains uncompromising in attempting to sweep all before them, but incremental tweaks will be required sooner rather than later.
The attacking trident of Mane (28), Roberto Firmino (29 in October) and Mohamed Salah (28 next Monday) are all rapidly approaching the age of 30.
Similarly, Salah and Mane's potential mid-season involvement in the African Nations Cup next year is set to dilute the collective influence of Anfield's advancing front line next season.
Werner's age and current trajectory makes his release clause appear small change for Frank Lampard's side, who will now be among the early favourites to end Liverpool's impending title defence.
Should his compatriot meet expectations by dethroning the new champions, Klopp must begrudgingly accept that missing out on Werner was a defeat for his usually sound judgment.
June 22, 2am:
- v Everton (venue TBC)
June 25, 3.15am:
- v Crystal Palace (home)
July 3, 3.15am:
- v Man City (venue TBC)
* All in Singapore time
** Remaining fixtures to be confirmed