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Pep Guardiola has got it wrong as Liverpool £52m transfer truth finally emerges

By Ian Doyle

Pep Guardiola would surely have been taken aback when he tuned into events from Villa Park on Tuesday night.

Rather than, as the Manchester City boss had insisted over the weekend, everyone being behind Liverpool's attempt to win the Premier League title, the majority of those present wanted anything but the Reds once again putting pressure on his leaders.

A frivolous observation? Of course. One, though, that wouldn't have been required had Guardiola, in a clear attempt to create a siege mentality around his players following their painful Champions League semi-final exit to Real Madrid, not made such a bold and, yes, incorrect statement.

READ MORE: What Liverpool did to Philippe Coutinho as referee Jon Moss leaves Villa Park outraged

READ MORE: Luis Diaz mum opens up on son's life at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp

Any concessions of his words being lost somewhat in translation to what is a foreign tongue to the Catalan were rendered moot when he on Tuesday doubled down on his defence of City and their method of working, which has been brought into sharp focus by their imminent swoop for Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland.

Liverpool, said the City boss, had been the top spenders during their glory years of the 1970s and 1980s, just like City are now. However, not only is that entirely untrue - Manchester United and, yes, City outspent Liverpool during Bob Paisley's nine-year reign between 1974 and 1983 - it also ignores the present massive financial discrepancy between the Etihad side and almost every other club. The comparison is flawed.

Nevertheless, Guardiola might well argue that, at a reported £51million, Haaland represents something of a bargain if he is able to continue the outstanding scoring form shown so far in his still fledgling career. Certainly, it's barely half of what City spent to take Jack Grealish from Aston Villa last summer.

But where the Abu Dhabi riches really make a difference is with the overall package offered to Haaland, not least the wages. One report claims it could eventually cost City £300m - few if any clubs can afford that on one player.

Liverpool are no strangers to raiding the Bundesliga for talent and paid a similar transfer fee to take Naby Keita from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2018.

To the casual observer, it may have seemed something of a rare misfire from the Reds' recruitment team. Keita, though, has for some time now been quietly enjoying his best season under Jurgen Klopp, aided by avoiding multiple injury setbacks that have cost him the rhythm the Reds boss believes the Guinean requires to truly prosper.

Keita has already accrued his highest total of Liverpool appearances in a season - his current tally of 35 surpassing the previous best of 33 in his debut season of 2018/19 - and he has featured in the last 11 games, seven as a starter.

He was a key figure during Liverpool's second-half revival at Aston Villa on Tuesday, his willingness to carry the ball forward, press high and look for the probing pass needed to help turn around the home midfield.

Keita also took a few whacks for his troubles and, having admitted earlier in the season he needed to improve his physicality, was happy to tussle with Tyrone Mings on the touchline during injury time. A bang in the hip area late on from Lucas Digne could be a concern, although Klopp reported no issues after the game.

And the Guinean will be needed. With Fabinho in danger of missing the rest of the domestic season after limping off at Villa Park with a hamstring problem, the opening is now there for Keita to grasp a midfield role, starting at Wembley in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday. He has become Liverpool's surprise element almost four years in the making.

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Dive Deeper:
'Unfortunately' - Jurgen Klopp makes blunt Erling Haaland admission as Man City transfer confirmed
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has reacted to Manchester City announcing they have reached an agreement to sign Erling Haaland from…
Liverpool debate - Erling Haaland changes everything but Jurgen Klopp has already responded
Tom Cavilla and Sean Bradbury have their say on how Manchester City signing Erling Haaland may impact Liverpool
Liverpool receive "optimistic" Fabinho injury update ahead of Champions League final
Fabinho was replaced just 30 minutes into the clash with Aston Villa on Tuesday and is now a doubt to…
What Liverpool did to Philippe Coutinho as referee Jon Moss leaves Villa Park outraged
Moments you may not have spotted during Liverpool's Premier League clash against Aston Villa on Tuesday
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Jurgen Klopp backtracks on Antonio Conte comments as Steven Gerrard makes title admission
It's time for your Liverpool FC morning digest as Jurgen Klopp reviews his own post-match comments while Steven Gerard accepts…
'Massively important' - Pep Guardiola makes Man City claim in title battle with Liverpool
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is relishing the Premier League title battle with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side
Get all your news in one place