???️The Start of The Season Doesn’t Mean The End of The Transfer Window

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So here we are again. A few days to go until the start of yet another Premier League season. Exciting isn’t it? And how lucky are we to have completed all of our transfer business prior to the season starting, having foreseen every transfer we want to bring in go as smoothly as possible? Yeah, bollocks. The reality is, we’re in a bit of a state. An unbeaten pre-season is all well and good, but as a fan, this feels the most unprepared we’ve been for a season in a long while. Myself, like everyone, expected more from this window so far and I have to admit I am disappointed with the squad we have ahead of the Watford game. It’s not that we’re any worse off than last season, I just expected us to be in an even better position than we were. However, not all hope is lost. Thanks to the gift of the internet, I’ve managed to conduct some research to make everyone feel better. See, it turns out that over the last decade or so, Liverpool have made several important signings of class players AFTER the season has started. So I thought a good way to start the week would be for us to all take a few deep breaths and remind ourselves at some of the decent signings we’ve made after the Premier League season has kicked off. We start by going right the way back to 2004. These days, anything pre-Istanbul feels like a long, long time ago, and some fans will argue it’s not relevant, but I think we can all make an exception for Xabi Alonso, who signed on the 20th August 2004- a full 6 days after the start of the 2004/05 season. As we all know, that Xabi chap turned into a pretty decent player, and it was crippling for us when he left for Real Madrid in 2009. For me, he’s the player who stands out most when we look back upon summer incomings after the season has begun in the seasons I can remember gone by. There are other candidates, but he left us with beautiful memories of fantastic goals vs Luton Town in the cup, and a beautiful long-range effort vs Newcastle at Anfield. He was so influential throughout the duration of his time in a Liverpool shirt; it’s baffling how we didn’t win more honours with himself and Gerrard in the middle of midfield. He and Gerrard formed a key aspect of the incredible spine we had from around 2007 until Alonso left, a period where we almost won the title and were consistently reaching later stages of the Champions League. I think that if it wasn’t for just how good United were under Ferguson in that era (particularly in those years), we would’ve won several league titles with that squad and Alonso may have stayed for a few more seasons. Ah well, wishful thinking at its finest. As a side-note, he was signed on the same day as Luis Garcia, who didn’t do a bad job either. Both players went on to play important roles in the successful Champions League campaign that season, including the ???ghost goal’ vs Chelsea for Garcia (I seem to remember him scoring a worldie vs Juventus in the quarters too) and the equaliser in the final for Alonso. All-in-all, not bad for 2 fellas signed in the dying days of the transfer window. Fast forward 2 years and we reach the signing of one of the most hard-working players the club has ever seen- Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman was signed on 18th August 2006, the opening weekend of the season that year. He totalled up a fine figure of 15,788 Premier League minutes over 6 years at Anfield (or 280 appearances if you’d prefer), scoring 71 goals and getting 40 assists over his 6 years. He’s remembered for some fine moments including the easiest hat-trick you’ll ever see vs Manchester United in 2011, and again is another European Cup final scorer, this time being a consolation goal in 2007, but they all count. He moved on eventually in 2012 and we all missed his work-rate dearly. Kuyt was a fantastic buy and again was part of that fantastic 2007-2010 squad I mentioned before. He was never a nailed-on first team starter but never complained about that. Bringing ourselves forward a fair few years, and to a perhaps slightly more controversial choice. Mamadou Sakho was signed on deadline day 2013 ahead of a very decent 2013/14 season. We’ve gotten to a bit of crossroads now with the Frenchman. It appears that he’s only staying put for the time-being as an emergency get-out clause in case the Virgil van Dijk deal isn’t pulled off, however some fans are arguing that he won’t be staying regardless of what happens in the Van Dijk department, it’s even been suggested that he could be used as bait to tempt Southampton into selling. Up until he was infamously suspended for taking a fat burner that was never even outlawed in the first place, I think his performances in a red shirt were more than enough to justify a little mention on this list. I for one would welcome a return for him into the squad but who knows whether or not he’s going to stay. We’ll know by the end of this transfer window. Alright, so with the rest I’m cheating slightly, but technically January is past the start of the season so we’ll just have to let it slide. Also, when doing this article, there was A LOT  more choice of decent players if I looked at the January transfer window, so low and behold, here we go. It’s 2011. Chelsea have just come and stolen Fernando Torres from right under our noses. That’s the season over, isn’t it? It’s the end of the world, isn’t it? NO! Because who does Kenny Dalglish go and pluck from the Dutch league? Luis Suarez! Perhaps the best striker I’ve seen in a Reds shirt. He moved on to Barcelona just 3 years later but what a wonderful 3 years the club and player had together. In 133 games he scored 82 goals and got 53 assists, which isn’t bad for replacing an ???irreplaceable’ striker, and for the bargain price of £23million. AND during that 3 years he got 2 separate long-term bans (although I’m aware we try to talk about those as little as possible) which meant he could’ve been even better during his time at the club. He actually helped us recover from what was proving to be a very difficult season. 2 weeks prior to his debut vs Stoke City, we sat 13th in the table, left in tatters by Roy Hodgson before he was sacked at the very beginning of that January transfer window. Would Roy have signed Suarez? Almost definitely not- the man was still investing faith in Christian Poulson and Milan Jovanovic. Again, fast forward another 2 years to the January of 2013. Another change of manager has taken place and we have Brendan Rodgers at the helm. Rodgers signs Daniel Sturridge and Phil Coutinho from Chelsea and Inter Milan respectively. Both players come in for absolute steals of transfer fees, for the use we’ve gotten out of them. Sturridge came with a £12million price tag, while Inter Milan (the mugs) sold us Coutinho for just £8million. Despite Sturridge’s injury problems, I think we can all agree that he has indeed justified the price we paid for him. The injuries have been a problem, but he’s still been directly involved with a goal on average every 99 minutes during his time at the club (either a goal or assist) and it was he who linked up with Suarez in the 2013/14 season to create a lethal front 2, getting us within touching distance for the title. As for Coutinho? Well, if he’s about to be moved on for £90million, an £82million profit, I think we can call that a pretty good buy whether he actually moves or not. In 181 appearances he has bagged 42 goals and 37 assists. Despite not completely transforming our season right upon arrival (much like Suarez and Sturridge did), Coutinho in the long-run has perhaps been one of our wisest investments. And we all know he’s here to stay, am I right? *sweats nervously* Now let’s compare this to Klopp’s spell at Dortmund. Now, this research might make for slightly uneasy reading given the dates of the majority of Klopp’s successful Dortmund signings.
Player Date
Nevan Subotic July 1st 2008
Mats Hummels July 1st 2009
Sven Bender July 1st 2009
Kevin Groβkreutz July 1st 2009
Robert Lewandowski July 1st 2010
Lukasz Piszczek July 1st 2010
Shinji Kagawa July 1st 2010
Mario Gotze Youth 2010
Ilkay Gundogan July 1st 2011
Marco Reus July 1st 2012
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang July 1st 2013
Henrikh Mkhitaryan July 9th 2013
Ciro Immobile July 1st 2014
Adrian Ramos July 1st 2014
Nuri Sahin July 1st 2014
Matthias Ginter July 14th 2014
Shinji Kagawa (resigned) August 31st 2014
I’ve come to the conclusions that there are several reasons for this comparison. There’s no denying that the market has of course changed since 2015. The inflation of prices has gone mental and there seems to be no stopping it. However, there are external factors at play for Klopp at Liverpool that I think is hindering his ability to get his business done as early as he likes. Klopp’s approach to the transfer window I believe has not changed. He reiterated his desire as soon as last season ended to get his dealings done as soon as he possibly could. And to his credit, he got those deals in motion all very quickly. The reason we’re all so bored with this transfer window is because the three main Liverpool incoming stories concerning Salah, Van Dijk and Keita, have all been in the picture for so long, because we got things in motion early on. We managed to tie Salah down but obviously the Van Dijk and Keita deals have been more difficult, and there are several factors in why that could be. The first big signing Klopp made at Dortmund was Nevan Subotic from Mainz for £4million. He pretty much brought the defender with him directly from his previous job when he made the move in 2008. Now hands up, who had heard of Jurgen Klopp in 2008? I hadn’t. The reputation and status in the game as a managerial figure had not been built yet, so there was a bit more freedom and less haggling from clubs when it came to bringing players in. However now, Klopp is a rather famous face, and he has an influential opinion. If one of the assets at your club draws interest from someone like Jurgen Klopp, there’s a sign there that you have a quality player and you can drive the price up. Speaking of famous faces (sort of): Liverpool Football Club. Despite the claims of some fans, we’re one of the biggest clubs in the world, bigger than Borussia Dortmund. Not only that, but being in the Premier League and having well-known American owners, we are perceived to have money. This is true. Compare this to Everton and their spending so far this summer. The only reason they were spending so much is because they knew a big payday for Lukaku was on its way, but they did their business the right way. They made their incoming signings first when it wasn’t clear to everyone else that they would eventually have the Lukaku money. If Lukaku had been sold for £75million on July 1st, the whole of Europe were going to know what sort of cash Everton had in the bank, and suddenly the ???value’ of players like Pickford from Sunderland and Klaassen from Ajax all go up by £10million or so. Why? Because the perception of Everton would’ve been that they have money to burn. We however have lots of money anyway, even without the potential sale of Coutinho, and clubs like Southampton know this. Is Virgil Van Dijk really worth £60million? Probably not. But from Southampton’s point of view, if we’re that desperate for him, we have that kind of money and will eventually pay it if we really think he’s value for that money. It’s a very similar stance to the one we’ve taken with Barcelona. Until Coutinho hands in a transfer request, we are in no position where we need to sell, so let’s just ask for £150million. They’ve just sold Neymar for £200million so we know they have the money, even though we know they’d have had the money anyway if they wanted to spend it. If they don’t think he’s worth it, they won’t pay it and all this will go away. But anyway, back to Klopp and his spending patterns. Despite his intentions to get his business done early, he’s now learning that being at a bigger club with more money does have its problems. It was Steven Gerrard who said recently that to compete in the Champions League, you need 2 top-class players in every position. Now Liverpool’s best starting XI is very good, it’s perhaps the best in the league if you take into account that we were unbeaten against the rest of the top 7 next season. It is the squad depth that we lack, and everyone knows that. However, to compete in the Champions League properly and also build a good squad depth, you need to be buying players that are good enough to slot directly into the starting XI, which at Liverpool, is a higher calibre of player than what Klopp was dealing with at Dortmund. Sure, eventually he had a world-class squad in 2013 after 5 years of slowly building towards it, but who has that kind of time? We need to be spending big and adding even more quality to our side right now if we want to build on last season. The issue is, there’s a much smaller pool of players to choose from in that category because of the quality we already have, and all the big clubs are in for them so half of them are unlikely to choose Liverpool whether we have Klopp or not. It’s either that, or players are already at the European elite clubs and will see Liverpool as a step backwards for them right now. This is leaving us in a bit of a limbo where we need to improve on players we already have in the XI, but only a select few of those good enough are actually realistic targets. Klopp has identified these standards of targets in this category but getting them brought in is clearly proving easier said than done, again, for reasons previously mentioned. He made a very good point in a recent press conference when discussing Liverpool’s need for a centre-back. “Look out there and tell me five that would make us stronger. Five. Then you win a prize. It’s difficult how it is.” And he’s right. Van Dijk is one, and we want to sign him, I think we’re going to sign him. Mats Hummels is another, as is Sergio Ramos, but with those players you’re reaching a category of player that simply wouldn’t come to Liverpool given the clubs they’re currently at. You could of course look at the players at our Premier League rivals, but why would someone like Tottenham sell us a player like Toby Alderweireld? Dream on. Again, drawing the comparison to Everton, the average standard of player at Liverpool is higher than at Everton. That’s not a dig or a poke at them, it’s just fact. Very few Everton players, if any at all, would get into the Liverpool team. Of course, this means that when they come to improving their first team, they have a much bigger selection of players to choose from because the standard isn’t as high as the Champions League clubs. If it was, they’d be in the Champions League. And this is all reflected in the signings they’re making. Wayne Rooney is a big name and a good signing for their squad, but is on the decline. Rivalries aside, Rooney would not be a starter in the Liverpool team now. The same for Klaassen from Ajax, the lad is good player, but is he going to start ahead of Coutinho or Lallana in the Liverpool squad? Most likely not. Jordan Pickford was a very good signing for them, and maybe he was a player that Liverpool/the rest of the top 6 would’ve looked into if they were in the market for a goalkeeper. As it happens, none of them were in the hunt for a goalkeeper except for Man City, who signed Ederson really early days in this window, even before the Pickford signing was a done deal. The point I’m trying to get across is that selection of players for Liverpool to invest in the market is becoming progressively smaller due to our aspirations for success. In 2/3 years, if we sustain Champions League football and start to win some honours, maybe then we start to ???unlock’ another higher category of players to sign- the Mats Hummels’ and Sergio Ramos’ of the world. But for now, we have to be patient with the fact that Klopp’s ideal way of approaching this transfer window hasn’t worked, perhaps because he never considered the factors that would come into play now that he is a bigger manager and at a bigger club in the world of football. I, like Klopp, and like most people, would much prefer it if all of our business was done by the beginning of the season, but the window isn’t shut until it actually closes on August 31st, and it for certain doesn’t shut on Friday when the Premier League finally kicks off. Let’s just wait with baited breath for the deadline to hit, and hope that we’ve made some more progress. Situations can change in our favour just as quickly as they’ve changed against us, as proven by the Van Dijk transfer request yesterday. I still have a funny feeling that this will turn out be a good transfer window for Liverpool.   By Ben Kelly    
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