Gary Neville believes Jurgen Klopp has been compelled to allow his Liverpool squad to grow "a little too old together" due to a lack of funds - but has backed the Reds boss to transform their fortunes once more.
Liverpool have been criticised for not doing more to freshen their squad since winning the Premier League in 2020 despite making six new signings in the last 18 months, all of whom were aged 25 or younger.
A succession of injuries has forced the Reds to rely heavily on their older players this season with seven of the top 13 in terms of minutes played aged 30 or above, contributing to a series of under-par performances that have seen last season's FA Cup and League Cup winners dumped out of both competitions and slump to a whopping 10 points off the Premier League's top four, albeit with a game in hand.
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Neville, now a Sky Sports pundit, spent almost 19 years in the Manchester United first team under manager Sir Alex Ferguson during which he experienced the transition between several different title-winning squads. And he believes Klopp's rebuilding plans have been hampered by Liverpool not possessing transfer funds comparable to those of United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
"Sir Alex would get rid of players before we thought they had seen their end in the team," said Neville to the ECHO. "He would transition the team while things were still good.
"There's an element of maybe Liverpool allowing their team to grow a bit too old together and not maybe nudging it forward as much as they should have done while they were at the top. But that comes down to finance.
"How can Liverpool get better players than what they had? The front three was as good as I've ever seen. The best front three over the last 10 years, forget City, it was Mane, Salah and Firmino. They were the best since United had Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez, they were unbelievable. That Liverpool front three has set the standard over the last 10 years, so too the back four with Van Dijk, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold and Alisson, and you are going to struggle to find better players in those positions.
"Maybe they have grown a little too old together, but that's not a criticism of Jurgen Klopp. He didn't have the £100m he probably would have needed at the time to change the players. Yes, he's brought in Darwin Nunez, but maybe it was too late in terms of keeping things going as they were."
Neville added: "Jurgen Klopp has done an unbelievable job at Liverpool. I wouldn't be critical of him, and I'm not sticking the knife in this year. When a team and a manager have produced over a period of four or five years, I'm allowing them to have a season off because they have built up enough credit in the bank for me to say 'I trust you as a manager, I trust you as a group of players, I think you'll come back and I think you'll deliver again'.
"If it goes to next season and they are bad again, that's when you start getting a bit worried. But I wouldn't rule Jurgen Klopp out of anything. He's one of those managers who will get it right."
Ahead of the 2019/20 season in which then-European champions Liverpool ended a 30-year wait for the championship, Neville infamously insisted United would win the title again before the Reds.
And explaining his decision, the former England international has intimated only a change of ownership at Anfield or an injection of outside investment would help them lift the Premier League again under Klopp.
"The only reason I said that at the time is because I didn't think Jurgen Klopp could have won the league with that net spend," said Neville. "At that time we hadn't seen the full fruits of Van Dijk and Alisson and I didn't think Salah or Mane could maintain their levels. But what Jurgen Klopp got out of those players for four or five years was a monumental achievement given Liverpool's net spend.
"But I would again say United are more likely to win the title next. If you ask me will Liverpool win the league again under Klopp, the answer is I don't know. Who are Liverpool's new owners going to be? Is there going to be new investment in the club? And how much is it going to be?
"If they have Jurgen Klopp as a manager and there's a £200m or £300m transfer war chest in the summer, of course they could go and win it again. But if they don't spend big in competing with City, Chelsea and United, then you're making Jurgen Klopp's job a lot harder in terms of winning the league.
"The teams that win the league - and there are always exceptions, such as Liverpool and Leicester - ordinarily they have among the biggest budgets. That's the same for every league."
Gary Neville will be appearing at the M&S Bank Arena on Thursday night alongside fellow Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane in The Overlap Live, a stage version of his YouTube show. Some tickets remain available and can be purchased at cuffeandtaylor.com.
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