Jurgen Klopp's possible deal a boost to Liverpool fans in uncertain summer
It's easy to understand why Liverpool have approached Jurgen Klopp about extending his contract. The German is unquestionably the best thing the club has going for it right now and it makes sense to tie him down for the long term.
For the first time in decades, Liverpool are without a genuine world class player. There was an unbroken run from the 1970s until Luis Suarez departed two years ago where the Reds had at least one star who could have held down a place in virtually any team in world football.
Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush, Jan Molby, Steve Nicol, John Barnes, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres, Suarez ... there are one or two other names who may well deserve to be there, too, but you get the picture.
None of the current players belong in such exalted company, but Klopp certainly does and that is a straw for Kopites to grasp after what has been a difficult decade. Having a world class manager gives you more chance of success than having a world class player, but ideally you'd want both, as well as a few more great players to go with the world class ones. Liverpool do not have the players yet, but at least they have the manager.
Identifying and then attracting great players, or even developing them yourself, is easier than finding a great manager, particularly when you've not been successful for some time. The best managers tend to have their pick of the best jobs, so when you have a boss who is regarded as one of the very best around, you do everything in your power to hold on to him. This is particularly true when you know you aren't in a position to attract anyone else even half as good should he leave.
The very best managers can help good players become great ones, and more importantly they can make a team become more than the sum of its parts. Klopp achieved both of those things at Borussia Dortmund, and Liverpool are understandably pinning all of their hopes he can reproduce that success in the Premier League. Given the current landscape of English football, that's the best chance they have of competing at the top because they certainly aren't going to buy their way to success.
Seven teams finished above Liverpool last season and all have the funds to spend heavily this summer, as do some of the sides who finished beneath Klopp's men. Some will spend far more than the Reds, so for Liverpool to climb the table they are going to need Klopp to recruit wisely and then work his magic on the training ground. With him they have a chance of making an impression next season and beyond, but without him there would be little hope for a club with only one top-five finish in the last seven years.
These are worrying times for Liverpool fans as they see rival teams spending big money on established, proven top-level talent while their own club mostly recruits young players for modest fees in the hope that Klopp can do for them what he did for the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels, Marco Reus & Co. at Dortmund.
It's not that Liverpool won't pay big transfer fees; they have regularly made signings of £20m and upwards, but they've only spent it on players whose wage demands aren't in the top bracket. They will pay a big fee or they will pay big wages (see James Milner), but they will not pay both. That is why they no longer show any interest in the very top players when they become available.
Sadio Mane is expected to be Liverpool's most expensive recruit of this summer, yet the £30m spent on him will be offset when Christian Benteke eventually departs. The Senegal man's salary is unlikely to be much more than Benteke's, either.
Whether club owners Fenway Sports Group are right or wrong to adopt this policy remains a topic for fierce debate, but it isn't going to change anything as Liverpool aren't going to be offering £60m for a player or paying anybody £250,000 a week.
Fortunately for FSG, in Klopp they appear to have a manager who is not interested in spending big on ready-made world class players. He is not a "chequebook manager," and unlike Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, he has never had the luxury of being able to go out and buy anybody he wants. It's not his style.
Outsiders may point to an eighth-placed finish and disappointing displays in two cup finals and wonder why Liverpool are so keen to offer the German a contract extension when he still has two years left on his existing deal. Under Brendan Rodgers the club finished seventh, second and sixth, so what's the big deal with Klopp, right? The big deal is that Klopp provides hope and inspires belief. He's completely changed the mindset of players and supporters.
Back in October, when Rodgers departed, any suggestion that Liverpool would reach the Europa League final having knocked out Manchester United, Dortmund and Villarreal along the way would have been laughed out of town. Yet that's what they did, and although the 3-1 defeat to Sevilla in the final showed just how far they have to go, the journey that took them there at least suggests that Klopp gives them a chance of getting back to the top.
There is no guarantee he will bring success to the club, but Liverpool are extremely lucky to have him and their swiftness in opening talks on a contract extension tells you that they know it.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.