Liverpool’s state of affairs in the transfer window has been far from ideal so far, especially considering the importance it holds ahead of a rare Champions League safari next season.
A little over three weeks ago, when Jurgen Klopp proclaimed that Liverpool’s transfer work was ‘pretty much done’, there was much hope, speculation and buzz going into what would be an important transfer window for the Reds.
The statements made at the back of a memorable 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough, one that secured their Top 4 spot and a place in next season’s Champions League, hinted at some quick and early arrivals in the transfer window.
However, things haven’t exactly gone as planned. The Reds’ interest in players like Naby Keita, Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Ben Gibson, Douglas Costa hasn’t led to much progress as far as confirming transfers to Anfield are concerned.
The Hard Tackle survey’s the disappointment among the Reds’ faithful and takes a look at the things that have supposedly gone wrong for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The Virgil van Dijk saga
The Dutchman was a primary target for the Reds going into the transfer window as they looked to strengthen their forces at the back. But a supposed illegal contact established with the player invited Southampton’s ire as they lodged a complaint to the Premier League regarding Liverpool’s approach.
An embarrassing turn of events saw the Reds withdraw their interest for the player and lose such an important player as far as next season was concerned. Reports claim that the German sat through with van Dijk and discussed his plans for the player and even had him onboard to make the switch to Anfield, swatting interest from Chelsea and Manchester City.
In retrospect, this isn’t the first time Liverpool have got themselves into a kerfuffle of this nature. They botched up a transfer in a similar manner with Clint Dempsey back in 2012 when they tried to tap the player illegally in a bid to shed a few pounds off his price tag.
Five years on, a rather similar approach has left them without another primary transfer target. There wasn’t much wrong in them establishing their contact with the player but their decision to let van Dijk’s preference of Liverpool to the media in a bid to ward off interest from elsewhere was a poorly thought out move that clearly didn’t please Southampton.
They have already begun to look out for targets else where with Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson among the names being sounded out for the centre-back positions. However, the players aren’t nearly as good as van Dijk has established himself to be over the course of his time in the Premier League with Southampton and Celtic in the Scottish Premiership. Or so it seems.
Lack of ruthlessness and conviction
There has been news, news and more news surrounding potential transfer targets but with nearly a month since the end of the season, Liverpool haven’t achieved much progress in terms of securing their men. Newly crowned U-20 World Cup winner Dominic Solanke remains the only exception with the 19-year-old arriving from Chelsea early on for a fee quoted to be in the region of £3 million.
Their approach to the transfer window however, stands in stark contrast to the likes of Manchester City and AC Milan. Both the teams have led the charge early this summer and have completed some brisk business already.
City have completed a couple of shrewd signatures in Bernardo Silva and Ederson and are expected to make more signings as Pep Guardiola looks to exploit a war chest in excess of £250 million.
AC Milan have completed four brilliant signings in Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andre Silva and Mateo Musacchio spending nearly a €100 million in the process. All of this for a club that doesn’t have Champions League football to offer.
Having said that, when you put into perspective Liverpool’s situation, it’s hard to fathom why they’re struggling to nab their targets. Barring a series of pitfalls in January, the Reds enjoyed a largely respectable campaign that saw them play some attractive football and finish in the top four. Aside that, there is a respected manager leading the promising team of a club that boasts an envious European pedigree.
In light of that, recent events must come as an immense source of frustration. Klopp went all-out last summer and decided to bring Sadio Mane on a near club record transfer to the club. There certainly were a lot of questions among the board and fans alike on whether the player was ‘worth’ the money he was paid for. 10 months on, there aren’t too many people questioning that decision, is there?
The Reds’ ownership needs to get ruthless and look to complete deals swiftly without stretching it for days and weeks and making an absolute melee out of it in public.
To moneyball or not to moneyball?
FSG’s loyalty towards their moneyball tactics are well established where they look to draw parallels between a player’s quality and his price tag before venturing into acquiring their signature. And while that approach has given quite a few future stars an Anfield platform to excel, the similar growth isn’t visible in the club’s performances.
The American owners have been around for well over half a decade now and their only piece of silverware to show for is a League Cup. Although Liverpool have a Premier League title charge in 2013-14 and a couple of Cup finals in the Europa League and FA Cup to talk about, it should not be forgotten that it was a lack of squad depth and quality in various positions that caused the Reds to falter at the big stage, when it mattered.
One might ridicule Manchester United’s ways in the transfer window as they go around coughing out meteoric sums of money to secure their prized targets. But one look at their bench during the big games would suggest a world of difference in their approach and may also give an insight into how Mourinho has gone on and completed a Cup double in his maiden season while Klopp couldn’t do so in an identical scenario.
Granted, that the moneyball tactics have served Liverpool well but if the Reds are to potentially go the next level, which is all the way and secure trophies and league titles, they need to spend big on targets that match the club’s portfolio. Case in point, once again, would be Sadio Mane.
The Media Job
You can’t fault the scribes for doing their job but Liverpool’s decision to leak Virgil van Dijk’s desire to join them to the media in a bid to ward of interest and offers from elsewhere was amateurish to an extent even their guilt-ridden apology wouldn’t have sufficed.
The Reds have also been linked with the signing of Mohamed Salah this summer and despite getting quite a few encouraging bytes from the media regarding their negotiations with the player, the past few days have revealed how the club isn’t quite as close to completing a deal for the player as yet.
It’s hardly been a couple of weeks into the transfer window and yet there already is a great out pour of frustration among supporters due to the lack of clarity in Liverpool’s transfer deals. And a significant factor behind that frustration is the media hype surrounding the Reds’ links with potential targets.
As many as five players are under the radar for Liverpool at the moment and as it stands, not a single name is a nailed on certainty to join the club’s ranks as yet. Stefan de Vrij, Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah, Ben Gibson, Gelson Martins and even Kylian Mbappe are among the names being paraded as potential targets at the moment.
Only time will tell where Klopp & co get with those respective transfers but patience must prevail among the supporters. A more vocal response demanding the club’s swift action with signings would have been warranted in August ahead of the new season but not now.
That said, Liverpool also need to be more swift and straightforward with their dealings and look to bring on-board the targets and reinforcements that they do have and not botch it up like they did with Virgil van Dijk.