Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield on Wednesday increased Liverpool’s chances of claiming fourth place for the second year running.
Had the Terriers held on to their lead it would’ve been a virtual certainty but the Reds still need a point from their home game with Brighton on Sunday to reach their domestic season’s original objective.
That could have meant Jurgen Klopp giving his star players a longer, much-needed rest before the Champions League final with Real Madrid — not that he had a tremendous amount of alternatives open to him in the first place.
The most recent bad news was about Emre Can, who not only cannot play against Brighton after being out for weeks but will probably take no further part in the season.
That means he has most likely played his last game in a red shirt, since a move away in the summer is almost bound to happen.
It’ll be an anti-climactic end to a Liverpool career that never truly caught fire, although clearly the promise was always there and you don’t attract interest from Juventus or Manchester City without having some talent.
All clubs would be interested in a free transfer if only to cheaply strengthen their bench, but you’d imagine such big clubs could look elsewhere if Can didn’t already have the qualities they needed.
Disgruntled fans will no doubt look back to the time when Can’s contract began to be an issue, around about 18 months ago. The initial reaction was less than fevered however, as the German international wasn’t really producing on the pitch.
An almost immediate improvement led to many revising their opinion although that’s been the story of Can’s Liverpool career; divisive and changeable.
Sometimes he is relentless, with the kind of internal dynamo that’s essential for a Klopp midfielder. At other times he has looked error-prone and almost half-hearted.
When news broke of Naby Keita’s move from RB Leipzig it may have been the final hint that his first-team place — never guaranteed at the best of times – was under serious threat.
Transfer rumour frenzy has already begun in earnest before this season is over and Liverpool are swiftly being linked with quality central midfield players like Lyon’s Nabil Fekir or Napoli’s Jorginho.
It’s obviously an area where Klopp needs a lot of bodies, given the amount of work they have to get through and the fact there will be another European campaign next season.
Even Sami Khedira, Can’s compatriot and a Juventus player, has been linked which would certainly be an intriguing albeit unlikely move.Older than Can but with a huge amount of experience, he would be ideal at the right price. Liverpool’s current Champions League campaign makes them an attractive proposition but it’s not like Juventus have been European flops themselves plus their domestic domination has been almost total this decade.
He may consider his place under threat from the younger player’s imminent arrival and fancy one more big-club challenge before retirement.
Some Liverpool fans have speculated upon the “convenience” of Can’s recent absences, cynically describing it as a resting period for the World Cup.
That seems unlikely as Can is hardly first choice for the current world champions. Central midfield is a little like a battle zone for Liverpool at present as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adan Lallana and Jordan Henderson also having fitness issues this season.
Besides, what better opportunity to impress Germany coach Joachim Low than going toe-to-toe with Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos in a Champions League final?
Can’s career at Anfield began as part of a summer 2014 transfer splurge than turned out to be embarrassing. At least he and Lallana upped their game when Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers in September 2015.
Sadly, like Lallana, the physical style of his German boss has taken its toll.
Dave Usher wrote about Liverpool players being used whenever there’s a concern over their general fitness. Although supporters often rally to Klopp’s cause whenever there’s the slightest hint of criticism evidence of recklessness does seem to be growing.
Thankfully the season only has two games left. Even fit Can might not have made the starting XI against Real Madrid as Klopp seeks to reward players who are staying put.
Concern over Can’s departure still focusses on his leaving for free. He’s adaptable — Rodgers used him in a defensive three for a time — and capable of the occasional bit of magic, such as his goal of the season at Watford just over a year ago.
He’ll certainly be a loss to the squad and his departure will necessitate a big spend for any replacement.
It’s sad because, like Andy Robertson, his original purchase was an example of the sort of transfer ingenuity that many thought had vanished from Anfield forever.