As they look set to miss out on UEFA Champions League football next season, Brendan Rodgers admits Liverpool are in for a difficult summer.
The Reds came within two points of winning a first league title since 1990 last term, and although missing out was a bitter pill to swallow, at least their second-place finish returned them to the premier club competition in Europe. Rodgers was unable, though, to steer them past the group stages, and it now looks certain he will not have the chance to correct this next season.
A 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United was followed by a 4-1 thumping at Arsenal on Saturday, meaning the Anfield club are now seven points adrift of a top-four Premier League finish. And Rodgers admits his side are now unlikely to end any higher than fifth, which in turn will likely present them with hurdles when they try and compete in the summer transfer window.
“Liverpool is a phenomenal club that players want to play for but, of course, players want to play at the top level of the game and if you are not in the Champions League it makes it difficult for you,” Rodgers said. “We know that but we just have to continue to fight in order to be a stable club. We want to be in the Champions League – that is important and key for us – but it is highly unlikely.
“Our run last year nearly brought us the title but we lost a world-class player in Luis Suarez and lots of other developments happened within the club. I look at Arsenal; the world-class players on the field, with big talent, and their bench, and it shows the continual work we have to do. It is going to be a little like this, until we become more stable. We have got young players who are growing, getting more experience and then hopefully there will be a period where we qualify again.”
As well as facing difficulties in attracting high-quality players to the red half of Merseyside, Rodgers could also face a battle in retaining the services of two of his current stars. Raheem Sterling’s contract issue has been well documented over the past few weeks, and there are also concerns as Jordan Henderson is about to enter the final year of his existing deal.
Whilst it looks increasingly likely that Sterling’s future looks to be elsewhere – although Rodgers insists the 20-year-old will stay at Anfield next season – the Reds should be more optimistic of keeping Henderson despite reports he has rejected an opening offer. The midfielder is set to be given the captaincy from next season onwards when Steven Gerrard has left, and the former Sunderland youngster has made it clear he feels his future belongs at Liverpool.