Liverpool's transfer policy

Posted by guest on December 28, 2012, 08:53:10 PM

With Christmas not too distant in the rearview mirror, it is easy to recoil in horror at those stressful hours spent searching for presents. Endless rows of toys, clothes and gadgets; each item bringing varying degrees of unbridled joy, acute disappointment or vague disinterest.

But imagine if the search was narrowed down and the clothes simply had to be blue. The search would be far less strenuous, but while the best blue clothes would be placed under the Christmas tree, perhaps there were better items in red, yellow or green left in the store.

This is essentially the dilemma Liverpool face as they prepare for the January transfer window. A simplistic analogy, yes, but then it appears to be a fairly simple transfer policy. Ignore the hand-wringing and brow-furrowing over Moneyball and Soccernomics, it is far simpler than that: Liverpool want young players with potential, and they won’t pay a penny more – to club or player – than they think the deal warrants.

That policy explains their January targets. Daniel Sturridge (pictured), 23, is out of favour at Chelsea, and would not command a massive fee; 20-year-old Tom Ince left Liverpool in 2011, and, due to the sell-on clause the Reds agreed with Blackpool, is available to them with a 30 per cent discount; Theo Walcott has six months remaining on his contract, making him an attractive prospect, especially at 23.

On the surface it is a noble thought, and one that could benefit the club; it is also one that would have saved the club the shattering summer of 2011, when Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson followed the lead of Andy Carroll by arriving for grossly inflated fees.

By buying youngsters, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers can mould them into the type of player he wants. It also means any failures can be sold for a minimal loss, while successes can be sold for profit to be reinvested into the team.

It is a policy that has served a number of clubs well. Fenway Sports Group were interested in Barcelona’s model of 2003, when the club removed the old guard and replaced them with purchases such as Ronaldinho, Deco, Ricardo Quaresma, Rafael Márquez and Ludovic Giuly – all of whom either came with much-hyped potential or their best years rapidly approaching. Youngsters such as Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Victor Valdes were also promoted.

It has worked in England, too. Though Arsène Wenger has recently faced criticism for Arsenal’s performances, how Liverpool fans wish they were three points from Champions League qualification with a game in hand, watching football in a 60,000-seater stadium with money to reinvest into the squad.

But as Liverpool line up Sturridge and Ince in January, a lingering feeling persists: is this the best the club can do? In theory, both players are what the club need: they exude confidence, have an eye for goal and possess the skill to make darting runs into the penalty area. For a team whose wide options include one-goal Raheem Sterling, defender-by-trade José Enrique and missing-in-action Oussama Assaidi, the arrival of the duo would be welcome.

They tick the boxes put in place by the club, no doubt. But this narrow-minded recruitment policy means there could be better elsewhere. The notion of buying young and finding value is one to be applauded, but Liverpool are currently 10th in the Premier League. Their platform is not a strong one to build upon. That is not to say a side containing Luis Suárez, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson is a poor one, but players of that quality may get restless if short-to-mid-term plans do not match long-term promises.

The majority of Liverpool’s best players are either hitting their peak or waving it goodbye in the distance. The fact Suárez has never truly covered the Champions League in his magic dust is borderline criminal; Ince and Sturridge may help take Liverpool there eventually, but Suárez could be 28 by that time. He could also be playing in Spain or Italy.

The calls for patience surrounding Rodgers’ rebuilding of Liverpool are correct; whether the players listen to it as intently as the fans is another matter. The club should keep that close to their minds when recruiting. Liverpool are in a strange position, as their history gives them a pulling power that overrides their current midtable status. They need every advantage possible right now. To focus on one particular group of players will hinder as much as help.

History says this is so. For example, at 26 Willem II’s Sami Hyypia may have been regarded as too old for the new Liverpool; ditto Barcelona forward Luis Garcia. Both improved the club’s immediately, Hyypia’s defensive qualities and Garcia’s goals bringing Liverpool success home and abroad.

This current Liverpool team needs that injection of quality more than most. While Sturridge and Ince could improve the team, there should be efforts to find players who can do much more, much sooner. Rodgers, the squad’s star performers and the supporters deserve it.

The transfer policy is a risk, and it is being taken at a club where risks very rarely pay off. They should hope the trend breaks and it does work, otherwise midtable purgatory – or worse – could be a reality for some time.


View Comments | Post Comment