LONDON • Timo Werner could have been in Liverpool red today. Instead, he will be in Chelsea blue, determined to show the English Premier League champions what they missed out on.
The Merseyside club baulked at the £53 million (S$93.1 million) fee that Chelsea paid RB Leipzig but made Diogo Jota their fourth-most expensive player yesterday. Liverpool signed the Wolves forward on a five-year deal for £41 million.
The 23-year-old can play anywhere along the front line. He also boasts a work rate and ability to press that Jurgen Klopp demands.
Jota, who scored 44 times in 131 appearances for Wolves, will be a back-up option to Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – a role Werner was not keen on. With Blues boss Frank Lampard convincing Werner that he would be his first-choice striker, the German international joined the London club.
“There were some other clubs that I talked to… like Liverpool, who have a great team. But at the end I decided (to move to) Chelsea,” said Werner.
“Not only because of the style of football but also because of what they have shown to me…
“I’m looking forward to playing Liverpool. There are a lot of good teams in the league but Liverpool are one of the best in the world.
“It will be a good challenge to show how far we have come. We will try to win the game, but the whole of Liverpool’s defence is good. We also have great players and we have the quality to beat them.”
Werner, scorer of 34 goals for Leipzig last season, suffered a dead leg in Chelsea’s season opening 3-1 win against Brighton. But he will be ready for his Stamford Bridge debut after impressing in winning a penalty last week.
In contrast, Firmino was off colour in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Leeds. Liverpool’s No. 9 scored just nine league goals last season but Klopp values his link-up play with Salah and Mane.
Still, former Reds striker John Aldridge believes that competition could help boost Firmino’s productivity.
He told the Liverpool Echo: “Bobby Firmino still seems to have the shackles around him a little bit… in the box at Anfield it wasn’t happening for him… I can’t help but feel it might do Bobby some good if he did have someone breathing down his neck for his place so he knows he’s got to score goals.”
That Werner was just one of five major summer signings for Chelsea has added extra spice to today’s fixture following a feisty exchange between the managers over transfer spending.
Klopp pointedly said that during the coronavirus pandemic that Liverpool could not spend in the same way as clubs owned by “countries” and “oligarchs” such as Chelsea, who splashed out around £200 million on new players.
Lampard, who also became embroiled in a spat with Liverpool’s bench in July, highlighted that the Anfield side had spent big in previous seasons as they built their title-winning side.
His retort came when Liverpool remained relatively quiet, adding just Greece left-back Kostas Tsimikas to their squad. But on a whirlwind Friday, the Reds agreed to terms on the Jota deal hours after the arrival of Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara for an initial £20 million fee.
Although the Portuguese will cost the club less than only Virgil van Dijk (£75 million), Alisson (£66.8 million), and Naby Keita (£45 million), Liverpool have structured the deal creatively.
According to The Athletic, Wolves have allowed Liverpool to pay just 10 per cent of the guaranteed fee over the next 12 months.
Moreover, the net spend will be closer to £30 million, with 18-year-old defender Ki-Jana Hoever going the other way for £9 million and a possible £4.5 million in add-ons.
Thiago is unlikely to feature for the visitors today, but could make his Premier League debut when Liverpool host Arsenal on Sept 28.
Lampard will be without new boys Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech today due to fitness issues while Christian Pulisic has also been ruled out.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
CHELSEA V LIVERPOOL
Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, 11.30pm