Liverpool Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool have the squad capable of challenging for Europes top prizes for years as he ruled out any big-money signings this summer.
Liverpools £140 million investment on centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker in 2018 broke the world transfer record for players in their respective positions, but will not trigger a new era of similar spending.
Club owner Fenway Sports Group has focused as much effort rewarding star players, paying out an estimated £150 million on contract extensions over the past 12 months. Its policy priorities retention rather than reconstruction, with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane among those recognised for helping re-establish Liverpools European status.
I dont want to talk exactly what we will do, but I dont think this is a team at the moment where we have to spend the big money or whatever, said Klopp.
The best way to do it is bring together a group of players, try to develop them all together and then stay together for a while. And that was maybe the main problem of Liverpool for the last decade. When they had a good team after a season they went all over the world. That will not happen this year, for sure.
Klopps comments underline that – so long as the biggest Anfield stars stay – summer transfer activity will be restricted to back-up players, especially as the competition for places in the current squad is increasing.
Liverpool will have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fit for the start of next season, expect Naby Keita to improve, and also believe Adam Lallanas influence on the side will grow as he seeks to put injury issues behind him.
Klopp anticipates further improvement in the performance levels of a team which is on course to shatter the clubs record Premier League points tally.
It is massive [potential for growth], said Klopp. I think the steps are really obvious but it is still about a natural confidence. We have to start looking at ourselves how other teams see us.
When you think about how Bayern faced us here – I saw Bayern playing a lot in the last years but I never saw them being that defensive. When Manchester City came here, it was similar. Wow. They had a lot of respect for us but I am not sure we always have the same amount of respect for ourselves. For sure, it will come, step by step, that is why I was so happy for the game at Bayern. There was a little sign at least for that.
The Liverpool manager says the mid-week victory in Munich showed the club can win in a more mature way.
Last year we were really like a whirlwind when we had the ball. Now it is not better, but different, said Klopp.
Liverpool comfortably defeated their next European opponents, Porto, in the knockout stage last season. Klopp said that would have no influence on their forthcoming meeting.
But while respect for Klopps work is obvious on the continent, neutral English fans still appear to want Manchester City to win the title race.
We have so many different groups of supporters in England why should they think of us so positively? said Klopp.
I think if you are part of Everton you vomit in the morning when you think, oh Liverpool they are great. Why should other people like us? That is football. So long as they dont hate us because that is a bit too much. That is all OK.
• Its always a weird feeling playing an English team in Europe• Champions League win at Bayern will earn respect, he adds
Read more Liverpools comfortable defeat of Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, where the serial German champions had lost only one of their previous 26 Champions League games, was arguably their finest European away display under Klopp and demonstrated the quality that delivered a place in last seasons final. England will have four representatives in Fridays quarter-final draw and, though keen to avoid an all-Premier League affair, Milner believes all of Europe view Liverpool as a team to avoid.
Id like to think teams have that respect for us, the midfielder said. We got to the Champions League final last year. We got to the Europa League final in 2016. There are two European finals since I have been at the club. We are challenging for the Premier League too. Whether teams take notice is not really for us to worry about but they take notice after they have played us and we have put them out.
Liverpool are back on the international map, according to their manager, but Milner admits the failure to win a trophy under Klopp is hard to stomach. It is also a motivation to go one better in this seasons Champions League and for the Premier League title race, the 33-year-old says.
I have been to three finals since I have been here, lost them all and I am desperate to put that right. Its a memory you never forget. You are proud to have played in the European Cup final but you dont go there to lose. I have loved every minute of my time at Liverpool but to have not won something when we have given ourselves opportunities is difficult to take.
Read more It is something I am desperate to put right. Its been so long since we won a league title. Even in recent years Liverpool havent won as many trophies as they should do for such a big club. We have to put that right. We have to get over the line in one of them.
Georginio Wijnaldum, a fellow midfielder, shares Milners assessment that defeat by Real Madrid in last years Champions League final has increased Liverpools desire for a sixth European Cup. We felt what it is to play in a final and the journey was great. We want it again, he said. At a club like Liverpool you have to win everything possible and you have to play for both: the Premier League and the Champions League. It suits Liverpool to play for both. Look at Manchester City, they are not [just] going for the title or the Champions League. It is a big club – so is Liverpool – so you go for both.
1:42 I could write a book about Van Dijks skills Jürgen Klopp says after 3-1 win over Bayern – video Milner insists Liverpool can improve on the performance that ensured there would be no German club in the last eight of the Champions League for the first time in 13 years. We have played better games but you could see some of the experience we have gained over the last few years come through, he said. Sadio [Mané]s first goal was very naughty. The way he took it was ridiculous but thats the quality hes got.
Milner believes the strength of the Premier League is finally beginning to translate on the European stage, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham joining Liverpool in the quarter-finals. But the prospect of another all-English tie does not excite him.
Read more We have always had the belief that the Premier League is the best in the world but it has been a top league without that many teams [in the latter stages] of this one, he said. Every team left are a good side. People will look at Porto and Ajax but they are young teams and they are flying. They deserve to be there and we all know they will be tough teams. To have four teams in the last eight is great for England but I dont particularly want to play any of the others.
It is always a weird feeling playing an English team in Europe. You get used to getting on a plane and instead you end up getting on a bus and going across the M62. Whoever we get will be tough. But we have shown over the last few years what we can do and hopefully we can keep putting in performances and kick on.
Liverpools win also dashed Pep Guardiolas hope of seeing Bayern, his former club, in the last eight. Ah, yes, said Milner, well aware of the City managers wish. Thats unlucky for him, isnt it?