Real Madrid may want Mohamed Salah but Liverpool must rebuff bids and build
With seven games remaining in the domestic season, Liverpool need to win three of them and they'll have reached 70 points two years' running.
It is remarkable the Reds have only done so three times in 28 years. Roy Evans even needed season 1994-95 to have 42 games to manage it. The last Liverpool manager to do this was Rafa Benitez nine years ago. He was also the last manager to reach a Champions League quarterfinal. In the short term this has the effect of proving Liverpool are growing stronger and Jurgen Klopp is on the right track.
Everyone knows, however, a club like this is "on the clock" permanently and modern footballers' desire for success and more wealth is increasingly impatient. Appeals to loyalty when a club in North West England are talking to Uruguayans, Brazilians and Egyptians always seemed a trifle bizarre.
Liverpool supporters have mixed views about Can. Around the time his contract began running down for real -- perhaps 18 months ago -- there seemed little or no panic about his possible departure.
Even now the main concern is the lack of a fee once he does move. Naby Keita is on the way and still doing well in the Bundesliga. Would Can be the midfielder to drop out for him, though? Probably not by choice, and Liverpool need other areas fixing as well.
Early noises on Salah are quite bullish but supporters still fret. After all, the club's owners have sold Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho only quite recently.
Focus on a player's length of service always seems to take precedent over his age. Coutinho and Salah were born three days apart, so the peak years of any career are approaching fast.
The Brazilian made his move after giving the Reds five good years of football. Will Salah be tempted to think of himself sooner, despite his encouraging words so far?
What a season he's having, and it is a mistake to regard it as a one-off when he was doing so well in Serie A with Roma that he encouraged Liverpool to break their transfer record for him.
These are the unpleasant but inevitable discussions held now among supporters who've seen it all before. For any club wanting success the most crucial factor is not who you buy but -- once you've discovered major talent -- who you can keep.
Klopp can point to improvements and convincingly claim Liverpool are heading upwards, with a big Champions League match around the corner too.
Are those improvements big enough, and are there plans in place to make the final, most difficult last push for honours?
When Keita arrives the club's owners can just about claim they've given the manager more money than he's recouped but over three years that is peanuts compared to what other, more ambitious clubs are spending.
This summer, therefore, becomes a watershed; whoever leaves becoming the biggest clue about where Liverpool are headed.
Just Can leaving with Keita, a top goalkeeper, a partner for Virgil van Dijk and perhaps another central midfielder arriving would certainly announce Liverpool at least intend to back Klopp all the way and push for the top.
Any variation or dilution of all that and Liverpool's stars may believe their soaring career trajectory could only continue elsewhere, ungrateful as that might seem.
The Champions League takes on extra significance. Success in 2005 was the clincher for Steven Gerrard to stay at the club, despite continuous persuasive courting from Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.
Klopp has a team that can play as stylishly as Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, but not as consistently. The gap in the Premier League may be huge but City won numerous matches in the final minutes while Liverpool have squandered so many points from similar positions.
That isn't as easy a fix as one first imagines and more quality players are essential. The club may not even have to break the bank, as their brilliant forward line cost less to assemble than Paris Saint Germain usually pay for one superstar forward.
It feels harsh to question Liverpool's ambition but after recent experiences they've a lot to prove. This is often a thrilling team to watch and most of this season has been a joy but margins for error are always shrinking in football.
While two good seasons in a row and a European quarterfinal are indeed encouraging, the intricate balance of success, finance and player power can still derail any club with consistent success within its grasp. Ask Monaco.
Reaching that success will be a colossal job for Klopp and Liverpool's owners but it does feel like the club's best opportunity in years.
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.