Friends off the pitch but rivals for Europe on it – the context of Wolves v Liverpool

DANIEL MOXON on the positive relationship between Wolves and Liverpool, including the recruitment teams and managers Jurgen Klopp and Nuno Espirito Santo.

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Liverpool’s Monday night clash with Wolves represents one of the Reds’ more intriguing matches in recent months.

I need say little of the league form of Jürgen Klopp’s side. Six defeats in seven is dreadful, though there is a small amount of comfort heading into this one after three wins in the Reds’ last four Premier League away games.

Meanwhile, Wolves are the epitome of inconsistency of late. Wins over Leeds United, Southampton and Arsenal have been tempered by defeats to Crystal Palace and West Brom, as well as a few too many draws.

The Midlanders’ failure to put together a string of positive results has left them well off the pace for a place in European competition. Nuno Espírito Santo’s side is eight points behind Liverpool, and is actually closer to the relegation zone than the European places.


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A common theme between both sides is how key injuries have hampered their ambitions. We all know just how much Liverpool’s plethora of missing players has affected them, while Wolves have had a real problem in front of goal ever since Raúl Jiménez fractured his skull – made even worse by the absence of another key attacker, Daniel Podence.

Despite these two sides being rivals this season in terms of their ambitions of qualifying for Europe next season, they have a rather positive relationship off it.

There are more than two dozen players who have represented both clubs through the decades and, of those, 12 were either sold by Liverpool to Wolves, or came the other way.

The most recent players to switch allegiance were Diogo Jota and Ki-Jana Hoever. The Portuguese forward was unveiled as a Liverpool player last September, while the young defender’s switch to Wolves was announced on the same day.

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But it isn’t just the fact that they have been able to strike deals for clubs. Anyone can sell a player if they feel they have received a fair fee for them, but the nature of the deal to sell Jota to Liverpool shows just how happy the Wolves hierarchy is to work with their Red counterparts.

The fee will eventually reach £45m, but there was no way Liverpool could afford to pay that in one lump as a result of the financial impact of football behind closed doors. After negotiations, it was agreed that the Reds would pay just 10pc of that up front, with the rest to come in instalments over several years.

It’s an ideal situation for both sides. Liverpool were able to bring in a superb player at a time when money was tight, and Wolves now have a consistent revenue stream for the next few financial years.

And those Jota and Hoever deals may well be followed up in the next few windows by more agreements between the two clubs. Wolves have long been keen on Divock Origi, for example, while the Reds have been linked with the likes of Podence and Max Kilman in recent months.

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As well as a positive relationship between the recruitment teams, there is also a lot of mutual respect between the two managers. Despite underachievement from both sides this season, Klopp and Santo have both done superb jobs at their respective clubs, and both have large personalities.

In the build up to the latest clash between the two, Espírito Santo has spoken of his desire to form a friendship with Klopp, and was very complimentary of the German’s coaching style.

He said: “I think both of us wish to have more time to become friends, building a friendship takes time and it takes spending time together. Now we don’t even have the pleasure to join in our office to share a wine or a beer, something that we enjoy so much. It’s harder.

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“The quality, the talent and the achievements that the club and Jürgen have done is amazing and we’re going to face a very talented squad, a very good football team who have a fantastic approach and idea on the game.

“Not just every team, but everyone in life has ups and downs, it’s how you react from it and go through that which is important. I have huge admiration for Liverpool.”

While a good relationship can only serve to benefit both clubs in the long term, all that is irrelevant for now as the teams take to the Molineux pitch to battle for three points which will mean so much to the victor.


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