Liverpool have reportedly placed a £60million price tag on star Mohamed Salah after it became clear he is unlikely to remain with the club when his contract expires at the end of the upcoming season.

Salah arrived at Anfield in 2017 in a £36.5m move from Roma and during his time with the Reds he has become one of the best players in the world.

In his five Premier League seasons, Salah has tallied 118 goals and 50 assists in 180 games, been named PFA Players' Player of the Year twice, collected three Premier League Golden Boots and won the Puskas Award in 2018.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL LOOK TO CASH IN BEFORE SALAH WALKS FOR NOTHING

Liverpool have long since been in contract talks with the Egypt superstar, but recent developments have caused the club to investigate what they could get in return for him entering the final year of his deal.

The Mirror is reporting Liverpool have decided that £60m is the number they would be comfortable with, but it remains to be seen if there is interest from rival clubs given he could leave Anfield for nothing next year.

Meanwhile, The Sun claims Liverpool are confident they can land Borussia Dortmund's England midfielder Jude Bellingham at the end of next season.

Liverpool have already seen Sadio Mane depart for Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Sky Sports, West Ham are exploring a potential move for Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma, who is said to have a £40m release clause in his contract.

– Sky Sports also claim  West Ham are interested in signing Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse .

Manchester United are hoping to sell young defender Brandon Williams for £10m, according to the Daily Mail, while The Sun claims the club have made around £100m available for Erik ten Hag to rebuild the team.

– United have declined Barcelona 's request for the Red Devils to include Harry Maguire in their bid for Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong, according to The Sun.

– The Athletic say  Crystal Palace are confident they will land 22-year-old Lens midfielder Cheick Doucoure .

Former Bayern Munich striker Ivica Olic insists the club will bounce back after disappointment in the Champions League last season.

The Bundesliga giants were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Villarreal, with Samuel Chukwueze's late goal at the Allianz Arena stunning Bayern as they fell to a 2-1 aggregate defeat.

That marked the second season in a row where Bayern have fallen at the last-eight hurdle and that disappointment raised questions about their direction, which Olic believes are part and parcel of being a big club.

"It's always like that with big clubs. When the result is right, everything is great, everyone is great, and the dirty laundry doesn't come out," he told Stats Perform.

"But this season the disappointment in Bayern is certainly great, because they have "only" won the [league] championship. 

"They were kicked out of the Champions League pretty early on by a not-so-'attractive' opponent. When I say attractive, I mean it at the highest level.

"No one thought they could be eliminated over two games against Villarreal. But if we now look at the two games, Villarreal deservedly progressed. Bayern weren't good and you have to admit that."

Bayern face a rebuild of their attacking ranks ahead of the next season with Robert Lewandowski pushing for an exit and Sadio Mane poised to arrive from Liverpool, with Olic confident Bayern can be successful in the market.

 

"Certainly, when the problems then become public and interesting topics come up, in terms of players who want to leave the club, like Lewandowski, then it shakes the building blocks of a club, not just those of Bayern," he added.

"It's certainly not a pleasant situation, neither for the sporting director nor the president, so neither for [Hasan] Salihamidzic, nor Oliver Kahn. But they have a lot of experience at Bayern. 

"Sure, managing the club and playing at the club are not the same. But I think they embody FC Bayern's DNA, and they are aware of that.

"You will certainly get a lot of support from [Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge and [Uli] Hoeness. The two are no longer in the club, but they are certainly informed. I am sure that they will advise you.

"You will be involved in larger and more interesting transfers. I am sure that FC Bayern will recover quickly from last season.

"If it comes to it that Lewandowski leaves, they will certainly find a suitable replacement and will continue to be at the forefront of European football."

Arnaut Danjuma acknowledged he has "unfinished business in England" but assured he is happy at Villarreal amid speculation over a move to Liverpool.

Danjuma spent two years with Bournemouth before joining Villarreal last August.

The winger was an integral part of Unai Emery's side that reached the Champions League semi-finals, while finishing seventh in LaLiga to qualify for next season's Europa Conference League.

Danjuma led the Villarreal scoring charts in all competitions (16), while only Gerard Moreno can match his 20 direct goal involvements for the Yellow Submarine in the 2021-22 campaign.

Only Samuel Chukwueze (73) and Etienne Capoue (50) completed more dribbles than the Netherlands international, who has starred on the flanks or in a more central role for Emery.

That has led to interest from Liverpool, who could be looking to replace Sadio Mane if the forward joins Bayern Munich, but Danjuma insists he has heard nothing from the Premier League club.

"We've all read what has been said in the press, but I am a quick learner," he told Sky Sports News. "I did an interview in Holland saying I'm aware of the interest.

"They asked me if I was aware of it and I am, as everyone is. I'm aware of it, you are aware of it because it has been in the press. My phone literally went off all the time.

"In that sense, I am aware of it because of the media but I never actually confirmed the interest from Liverpool because the only one that confirms it to me is my team.

"I haven't heard anything from my team and as it stands now, I am enjoying my football at Villarreal. I am really happy there. We had a fantastic season.

"Unai Emery has been fantastic to me. The striking coach has been fantastic to me. The entire club has been unbelievable to me so I'd never in that way downgrade the club I’m playing for."

As for returning to England with a point to prove, Danjuma would like to put the record straight in the Premier League.

"There is definitely unfinished business for me in England," he added. "If you look back to the reasons why I joined Bournemouth initially it was for me to play Premier League football."

After keeping Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain's transfer activity can turn their attention to adding to their squad.

From the likes of Mauro Icardi to Edinson Cavani, playing as a complementary forward to Mbappe and Neymar is not a simple task.

While other clubs are reportedly interested, their target for a forward has reportedly been identified.

TOP STORY – PSG TURN TO RICHARLISON

Richarlison is facing an uncertain future with Everton as interest from Paris Saint-Germain grows, according to the Daily Mail.

The Brazil international was one of the survival heroes for the Toffees, scoring six in nine games to help them secure Premier League safety.

Reports suggest the 25-year-old is seeking a move away from Goodison Park and with the club's financial situation, he could be allowed to move on despite having two years left on his deal.

While Tottenham and Real Madrid are though to be eyeing Richarlison, PSG have emerged as the likeliest destination. 

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich are close to agreeing a deal for 30-year-old attacker Sadio Mane , according to Matteo Moretto.

– Meanwhile, Liverpool have made contact with the representatives of Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, per Sport.

– The Manchester Evening News is reporting Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus will resolve his future after returning from Brazil duty, amid interest from Arsenal .

– Pau Torres is nearing a move from Villarreal with talks between his representatives and Manchester United developing, per Cadena Ser.

Barcelona boss Xavi asserted the club must be "humble" after they marked the end of the season with a 2-0 loss to Villarreal on Sunday.

Goals from Alfonso Pedraza and Moi Gomez handed the seventh-placed Villarreal their first LaLiga win at Camp Nou since 2008 and punctuated Barcelona's trophy-less season, finishing 13 points off the title-winning Real Madrid.

The fact Barca even finished second provided some cause for satisfaction given their start to the season, after winning only four of the opening 13 league games and sitting ninth in November, when Xavi took over from Ronald Koeman.

The 42-year-old believes, amid an expectant fan base, the time to get to work and transform the squad to his liking has officially come, now Barca have reached the end of the season.

"I keep the minutes in which people have cheered," Xavi said post-game. "It is normal, the public does not like to lose. But taking stock, we have to be satisfied. We have to be humble and see reality. Now the work of the office begins.

"We have to change things. We have to opt for titles. We have to change things. We have to improve and strengthen ourselves."

After only managing Al-Sadd for two years before taking on the coaching role at his former club, Xavi has experienced a baptism by fire upon his return to Europe, with crises gripping his boyhood club both on and off the pitch.

The Blaugrana have experienced positive and difficult moments in his first coaching role in Europe, defeating Real Madrid 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu but also falling meekly in the Europa League at the hands of eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt.

On a personal level, Xavi is in a sense satisfied he has aided Barcelona in qualifying for the Champions League and salvaging their season, but is the adamant his squad must improve.

"I knew that it was coming at a complicated and difficult moment," he said. "We have improved, but not enough. We have played brilliant games, but we have to be more reliable. I am here to add value, now we have to work for next year. We have to be positive.

"We've saved a season that could have been disastrous. I'm satisfied on a personal level. We came from one of the worst moments in the club's history. A lot of things have to be changed.

"This season has gone as it has gone. The coach has changed. And now we cannot come second. We have to reinforce ourselves very well. We have to compete. We have to change many things."

Barcelona's season ended with a whimper as Villarreal sealed a 2-0 LaLiga win at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Catalan club's spot in next season's Champions League was secured earlier in May, yet Xavi will be disappointed his side have ended the campaign with just a solitary point from their final two games.

They went behind late in the first half through Alfonso Pedraza's strike, before Moi Gomez sealed maximum points for Unai Emery's men in the second half.  

The result meant second-placed Barca ended the campaign a whopping 13 points behind champions Real Madrid, while Villarreal finished seventh.

Adama Traore flashed over and Ferran Torres was denied by Geronimo Rulli inside a bright opening 10 minutes for the hosts.

Barca looked the more likely to open the scoring inside the opening half hour, yet all they had to show for their dominance was a Sergio Busquets strike that flew narrowly over the crossbar.

The inability to take advantage of their superiority was punished four minutes before the interval as Alfonso Pedraza latched onto Daniel Parejo's pass and steered past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Villarreal doubled their advantage in the 55th minute when Gomez lashed into the roof of net after cutting out Traore's dismal attempted clearance. 

Frenkie de Jong had an effort ruled out for offside late on as Barca tried in vain to find their way back into the game. 

What does it mean? Villarreal end dire run against insipid hosts

Xavi has done well to steady the Barca ship after a chaotic start to the season, yet he will be disappointed with the way his players' intensity has dropped off in the final two games of the season.

Victory for Villarreal, meanwhile, ended a run of 10 straight LaLiga defeats at Camp Nou, which was their worst run of successive away losses against a single opponent in the competition's history.

Pass master Parejo

Parejo's superb pass for Pedraza's goal saw him move level with Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain and Barca's Jordi Alba as LaLiga's top assister this season (10). It is the most he has ever achieved in his 14 seasons playing in the Spanish top flight.

Torrid time for Traore

Barca are not expected to take up the option of turning Traore's loan move from Wolves into a permanent one and it was not hard to see why on this evidence. The 26-year-old offered nothing in attack and was directly responsible for Villarreal's second goal – his last act before being hauled off for Ousmane Dembele.

Xavi hailed Barcelona for saving a season that "could have been worse" but wants improvements next term from the Blaugrana, who Ousmane Dembele could play his last game for on Sunday.

Blaugrana great Xavi was appointed in November as the successor to Ronald Koeman, with Barca languishing in ninth in LaLiga after an underwhelming start to their 2021-22 campaign.

However, Xavi has reinvigorated Barca as the Catalan giants have climbed up to second in the league, albeit 13 points behind champions Real Madrid with one game left to play.

Barca conclude their campaign at home to Villarreal, and with second place already secured Xavi praised the recovery his side has made, but urged them to improve to compete with Madrid next season.

"We have saved a situation that could have been worse," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday. "We have gone from less to more. We have competed but it has not given us any reward. We have to win titles. 

"I don't give myself a grade because whatever is said will be criticised. We have improved a lot. I am the first to demand more from myself. From now on, we will look to improve further.

"We have to improve in every way – psychologically, physically, which we have already improved, and reinforce the squad with two players per position. And also tactically, so everyone understands our ideas."

The game against Villarreal could prove to be Dembele's last at Camp Nou as contract negotiations remain ongoing.

Bayern Munich and Chelsea are reported to be keen on the World Cup-winning winger, whose 11 LaLiga assists in 2022 is more than any other player has registered across Europe's top five leagues.

Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has reiterated his desire to keep the France international at Barca, and Xavi hailed Dembele for his efforts in the second half of the season.

"It could be the last. You have to be optimistic. He has played excellent games and when he has not been involved we have noticed," he said of the former Borussia Dortmund player.

Barca have won their last five games against Villarreal in LaLiga, and could register six wins in a row against them for the first time in the competition.

However, Xavi expects a tough task when his team host Unai Emery's side, who made it to the Champions League semi-finals this season, where they were defeated by Liverpool.

"The result will be important. I would like to see a team with good feelings, bravery and finish with the best feelings," he continued.

"Villarreal is the best team we have faced. They have a lot at stake, and are a difficult opponent. You have to have a personality that the fans come to enjoy. There will be chances and it will be a good show."

Barca have confirmed Ronald Araujo will return to the squad after recovering from a head injury that caused him to spend a night in hospital following the game against Celta Vigo on May 10.

Following their exit at the hands of Roma in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, Leicester City are at the fork in the road that faces every club their size following some success.

History says that sustainable progress will have to come at the expense of selling the players who got the club to such heights.

While James Maddison and Wesley Fofana have long been on the wish lists of bigger clubs, Youri Tielemans reportedly looks set to leave also.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL, REAL MADRID SET ON TIELEMANS

Arsenal are closing in on a £40million transfer for Leicester City and Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, The Sun is reporting.

Real Madrid are waiting to pounce, however, if Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.

Leicester are now reportedly resigned to selling the 25-year-old, whose goal won the Foxes the FA Cup last term. 

Tielemans has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football, meaning Manchester United have dropped out of the race.

ROUND-UP

- Fernandinho appears set to leave Manchester City, despite having a year remaining on his contract, citing a personal decision, per Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham are looking to sign Villarreal's Pau Torres for a fee below his release clause of £55million (€64.3m), Football Insider reports.

- The Daily Star are reporting Nemanja Matic, who will leave Manchester United at the end of the season, is set to join Juventus.

- West Ham are leading the race to sign 23-year-old Chile international Ben Brereton-Diaz from Blackburn Rovers, according to The Sun.

Andrew Robertson has described Liverpool team-mate Luis Diaz as "special" after the Colombian helped fire the Reds into the Champions League final.

Diaz arrived at Anfield in January after completing a move from Porto worth a reported initial fee of £37.5million (€45m), with a further £12.5m (€15m) in add-ons, and he has played a key role in Liverpool's pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple.

Despite holding a 2-0 advantage heading into the Champions League semi-final second leg against Villarreal, an out of sorts Liverpool found themselves 2-0 down and level for the tie at half-time in El Madrigal on Tuesday.

However, Diaz was introduced by Jurgen Klopp at the break and his presence immediately raised the levels of his team, who came back to win 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate, with the Colombian finding the net himself with a header.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Scotland captain Robertson was quick to praise the 25-year-old and the quick transition he has made to his new home.

"He has been special," the left-back said of Diaz.

"We have tried to help him as much as we can – all of the players. We know how difficult it is coming into the club in January. We've tried with the coaches and everyone else to get him up to speed.

"He is a special, special player. With the talent he has and the will to win, he just fits us perfectly."

Diaz has five goals and three assists from 21 appearances in all competitions for the Reds so far (13 starts), and he has averaged more dribbles attempted per 90 minutes (5.16) and has a higher successful dribble percentage (61.64) than any other Liverpool forward this season.

It was a game of two halves in Spain, with Liverpool managing just two shots in the first half prior to Diaz's introduction for Diogo Jota, before having 13 attempts in the second half as they turned things around.

"It was tough to take Jots off and I think he has been excellent this season, but Luis came on and made a big difference," Robertson added. "He played on the left, he started pushing them back, started taking the ball, dribbling and everything, it was a really good half from him.

"He has been special since the day he came in, it's a pleasure to play with him and hopefully he'll only get better as well with a full pre-season and things like that.

"I believe he will get better, which is scary, but what he is producing here and now is pretty special as well."

Liverpool's appearance in the final in Paris later this month will be their third in five years, and Robertson acknowledged how tough it is to reach the showpiece event of Europe's premier club competition, which the club has won on six occasions.

"Unbelievable," he said of the achievement. "An incredibly tough tie, it's never easy, but to be in a final is never, never easy no matter what competition you are in.

"To make it the third in the space of five years is incredible from this group of boys, for us as players and fans, and everyone alike, [we] should never ever take this for granted.

"We just enjoy getting to the final. It's so hard to get to Champions League finals, especially the amount of good teams in this competition. To get to the final is an incredible feeling. It's going to be a special occasion and we are looking forward to it.

"We've got a lot of games between now and the end of the season, but our season has been extended for the right reasons and we are so happy about it. We can't wait to try to go and compete and try to make it number seven."

Jamie Carragher believes Jurgen Klopp is "lying" about who he wants Liverpool to face in the Champions League final and extended an offer to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James to join him in Paris.

The Reds overcame a scare to defeat Villarreal 3-2 on Tuesday, securing a 5-2 aggregate triumph and punching their ticket to a 10th showpiece in Europe's premier tournament.

Liverpool were trailing 2-0 at half-time before second-half goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane ensured they will meet Manchester City or Real Madrid in this month's final.

It means a remarkable quadruple is still on the cards, with Liverpool having already clinched the EFL Cup and still in the hunt for the Premier League title and FA Cup too.

Manager Klopp insisted he would have no preference over who he faced in the French capital, but former Reds defender Carragher reckons the German would secretly prefer to face newly crowned LaLiga champions Madrid.

"I think he's lying," Carragher said speaking as a pundit for CBS. "I am pretty certain he'd prefer Real Madrid."

Regardless of how many trophies Liverpool end up with this term, Klopp has cemented his status as a legend at Anfield and recently committed his future to the club until 2026.

Carragher thinks that was the right move and is not sure his coaching style would ever suit Barcelona or Madrid, clubs he has in the past been linked with.

He added: "There's lots of great clubs but not another one that suits Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool are not an underdog by any means, they are one of the biggest clubs out there but that thing of when he was at Dortmund and they were fighting against Bayern with no funds, and the same sort of thing against maybe Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier League.

"I couldn't see him managing a Real Madrid or a Barcelona, I don't think it would suit his style of management.

"I think he needs the intensity of the crowd and that togetherness. He is already and, who knows what Liverpool will have won in four years' time, he is going to be remembered as one of the greatest managers in Liverpool's history and one of the greatest figures in Liverpool's history right up there with the great managers."

Plenty of Liverpool fans will flock to Paris for the final and one particularly famous supporter could be headed to France in the form of NBA great James, who owns a small stake in the club.

And Carragher had an invitation for the four-time NBA champion, who had Tweeted to say: "PARIS HERE WE COME!!!!!!!! @LFC!"

"LeBron, if you want to come to Paris you can join me, and the CBS team, and you can be my guest pitchside," he added.

"I want you next to us in Paris to give us the support that we need to win that seventh European Cup. Come and join us, big man!"

Giovani Lo Celso expressed pain at Villarreal's elimination in the Champions League semi-finals following their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday.

Faced with the huge task overturning a two-goal deficit after the first leg at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine drew level for the tie after a raucous 45 minutes at El Madrigal, via goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.

Liverpool eventually settled after the interval, and the air effectively went out of the tie when Fabinho's shot crept through Geronimo Rulli's legs and in, with the Reds going on to win 3-2.

A January signing for Villarreal, Lo Celso believes the home crowd propelled them to such a fast start but their energy dissipated.

"The first impression is one of pain, and of sadness because we wanted to play that final," Lo Celso told Movistar+ post-match. "We had a very good first half, where we cut off all the circuits for them, we pressed, we created situations, we went 2-0 up.

"The support of the fans who pushed us from the first minute gave us a huge boost.

"In the second half, it was difficult for us to keep up with them, they began to find spaces and there they found the goals."

Luis Diaz's substitution for Diogo Jota at half-time was transformative, and Liverpool found a different gear to eventually win in the 90 minutes and restore their lead on aggregate.

Lo Celso believes Liverpool's class eventually showed, but was proud of his team-mates' achievement of making it this far in the Champions League.

"It was a bit difficult for us to keep up with the rhythm of the first half," he said. "They began to control the game a little more, find spaces and generate situations.

"In the second half, in ten minutes the match escaped us, but I am proud of my team-mates because reaching the semis is no small thing and even more so against such a high-class opponent."

Jurgen Klopp opened up on the half-time team talk that helped Liverpool fend off a Villarreal comeback to reach the Champions League final.

The Reds had arrived in Spain holding a 2-0 aggregate lead thanks to a dominant showing at Anfield but contrived to squander it during a chastening first half at El Madrigal.

However, a much-improved second-half showing punctuated by goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane helped secure passage to a third Champions League final appearance in just five seasons.

And, when asked how he had masterminded that change of fortunes, Klopp told BT Sport: "It feels like the first in 20 [years], it's outstanding, because we made it obviously pretty tricky for ourselves. 

"We knew before that these kinds of things can happen; it's all about in life all the time how you react when things don't go your way. 

"Getting the first goal after two-and-a-half, three minutes, that's obviously not what you wanted, momentum on their side.

"After the first half I told the boys, 'Yes, they have momentum but they don't own it! In one situation we can get it back.'

"We were calm because I accept it 100 per cent that if Villarreal plays the second half like they play the first and we played the second half like the first then they will be in the final.

"The perception was like this, everything looked more like they will score the 3-0 than we will score the 2-1 but we are still here so we could give it a try and that's what we did."

The German went on to reveal that his half-time rallying cry also featured elements of important tactical advice to his players.

He explained: "The problem with the half-time was that we knew what was wrong because it was obvious, but we didn't have the situations to show where we did it right.

"Respect to Villarreal, I have to say; stadium, team, coach, it's unbelievable what they set up, they put us under pressure. 

"[It was] man-v-man all over the whole pitch, we didn't play football at all, we didn't get momentum back.

"We have to play in the right spaces, we have to force ourselves in the game to start playing football. 

"[When] we broke the lines and we found Naby or Trent in the half-spaces and the front three were more flexible and not fixed in their positions, all of a sudden we were in the game, scored goals and made it happen. 

Liverpool's final opponents will be confirmed on Wednesday when Real Madrid and Manchester City do battle in the second leg of their semi-final tie.

Of his side's prospective opponents, Klopp added: "Yes, I will watch it! Whoever it will be, it will be massive. 

"Whoever wins tomorrow night will deserve the result and then we'll face each other in Paris."

Mohamed Salah would rather face Real Madrid than Manchester City in the final of the Champions League in Paris as they target the quadruple after seeing off a spirited Villarreal performance in the last four.

Liverpool survived a huge scare in Spain to reach their 10th European Cup/Champions League final, with Fabinho, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane scoring second-half goals after Villarreal wiped out the Reds' first-leg lead in an unbelievable first half.

Liverpool have become the first team to reach the finals of the European Cup/Champions League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup in a single season, and trail City by just one point in an absorbing Premier League title race.

The Reds' incredible form has led to talk of Jurgen Klopp's team lifting four major trophies at the end of the campaign, with Salah hoping to complete the quadruple against Madrid having been substituted after suffering an injury in Liverpool's 2018 final loss to Los Blancos.

"Yeah, [it's a target] for sure," he told BT Sport. "Maybe not in the beginning of the season if I'm honest, because I always focus on the Champions League and the Premier League, but now we are close for everything, so why not? 

"I think after we beat City in the semi-final of the [FA] cup [Liverpool believed it was possible], but in the Champions League, from the beginning we were playing unbelievable games, we had a really tough group and we beat everybody, so I said from that time we could win the Champions League this year.

"I want to play Madrid, I have to be honest. City is a really tough team, we played against them a few times this season, but I think if you ask me personally, I would prefer Madrid.

"Because we lost in the final against them, I want to play against them, and hopefully win against them as well."

Salah assisted Fabinho's vital 62nd-minute goal in Spain, taking his tally to an incredible 45 goal contributions in all competitions this season (30 goals, 15 assists), and the Egypt international revealed he had set himself a target of 40 goals before the campaign began.

"I just give the team everything, we have to focus for the team because we fight for everything, we won one trophy already, we are in the final, we continue to fight for the Premier League and we are in a final against Chelsea [in the FA Cup]," he added.

"I just focus, and try to train hard. I know what I want at the end of the season, so hopefully I can get what I want. 

"Before the season starts, I know what I want from the season, individually and collectively. The collective is the most important, [but] I'm nearly there, I have a big expectation for myself. 

"Honestly, I never said this before but before the season started, I was like 'okay, I'll go for 40 goals this season, and 10 or 15 assists'. I need to focus on the goals now!"

Reds defender Virgil van Dijk, meanwhile, hailed winger Diaz for his impact after the January arrival changed the game as a half-time substitute, but refused to join Salah in stating a preferred final opponent.

"The way he goes one versus one, it doesn't really matter who he is facing, he just goes at you without any fear," Van Dijk said of Diaz. "And if he loses it, he wins it back and goes again. That is very difficult to defend.

"Any team that we face in the final of this competition will be a nightmare to play against. We know City but they know us too. We know how intense those games are. Real Madrid is Real Madrid. Such a big club and an in-form striker [Karim Benzema]."

Liverpool's Champions League final opponents will be revealed when Pep Guardiola's City travel to the Spanish capital on Wednesday, attempting to defend a 4-3 first-leg lead to set up an all-English final.

Trent Alexander-Arnold offered a scathing assessment of Liverpool's first-half performance at Villarreal but is willing to accept an occasional bad 45 minutes as long as they recover as they did to reach the Champions League final.

Villarreal drew level on aggregate, going up 2-0 on the night, before goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane in the second half restored Liverpool's lead and progression to May's final in Paris.

It will be Liverpool's third Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp, following a defeat to Real Madrid in 2018 and triumph over Tottenham in 2019.

Speaking after a thrilling 3-2 win, Alexander-Arnold made reference to the tricky paths that led to those finals, asserting the volatile nature of Tuesday's victory was just a continuation of a theme.

"We never tend to make these Champions League semis easy for ourselves, thinking back to Roma away, Barca at home and now here – difficult, very difficult," Alexander-Arnold told BT Sport post-match.

"We never played football that first half. We never picked up any of the second balls at all, and they kind of played the game the way that they wanted to, and we allowed them to do that.

"Second half, we came out and played the way that we needed to play, and controlled the game a lot better. One bad half over two legs, we can concede that as long as we got the job done."

With the win, the Reds will face the winner of Wednesday's semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City.

"It's always nice to get the job done on the Tuesday," he said. "We can watch the game tomorrow, knowing that we're going to be there, and who we're going to play.

"I'm sure it will be a good game. If it goes by anything last week, we'll be in for another amazing game. Either opponent kind of deserves to get to the final, so we'll see who we'll get."

Given the stakes involved, Champions League semi-finals don't tend to be fertile ground for managers to learn lessons about their teams.

But for Jurgen Klopp, Tuesday's win over Villarreal provided more than just a ticket to the showpiece fixture of Europe's premier cup competition in Paris later this month.

It also handed the German several important insights into his squad that may prove key to a quadruple bid that was extended by victory in Spain.

Klopp probably did not appreciate the start of that learning process – an unexpectedly poor first-half performance he would prefer to forget.

In possession of 'the most dangerous lead in football', it was key that the visitors did not concede an early goal that would boost the home crowd's belief. 

And yet they conspired to do exactly that, twice failing to prevent crosses before Boulaye Dia poked home to ignite El Madrigal.

That early goal set the tone for a first half that saw Liverpool harried (65.5 per cent passing accuracy) and bullied (45.6 per cent duels won) out of the game for large periods.

And so they could have no complaints over going in at half-time level on aggregate fearing that Villarreal would become only the second team to overcome a two-goal deficit in a Champions League semi-final.

Liverpool were, of course, the ones who pulled off that previous comeback, overturning Barcelona's three-goal advantage en route to winning the 2018-19 edition of the competition.

Yet, with their first-half attempts to prevent history repeating itself having failed, it seemed inevitable that changes were coming at the break.

Perhaps the only surprise was that Klopp limited himself to just one alteration, introducing Luis Diaz in place of Diogo Jota but leaving his starting midfield trio alone.

However, it was hard to argue with the results of that minor tweak: a consummate second-half performance that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win.

That outcome is good news for Diaz, whose match-high four shots and well-taken goal underlined the brilliance of another sparkling outing.

But it might not be for Jota, who won just two of six duels and completed six of nine passes before getting the half-time hook.

There were also contrasting fortunes in midfield, where Naby Keita provided the most notable recovery from a midfield three that looked lost in the opening 45 minutes.

With Jordan Henderson going through a vigorous warm-up just after half-time, it did not look like the Guinean would last much longer.

But, as was the case with his colleagues in the engine room, he went up a level en route to posting 21 passes in the opposition half, three tackles, and 11 possession regains (more than any other player on the pitch) by full-time.

With the big games coming thick and fast in the weeks ahead, the consequences of these performances are likely to stretch beyond simply securing Liverpool's third Champions League final appearance under Klopp.

As he guides an unlikely quadruple bid towards a dramatic conclusion, the manager now has an even clearer idea of which players he can rely on to deliver on the biggest of stages.

 

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