Liverpool’s owners will be mindful of what took place in the past. They’ll be mindful of actions and transfer business conducted under their watch, and they’ll be aware of the mess that followed the club’s last tilt at the Premier League title in 2009.
Adam Lallana looks set to move on from Southampton this summer, and his club know a possible bidding war will help to enhance his eventual transfer fee, if it wasn’t already boosted by his good form throughout the season.
At first glance, the Southampton captain looks to be the ideal candidate to strengthen Liverpool’s midfield. He’s a versatile midfielder who has displayed a level of quality that is set to earn him a place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
Southampton hold all the cards on this one. As well as being an England international – which adds a few million to his asking price – Lallana’s club have no real need to sell. They can demand what they like for him, and in order to get the midfielder, Liverpool will reportedly have to shell out in the region of £20 million.
Liverpool were stung the last time they spent that sort of money on an England midfielder, with both Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing struggling at Anfield. The latter has since departed, but the former’s success this season under Brendan Rodgers doesn’t hide the fact that the initial reaction was that the club had wasted their money on the former Sunderland player.
There is certainly a strong case to say Liverpool should do their shopping abroad and make the most of their summer resources. Philippe Coutinho was a bargain at £8 million from Inter Milan, while the club narrowly missed out on Dnipro’s Yevhen Konoplyanka during the January window. The Ukrainian international’s fee may land in the same ball park as Lallana’s, but there’s more of a guarantee about him. He has European experience, he starred against England when both nations met, and he was part of the European Championship in 2012 which Ukraine co-hosted alongside Poland. It’s fair to say Konoplyanka has more going for him than Lallana to help improve Rodgers’ side.
It’s a risky move, but perhaps the ideal scenario for Liverpool is that they wait until after the World Cup and attempt to gauge whether Lallana is indeed cut out for a move up the Premier League ladder. If he proves to be a success against, say, the Italians then the club will have a better understanding about his ability against world-class opposition.
The problems are clear, though. A good World Cup could see Lallana’s fee further inflated, but at the same time he may not have a good tournament at all. As we’ve seen, England players crumble mentally when faced with the task of performing at international tournaments.
There just isn’t enough to go on as to whether Lallana is a justified purchase. If we’re talking a low-money transfer that won’t come back to haunt the club, then it’s a different matter. But we’re looking at a player who’s 26 and only has two years of experience in the Premier League, with the current being his real standout campaign.
Liverpool have been hit-and-miss with their purchases over the past few windows. Daniel Sturridge, another England international with a fairly high fee, has been a categorical success. Then you have players like Iago Aspas and Mamadou Sakho. The Spaniard looks set to be sold this summer after a disappointing season, while the jury is still out on the Frenchman. But that’s certainly not a good thing when reminded that his transfer cost the club close to £20 million as well.
Are Liverpool on the brink of repeating the mistakes they made in 2011 with high-priced England internationals? This summer will dictate how well the team do next season. They have a good team, but the squad is far from able to withstand the increased fixture schedule.
Adam Lallana is a risk at £20 million that Liverpool can’t afford to make. What is absolutely certain is that Lallana won’t turn this team into sure-fire title winners next season where others can’t. The wider market open to Liverpool gives them more to choose from across Europe – forwards like Kevin Volland spring to mind. It doesn’t need explaining that £20 million can get you much more on the continent than it can in the Premier League.