The summer transfer window is a chance to witness football at its profligate best, or worst, depending on your attitude to the modern game. And in the cold light of the morning after the night before, with the nauseating, profane sums of money shining from our television screens late at night still freshly seared in the back of our minds, now is often the time for football fans to engage in the familiar debate of which teams have spent their money wisely, and which teams haven’t.
Liverpool find themselves runners-up once again, this time in the money league table, having spent in excess of £100million on no fewer than nine players. This gargantuan splurge on a near-complete new XI was mainly bankrolled by the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for £75m, which immediately drew comparisons with Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer dealings last summer.
By selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world-record £85m, the Lilywhites proceeded to spend heavily themselves, breaking the club record twice in the same window on Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela. What followed was a season of tedious disappointment at first under Andre Villas Boas, given his marching orders following a 5-0 home drubbing by Liverpool, and subsequently a more exciting, attacking brand of disappointment as Tim Sherwood dragged Spurs across the line for a sixth place finish. With Sherwood also losing his job at the end of the season, the general consensus was that Tottenham had been unable to get over the Bale break-up; being dumped by a superstar, it seemed, was too much for the club to take.
And so the stage is set for Liverpool to make the step up from understudy to leading role as this season’s side who fails to cope with the loss of a loved one. Luis Suarez, revered by the Anfield faithful despite his occasionally deplorable behaviour, proved emphatically last season that he belongs in the world-class category of footballer. His 31 league goals in 33 games took the Reds to the brink of the Premier League title, with the Uruguayan being rewarded for his show-stopping performances by being voted as both PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year. Without the buck-toothed menace to score goals for fun, a recurring belief this season amongst football fans and experts alike is that Liverpool will be unable to sustain a title challenge in the manner they did last season.
Enter Brendan Rodgers, Anfield’s great white hope. To claim that Liverpool are doomed without Suarez would be to completely ignore the fact that the man from Northern Ireland, much like the Uruguayan, is a supremely talented individual. Though Suarez played a large part in Liverpool’s success last season, it is ultimately down to Rodgers’ tactical fluidity and foresight – dexterously rearranging his formation depending on the opposition from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3, not to forget the occasional flirtation with a diamond 4-4-2 – that the forward was able to thrive. In danger of being ensnared by his impressive figures last season, it must be remembered that Suarez wasn’t exactly prolific in his first two season at Anfield, scoring an unspectacular 15 league goals from 44 games. Rodgers’ arrival as manager for the 2012/13 season and Suarez embarking on a two-year purple patch was no mere coincidence.
The Liverpool manager is a man who is equally as astute with his chequebook as he is with his tactics board, which further debunks the idea that the Reds will ‘do a Tottenham’, the phrase du jour for a club unable to put money earned on the sale of a player to good use. His £8.5 million purchase of Philippe Coutinho and the £12 million spent on Daniel Sturridge have proven to be ludicrously good deals, and his recent acquisition of Italian international and multiple Serie A winner Mario Balotelli for £16m is an undeniable bargain.
Rodgers often stresses the importance of the team coming before the individual at all times – a line he has had to repeat ad nauseum due to the media-led circus surrounding Balotelli’s arrival – and the way in which he has invested the Suarez money has given his Liverpool side an assured strength in depth which was glaringly absent last season. A well thought-out balance of proven Premier League players in Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana and exciting young talent in Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno will ensure that the Reds cope with the demands of domestic and European duties. Suarez alone, for all his brilliance, could not address the thinness of Liverpool’s squad with his goals.
The ruthless confidence Liverpool possessed last season has not been lost with the departure of Suarez. Through careful, measured planning of life without the Uruguayan – spearheaded by Rodgers – Liverpool will ensure that they do not befall the same fate as the team they trounced at White Hart Lane on Sunday.