Following Luis Suarez’s third biting escapade in the space of four years – an incident so shocking and diplomatically debasing that few would have been surprised if UN peacekeepers were brought in to secure a ten-metre safety parameter around the Uruguayan cannibal at all times – Liverpool have decided the time is right to cash-in on the striker, before his seemingly uncontrollable teeth-first psychosis causes the club further harm.
Unsurprisingly, suitors weren’t hard to come by, despite Suarez being handed a four-month ban from all footballing activities by FIFA as images of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder, bite marks and all, were projected around the world. Potential fees have proved no issue either; Barcelona are amid the third day of negotiations at Anfield, but murmurings thus far suggest the controversial forward’s £80million release clause will be met. The only debate is whether Alexis Sanchez can somehow be weaved into the deal.
And Liverpool appear to have already delved into the Suarez fund, having wrapped up deals for Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Emre Can despite the transfer window only officially opening on Tuesday. It’s rumoured that a deal for Southampton’s Dejan Lovren is just around the corner.
Yet suddenly it feels like groundhog day on Merseyside. Cashing in on a world-class striker and investing the dough into a mixture of Premier League-proven and home-grown talents? Hasn’t this chain of events taken place before? Or are we all caught in a rapture of de ja vu? Is this the Matrix? Is Luis Suarez ‘The One’?
Enter dream sequence January 2011. After holding off suitors for several transfer windows, Liverpool finally succumbed to pressure from Chelsea and allowed Anfield icon Fernando Torres to leave for west London in a £50million deal.
Then-manager Kenny Dalglish, a throwback to simpler and more glorious times on Merseyside, saw fit to reinvest the Torres bounty in a number of up-and-coming British talents. Andy Carroll immediately arrived as a direct (direct, get it!) replacement, and he was followed in the summer by Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam.
Of all four, only Jordan Henderson has proved a worthwhile acquisition, and much of that can be accredited to his rapid development under Brendan Rodgers this season.The other three saw out two years at Anfield before being swiftly moved on at bargain rates.
But in many senses, the fates of Liverpool’s flopped British contingent are neither here nor there. I’m not suggesting, purely through the superficial fact of their nationalities, that Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert will go on to endure a paralleled status of detest and disappointment at Anfield.
But my prevailing concern is price-tag, specifically in regards to Lallana. Carroll, Downing, Henderson and Adam came to a combined cost of around £80million – the Reds learned the hard way that buying British, as commendable to some as that tactic may seem, rarely justifies itself financially.
Don’t get me wrong, the details are significantly different this time. Unlike Dalglish, Rodgers hasn’t made it his mission to rebuild the Liverpool identity around a batch of home-grown talents – Liverpool’s impressive crop of young Englishmen, Raheem Sterling, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge, are already doing that for him. Likewise, the £6million capture of Rickie Lambert, despite being on the wrong side of 30, strikes excellent value for money.
Adam Lallana on the other hand, in my opinion is a bad deal. On paper, the Southampton midfielder is perfect for Liverpool. Not only does he fit Rodgers’ self-imposed remit of ‘multipurpose signings’ but the 26 year-old’s direct fluidity supremely encapsulates the Reds’ intoxicating, free-scoring brand of football from last season. Also hailed as the lynch-pin behind the Saints’ much-praised high-pressing game, Lallana could even improve Liverpool’s tenacity and shape off the ball.
But £25million is a lot of money – it’s £5million more than the Anfield outfit forked out for Downing, which alone is quite a poignant statement. It’s long forgotten that the winger once claimed seven goals and nine assists in his final season at Aston Villa. Would it be so strange and unforeseen if Adam Lallana were to suffer a similar sharp change in fortunes upon joining the Anfield ranks? Furthermore, the midfielder’s best position, No.10, is currently occupied by two of Liverpool’s most impressive youngsters, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho. Bearing both factors in mind, the weight of Lallana’s price-tag could soon prove overwhelming.
So are we caught in a time-warp back to January 2011? Despite the similarities, perhaps not. But in regards to Liverpool’s £25million swoop for the Southampton star, in my opinion, Brendan Rodgers has failed to learn the lessons of his predecessor. Home-grown players come with huge price-tags and subsequently huge expectations, and although Lallana is a very good player, he’s not good enough to be worth the gamble.