Liverpool’s Transfer Market Irresponsibilities


Liverpool’s dramatic fall from grace over the past couple of years has been well documented and highly scrutinised. Rafael Benitez’s sacking due to a series of poor results and signings was just the beginning.

The fans revolted against the former owners, Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillet. Foreigners never are warmly welcomed into the ownership of English football clubs because of their lack of knowledge, passion and involvement in their teams. Hicks and Gillet personified this to its full extent.

Hicks and Gillet eventually were forced to sell the club, unfortunately to another American, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John W Henry. Another impartial billionaire that cares nothing for the sanctity and achievements of the game, rather furthering his own fortune, but that is neither here nor there.

The signing of Alberto Aquilani started a period of serious transfer failures for England’s most successful football team. Liverpool paid 17 million pounds for the Italian midfielder to partner Steven Gerrard and lead the team back to European glory. Aquilani came to the team injured, struggled to show any of the talent that warranted such a fee and is now on the verge of leaving after less than two seasons due to constant injuries and a serious lack in form.

Roy Hodgon took over from Rafa Benitez, who had more than worn out his welcome at the club, and made a few surprising signings. Liverpool brought in Joe Cole on a free transfer, which ended in a failure and he is now rumoured to be on his way out. They then signed Raul Meireles for 13 million pounds, and despite winning the PFA Fans Player of the Year, in my opinion he had a very average season. Meireles must have gotten all his friends and family to vote for him because I didn’t see what the fans saw. He was terrible in the games I watched.

Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool’s favourite son, returned to the club heroically in January and immediately made a huge impact on the club. He made the controversial sale of Fernando Torres, but to be fair got more than enough money in return. That was the best piece of business Liverpool have made in the past five years. Fans worried Liverpool had dismissed their ambitions and were shedding the team of their most talented player, despite the fact he had returned from the World Cup a shadow of his previous self. Nonetheless he could not see a trophy filled future with the team and it further suggested the decline of the once great club.

The money was immediately spent. Dalglish signed World Cup villain Luis Suarez for 22.8 million pounds, which may have been a slightly inflated price but he showed he has a future in the league. The rest of the Torres money, plus a little extra, was spent on Newcastle’s lanky striker Andy Carroll.

35 million pounds on Andy Carroll. If I need explain the ridiculousness of that sentence then you probably do not have a great understanding of the Premier League. You probably do not have a great understanding of football. Nor business.

They became the jokes of the league and social media went berserk. Manchester United and Everton fans had a field day.

Sadly for Liverpool it did not end there. Following their sixth place finish in the league and the confirmation of Dalglish’s extended stay Liverpool set out to make their way back into European football relevance.

Their first signing was Sunderland youngster Jordan Henderson. Henderson won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award in the 09/10 season and had a solid year for Sunderland playing both on the wing and moving central following the injury to Lee Cattermole.

Henderson is a promising English talent, but to pay 20 million pounds for a relatively unproven 21 year old is not good business. Henderson was not a standout in a mid table team and whilst he has shown potential, he has given no indication as to why you would pay such a sum. He may prove to be a strong buy, but Liverpool are not in the position to be making such a gamble with such a high price.

Liverpool then took a step in the right direction signing Blackpool captain and hero Charlie Adam for 7 million pounds. In my opinion the fee was a bargain, as Adam has a presence and an edge to him that is invaluable in the English game. He is a field general, has a knack for scoring goals and is the personification of consistency. He will fit in perfectly with Gerrard as he can match his work rate and will allow Gerrard to push forward and play to the strikers rather than trying to control the entirety of the team himself.

The reds then took a step backwards paying another 20 million pounds for another Englishman whose value is well below the fee. Stuart Downing is one of the best pure wingers in the league, but that isn’t saying much. Downing has been a perennial underachiever for Aston Villa following his eagerly anticipated move from Middlesbrough, failing to even find a regular first team place. He started to emerge from the shadows last season and has completed more crosses than any player in the Premier League the last three years combined but has not fulfilled the potential people believed he had in his Middlesbrough days. 20 million pounds for Stuart Downing is at least double his value in my opinion. Width cannot be underestimated and he truly is one of the best pure wingers in England but Aston Villa’s overpricing to stop any transfer backfired, yet that is not a negative. They will replace him with Charles N’Zogbia who is rated at half the price Liverpool paid and in my opinion is the better player.

So the last three major signings Liverpool have made have been three Englishmen. They should be commended for that. A combined 75 million pounds has been spent on these three players. In return they get Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stuart Downing. They should be condemned for that.

The past 12-18 months Liverpool have been in a financial crisis and had to settle for mediocre signings, resulting in their relegation from the Premier League’s top 4. Hicks and Gillet were killing the club monetarily and were forced to sell. John W Henry had the money to come in and save the club. If it had not been Henry it clearly would have been someone else, it would take a lot more to put Liverpool in a serious position, but they were struggling more so than they had in the last few decades and it was something no one was expecting and no one was accustomed to.

The question was how would Liverpool come out of it? What changes would be made to ensure the longevity of the club and enable a secure platform upon which the talent of the club can be resurrected? Instead they pay 35 million pounds for a slightly richer man’s Peter Crouch. They then pay 40 million pounds on an unproven midfielder and an inconsistent winger.

Liverpool fans will no doubt be encouraged by the ambitions of the team to at least buy talent and spend money when need be. There is no question that the signings they have made, despite the inflated prices, will make the team better and more importantly deeper, but they are not the players that will get them back into premiership contention. The money that has been spent no doubt could have been better invested, and the signings the club has made suggests they are happy to sit on the edge of European qualification rather than force their way back into it.

Nonetheless Liverpool have a storied tradition of success and they will not accept anything less. They have suffered one of the most arduous 18 month periods of their recent history but most of it has been self inflicted. Their recent signings have been irresponsible to the cause and irresponsible to the club. Dalglish will look like a godsend if his signings justify their price tags, but until that happens Liverpool and their fans need to prepare themselves for another Europa campaign.

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