Exclusive Interview with The Sunday World and TEAMtalks' Kevin Palmer

It’s transfer season, and with all the rumours swirling about right now, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to get a bit of inside information. We’ve spoken to The Sunday World and TEAMtalk journalist Kevin Palmer (@RealKevinPalmer on Twitter), who Liverpool fans may remember first breaking the Virgil Van Dijk story back in December 2017, to talk about the current Liverpool team, any possible dealings in the transfer market, and much more!

1) Liverpool obviously had a very successful season – what did you make of their campaign?

One of the best seasons we have ever seen in English football, as simple as that. To have the record they had up to the Watford game was legendary stuff and even if they failed to maintain momentum, this team should be recognised as all-time greats. They’re up there with all the best Liverpool teams. I work with John Aldridge every week and he agrees with me on this. If they can add a couple of Premier League titles and maybe one more Champions League, this will be the best Liverpool team ever.

2) With three Liverpool players up for POTY (Henderson, Mane, Alexander-Arnold), who do you think should win the award? Or do you favour a contender from another club?

I went for Henderson in my vote. Liverpool’s record is better when he plays and that is partly due to the spirit he adds to the team. When he first became captain, he was desperately trying to fill Stevie’s boots and that was never going to happen. He has settled into a role as a great captain in his own right and will now go down as Liverpool great.

3) Onto transfers! Liverpool are very close to securing the signing of Olympiacos left-back Kostas Tsimikas — it seemed to come out of nowhere a bit so do you have any idea what happened with the deal, and when it was decided to go for Tsimikas and stop pursuing Jamal Lewis?

I was fortunate to talk to one of the Olympiacos negotiators in this deal in a strange quirk of fate today. A colleague contacted me on Sunday morning to tell me the deal for Kostas Tsimikas was done and I wasn’t sure whether to run with it. So I had a long chat with the Olympiacos contact and they ran through the details of the deal in a very open and honest manner. Edwards was very professional in his negotiations and quickly reached an agreement for the player, with the final meeting taking place in Wolverhampton last week around Olympiacos’ game against Wolves. The Greek side believe they have done a good deal for a player who has come through their academy and there is a level of pride that they have sold a player to the reigning European, world and English champions.

Tsimikas was told he was Liverpool’s first-choice transfer option, but there is some debate about this from the Liverpool end. Essentially, Jamal Lewis was too expensive and Norwich didn’t seem willing to get close to the price Liverpool were willing to pay for Tsimikas became the best option.

4) Do you have any idea who Liverpool could bring in as a replacement for Dejan Lovren? We’ve been linked to Brighton’s Ben White, Schalke’s Ozan Kabak and Real Betis’ Aissa Mandi – any truth in those?

No idea on this one. Any reporter who claims to have the inside track on every transfer story is generally not to be trusted. You occasionally get inside info, as I did with Tsimikas on Sunday but that is a rare occurrence.  I only report on stories that I have some kind of info on that is reliable.

5) Ismaila Sarr is another who has been linked as someone to add depth to our attack – do you see Sarr ending up at Anfield this summer, or is there someone else we could target to add competition to the front three?

Again, no info on this one. Liverpool need specific types of players to fit into the Klopp way and Sarr could do that, but he is very much a back-up to the main forwards.

6) Of course, Thiago is another one Liverpool fans will be desperate to have updates on. How likely do you think it is that he ends up a Liverpool player this summer?

This one seems to have been driven by Thiago and his advisers from day one. He clearly wants to go to Liverpool, Klopp has clearly given them encouragement, but Liverpool’s stance from day one is it will not happen. FSG don’t sign players of that age, with no sell-on value. It is not their kind of deal. That could change if Gini Wijnaldum fails to sign a new contract, but it looks like this is an unlikely deal unless the owners want to give Klopp a gift of a player he has always admired. I would say Liverpool should sign Thiago. He is a class player, wants to be at Liverpool and the sell-on fee should not be a big issue for a player of that quality if he is available for €30m.

7) You were the first to report news that Philippe Coutinho had made a “personal plea” to Jurgen Klopp over a return to the club – what happened on that front and is a move to Arsenal now highly probable?

Liverpool don’t want him! Simple as that. The story we did is 100 per-cent accurate as Coutinho would ideally like to return to Liverpool and you can see why. They have won everything since he left. Partly because they bought so well with the money they got for him. His agent (Kia Joorabchian) is trying to get him a move this summer and Arsenal or Tottenham look most likely. For what it’s worth, I think he would have been great at Liverpool on a one-year loan. A class act who would add to a brilliant squad.

8) Divock Origi has been linked with a move away from the club – do you see him leaving Liverpool this summer or reckon he sticks around? 

I’d expect him to stay. He is a great back-up option for Klopp and it would be expensive to replace him. That could change if massive money comes in for him, but I don’t see that in this COVID-19 summer.

9) Many Liverpool fans are concerned about Gini Wijnaldum’s contract situation – with less than a year left on his deal, do you have any updates on that?

I don’t. Liverpool seem pretty relaxed about it all, but the longer it goes on, the more you wonder. They need to get him signed up because he is a class act.

10) Finally, what do you think Liverpool’s main goal should be next season? Should anything other than retaining the title or winning the Champions League be considered a failure?

They are good enough to win one of them for sure. I see this team winning trophies for the next 4-5 years if they keep all the key parts together. Salah is the one who might look to move on at some point, but no one can afford Liverpool’s best players this summer and they would be mad to leave this great team. It doesn’t get any better than this!

You may or may not know this, but the biggest transfer story Kevin ever broke was Virgil Van Dijk moving from Southampton to Liverpool back in December 2017:

As a bonus, how did that come about? It looked dead in the water after the public pursuit and apology in the summer, but then you broke that it was back on; what happened?

A few thoughts on how this came about. So many ‘transfer experts’ on Twitter were convinced Van Dijk would go to Liverpool the previous summer, but I have great contacts at Southampton and they simply refused to let him go to Liverpool on a point of principle. They were furious about the meeting with Klopp, Edwards and Team Van Dijk that was not permitted by Southampton and not even the apology from Liverpool solved that problem.

When it became clear that Van Dijk would not settle back into work at Southampton, they decided the only option was to sell.

However, Liverpool were not going to pay the £75m asking price and continued to refuse until mid-December 2017, when they suddenly agreed. Southampton were confused at the time as they didn’t see anyone paying that much, but Liverpool had a dramatic change of heart, presumably because they had agreed to sell Coutinho to Barcelona.

The story was a massive coup for me personally. To break a story that big is a rarity for any journalist and Van Dijk’s success at Liverpool has added to the gravitas of the moment. It’s not often you get a story that big, so no harm in singing from the rooftops about it!

A big thank you to Kevin for taking his time to answer our questions!