Liverpool may have made two relatively major signings in 26-year-old Adam Lallana and 25-year-old Dejan Lovren, both combining for a fee of £45 million. But the club’s transfer business will once again be defined by their youthful acquisitions.
At a similarly high price, Lazar Markovic is one for the future but by far Liverpool’s most exciting signing this summer. His explosiveness in the final third and versatility means the Serb has a bright career ahead of him at Anfield, and his signing has followed the theme set by Brendan Rodgers’ arrival as club manager back in 2012.
Another exciting, yet-to-be-concluded signing comes in the form of Javier Manquillo, who Atletico Madrid have surprisingly agreed to move on at this time.
The young right-back comes with very little experience but a tremendous amount of upside. This is very much the kind of signing Liverpool are looking to as a means to build the base of their squad for the coming years.
And it’s all win-win for Rodgers on this one. Manquillo is a strong worker in his own half of the pitch but may not be ready yet to be the team’s first-choice right-back. If recent reports are accurate, the club will loan him for two seasons from the Spanish champions, allowing him to adjust to life in England and work as Glen Johnson’s understudy, by which point he should have surpassed the England international and Liverpool can make his transfer permanent with an agreed-upon £6 million fee.
There has been a lot said about the club’s signing of Lallana – that price for a 26-year-old with only two seasons in the Premier League has been roundly deemed as too great – and Southampton have similarly benefited on the sale of Lovren, whose reputation has been significantly enhanced after one season in English football, seeing his value more than double. But regardless of whether those two players in particular are hits or misses, there should be far more emphasis on what Liverpool are doing with their signings that indicate a strong eye towards the future.
Emre Can is another who should feature prominently this season for the club. It should also be a season in which we get an idea of what the former Bayern Munich player’s best position is at Anfield. His was another low-risk signing from Bayer Leverkusen, with Liverpool only parting with £9.75 million to land his services.
All over the pitch we’re seeing trust placed in youth, either those brought up within the club or those signed from elsewhere. Raheem Sterling and Coutinho will be regulars in the team once again this season; Jon Flanagan has had a promising season and could be a starter on either defensive flank; and Daniel Sturridge, though soon to turn 25, is a player who can develop even further.
It doesn’t have to be a policy labelled as bargain hunting. Yes, Sturridge, Can and Coutinho, and now with the targeting of Manquillo, have all been brought in for very reasonable prices, but Liverpool are simply proving that there is another way to build a strong side. Going for a ‘youth project’ can be hit or miss, but what is happening at Anfield is very much shaping up to be the former. Already there has been so much importance placed on Sturridge and Sterling at international level.
Rather than supplementing their squad with youth, Liverpool are doing the reverse. Adam Lallana, as an example, certainly won’t be the sole difference in whether Liverpool reach their targets for the coming season.
Whatever limitations they may have – whether it’s financially competing with the wealthiest names across Europe, or near-guaranteeing silverware – Liverpool are having to more or less build from the bottom up. As we’ve seen with Markovic’s signing, they can spend big when the opportunity arises, but the former Benfica forward isn’t the finished product yet and the club will lean on Rodgers’ coaching qualities to round out the final years of these players’ footballing education.
Liverpool have struck a very smart way of moving on from their recent obscurity in the league while also building for the future. Manquillo is yet another reminder of that, and with so much upside in the young Spaniard and his fellow new arrivals, it is certainly not a poor policy to advocate.