'Klopp's ageing Liverpool team isn't past its best it's packed with experience'

After winning the Champions League and Premier League, the sight of Liverpool straining every sinew just to finish in the top four last season has led to suggestions that Jurgen Klopp might now be presiding over a spent force.

And I think it is fair to say that the team that has shown so much resilience and togetherness under Klopp will ­indeed go into the new campaign ­needing to answer a number of ­questions.

After all, Liverpool finished 17 points off top spot last season and were knocked out of Europe by a Real Madrid side that was hardly vintage.

Scratching beneath the surface seems to offer Klopp’s rivals even more hope.

Captain Jordan Henderson is 31 and reportedly unhappy with the club’s offer of a new contract.

Jurgen Klopp oversees a Liverpool training session
Jurgen Klopp oversees a Liverpool training session

Virgil van Dijk is 30, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri are all 29, and – like Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Fabinho – all are tied to deals that expire in the summer of 2023.

But my warning to the rest of the ­Premier League is that you write off this Liverpool team at your peril.

It’s the fact that Liverpool’s ­players have still got something more to prove – both as a team and as ­individuals – that gives me real hope that Klopp was right when he assured fans that no mass clear-out was ­required.

Liverpool are indeed taking a gamble on having so many star names ­wondering what the future will bring.

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Top footballers like the security of new contracts – and the pay rises that usually come with them.

So there is always the risk that if ­another club comes in with an offer then heads will be turned.

But the one thing Klopp has always done is trust in the guys who cross the white line on his behalf.

This is no Dad’s Army.

It’s no longer the case in elite sport that an athlete’s peak years are ­between the ages of 26 and 28. It used to be that when you hit your 30th ­birthday then the end was in sight.

But the advances in sports ­science, fitness, preparation and dietary care means players are faster and ­stronger for much longer than they once were.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the ultimate examples of that.

But also take a look at how ­Fernandinho performed for Manchester City last season and then think of Thiago Silva at Chelsea and Giorgio ­Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for Italy.

Klopp has a serious squad packed full of seasoned professionals.

Liverpool couldn’t cope without Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip last ­season. But all three are back – and when you throw £36million new-boy Ibrahima Konate into the mix, then defensively the Reds will be a very different beast.

It’s that solidity at the back that wins trophies as much as the ability to score goals at the other end.

It’s a huge season for Keita following Gini ­Wijnaldum’s departure.

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This will be his fourth year at the club and we can’t keep saying, ‘he’ll be like a new signing if he can remain clear of injuries’.

Big clubs like Liverpool, City, United and Chelsea don’t wait forever for ­players to perform – and I’d go as far as to say this is a defining period for Naby.

I am sure that contract negotiations will have started with all of those players who can hear the clock ticking.

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Not all of them will get what they want and there is always a natural churn of players coming in and going out.

Henderson, in particular, has been an incredible servant to the club over the last decade.

Roy Keane suggested during the Euros that Hendo was in England’s squad as nothing more than a glorified cheerleader – only in Gareth Southgate’s plans because of his ­influence in the dressing room.

I agree that Jordan is indeed a ­fantastic leader. But in my view, he has also become one of the best players in the Premier League in his role as a ­driving force in midfield.


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