Liverpool’s unfortunate tryst with the transfer market

by Harsh Gupta

sakhoIt’s been a story of failed bids and unaccepted personal terms with English clubs in this summer’s transfer window. Except for two London clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham, and the perennial star-power magnets, Manchester City, no English club, including and especially Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, has been able to attract the quality of players that was once the USP of these teams and the world’s most popular sports league.

The North-West rivals, Liverpool and United, no longer possess the clout which once made them European powerhouses and every footballer’s dream destination. Liverpool’s repeated failures to qualify for the Champions League has had a pernicious effect on their ability to attract some of the top talents in world football.

Under current boss Brendan Rodgers and his predecessor Kenny Dalglish, they did manage to acquire the services of class acts such as Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, but apart from the duo Liverpool primarily have had to make do with drab domestic deals of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen to name a few.

This summer has been no different. Rodgers’ desperate attempts to land European hotshots have been thwarted by the club’s absence from European competitions. Domestic and foreign clubs, slated to participate in the Champions League and the Europa League, have invariably beaten the Merseysiders to several signatures throughout the transfer window.

The ones that got away

Hungarian winger Balasz Dzsudzsák recently revealed an unsuccessful approach by Liverpool in January. Their first summer pursuit, Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved to the finer pastures of North Rhine (Dortmund) while Diego Costa, who was persistently courted by the Reds in the last few weeks, decided against the move and signed a new deal with Atletico Madrid. New Chelsea signing Willian too was a priority target for Rodgers’ side. The latest news of the talented Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen moving to Spurs would have dealt a severe blow to Liverpool’s transfer plans.

Atletico Madrid have all but snatched Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld from Liverpool’s clutches. That leaves Brendan Rodgers with a lot to contemplate over his transfer policy for the summer.  His fall-out with Liverpool loyalist Pepe Reina, the decision to splash £9m on Simon Mignolet, and Reina’s loan move to Napoli left a significant chunk of the Kop nonplussed.

What went wrong?

So what really went wrong with Brendan Rodgers, the Fenway Sports Group, and their summer transfer policy. Did Liverpool become a victim of it’s own ambitions?  The club and it’s humongous support-base is no stranger to the fact that Liverpool’s reputation and stature has taken a consistent beating over the years due the club’s abysmal success rate and lack of trophies. The ignominy has been compounded by their poor domestic performances which have failed to guarantee the Reds a place in European competitions. If Europa League was any sort of a healing balm, Anfield has altogether missed the European bus this season.

Liverpool’s pursuit of players who had other suitors possessing better competitive and financial appeal seems to be the core reason for the Reds’ misadventures in the transfer market. Take the example of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian midfielder was also a target for Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund. The German side is one of the elitist clubs in Europe, have a fervent fan-base and are managed by the ingenious Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool on the other hand, have significantly less financial muscle, can speak of very few world-class players, and are still finding their feet performance-wise.  Not to offend any Liverpool fan, but that is a David vs Goliath situation.

Rodgers should have played his cards close to this chest, deliberated with this scouting team over his club’s chances to sign players in their shopping list. That would have ensured that instead of getting stuck on fruitless deals, the club would have made some marquee signings which might have helped them in their quest for an elusive spot in the Champions League.

The latest transfer target

Recent media reports have linked Paris Saint Germain’s prodigious centre-back Mamadou Sakho with a move to Anfield. The French international, only 23-years old, has been one of the most talked-about young talents in Europe. Sakho is a brilliant defender, physically robust, technically proficient and has shown immense leadership qualities at such a young age.

A long-term injury to Sebastian Coates and the retirement of Jamie Carragher has left Liverpool short of options for the back-four. The capture of Kolo Toure from Manchester City has shored up the defence, but the Ivorian still remains a stop-gap solution.

If Liverpool do manage to secure the services of the Frenchmen, Premier League fans would have the privilege of watching another world-class central defence pairing in Agger and Sakho. More importantly, the deal would signal Liverpool’s intention to reignite their European ambitions and reinvigorate their reputation as one of the biggest football clubs in the world. But the question remains, can Liverpool conclude the deal before the transfer window downs its shutters?

5 Responses

  1. Browny says:

    What a load of rubbish this is!
    Liverpool and Utd can’t attract players? They just aren’t splashing the cash to silly levels! It was reported that Willian was snubbing Liverpool for spurs, but he wanted to go to Liverpool and Liverpool refused to match the fee and wages, so pulled out. This is why he then dallied on the spurs medical and his agents got him the Chelsae move.
    Liverpool and Utd are the biggest names in English football and attract players.

  2. Harsh Gupta Harsh Gupta says:

    However harsh it may sound, but the truth is that Liverpool and United haven’t been able to attract the same kind of talent and names they did a few years back. Liverpool, mostly because of their absence in the Champions League since the 09/10 season. Luis Suarez (or may be even Meireles) have been the only European stalwarts they have managed to sign in this period. United has different reasons altogether. They’ve gone bust on so many deals, Sneijder, Hazard, Moura and the list goes on. United have had the financial muscle, but they’ve been overpowered by Chelsea and other European giants. For Liverpool, it’s a combination of FSG’s low-profile transfer strategy and their deteriorating domestic performances. Willian is just another example of a failed coup, there are so many other players, especially this season, who have chosen other avenues over the Reds and the Red Devils.

  3. I think looking back Liverpool will be very pleased with their summer. Kept their best player, strengthened the defence and found someone to play on the left.

    I would have liked more onus on Man Utd than Liverpool. Liverpool have been trying to deal within their means, sure Willian and Mkhitaryan were attracted by CL and title football, but you concentrate unfairly too much on them and not United, and see why they can’t attract the likes of Cesc Fabregas (although he is a special case).

  4. Harsh Gupta Harsh Gupta says:

    They seemed to have done well for themselves on deadline day. Sakho is one of the best deals of the summer.

    The more important thing to watch would be whether players like Aspas, Luis Alberto, Aly Cissokho, Kolo Toure and Victor Moses can help them beat the likes of Spurs, Chelsea (who have spent lavishly on some fine players) and Arsenal (who might end up with Ozil and/or di Maria come tomorrow) for a CL spot
    .
    The theme of the post was based on the two clubs’ reduced efficacy in the transfer market with respect to world-class players, not the analysis of their respective transfer businesses.

    Talking about United, their inability to complete blockbuster deals has been a trend for the past couple of season. The reasons for the same are still intangible.

  5. Steve says:

    What a silly article. If football transfers happened in a vacuum, you might have an argument. But the total lack of context lays bare your attempt to “prove” a pre-ordained conclusion with second- and third-hand gossip.

    You write Liverpool had to “make do” with Carroll, et al, ignoring that they made Carroll the most expensive British-player transfer ever. Dalglish/Comoli also chased Downing and Henderson — not because European recruits had turned their noses up — becasue those were players they coveted. Rodgers activated Allen’s release clause so he could have a former player help teach his style of play to a new team. Then you also ignore Sturridge and Sahin. Rodgers didn’t “fall out” with Reina; Reina admitted he would be tempted to go to Barca in case Valdes left, and Rodgers didn’t want to be caught with his pants down.

    And there’s the other issue that Liverpool, ManU, and Arsenal have American owners who can’t stand the way the transfer market works. They’re used to trades and free agency, not tapping-up, third-party ownership, and sinister player agents. Fergie didn’t go after Benzema because he thought 35m was over the odds. So he waited and got Van Persie — a proven EPL scorer — for 24m. Kagawa was had for 15m. Sneijder didn’t come because he wouldn’t reduce his ridiculous wages. SAF wanted Jones, Young, and Zaha, and got them all.

    Fabregas fought for years to go home to Barca; the insinuation that he would leave after a year was an embarrassing miscalculation on ManU’s part. Fellaini wants to go to Manchester. Right now it’s thought that Ozil prefers ManU, but ManU don’t want him. Alcantara chose the Pep project at Bayern, a team with a greater history than ManU. Losing a player to Munich is not embarrassing. Ask your Goliath (Dortmund) about that.

    Arsenal has a notoriously rigid pay structure, which is why all those players — Nasri, Adebayour, Toure, Clichy — fled to City. It also inhibits their ability to recruit high wage earners, or players who prefer the bottomless pockets of oligarchs and sheiks.

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