A £22m transfer steal for Liverpool?
Liverpool’s transfer dealings in recent years have quite rightly come under considerable scrutiny. The highly-publicised example has been Andy Carroll, whose £35million move from Newcastle in January 2011 has to no surprise been a huge failure, with the England forward exiled to Upton Park on a season-long loan where his performances have been good but still yet to recapture his successes during the Magpies’ campaign amid their return to the Premier League.
But Carroll’s move was just the tip of the ice-berg during an era of irresponsible spending and contract offers under former Liverpool managers Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish as well as Sporting Director Damien Comolli. The French scout was also responsible for some of the Reds’ worst transfer dealings, including Stewart Downing’s £20million move from Aston Villa, despite just recording just nine goals and ten assists during his time at Villa Park, and failing to score or create a goal in his first 44 Premier League appearances for the Anfield club.
But out of the long list of transfer faux pas at Liverpool, which include Paul Konchesky, Charlie Adam, Joe Cole, Robbie Keane and more recently Fabio Borini and Jordan Henderson, has emerged a rare gem.
Luis Suarez, bought for £22million from Ajax back in 2011 is proving to be the club’s smartest piece of business since the signing of Fernando Torres for a similar price. The Uruguayan international has been setting the Premier League alight this season, with 21 goals and four assists in 27 domestic appearances, and at times he’s been a saving grace for Brendan Rodgers during his inaugural campaign.
At first glance, and certainly at the time, £22million appeared to be a fair price for a striker who had a prolific record in the Eredivise, and had a decent if rather uninspiring goal tally in his first 18 months in England. But this season, upon reflection, the Uruguayan’s price-tag is looking more and more like an absolute steal.
Compare his record with some of the recent deals in the English market, and it becomes obvious of just how solid the £22million investment truly has been. Sergio Aguero for example, cost Manchester City £38million, which broke the club’s record transfer spend back in summer 2011.
Although I would still argue its money well spent, considering the Argentine international helped the club lift the Premier League title in his first season, Liverpool have managed to acquire a striker for £16million less that looks set to match Aguero’s goal tally from last year, if not improve upon it, leading to rumours at the start of the season speculating a move regarding Suarez to the blue side of Manchester. Furthermore, Suarez has the possibility in his next ten games to equal Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler’s record of 28 goals in a single season.
Even looking at less high profile signings, it is clear to see that it was money well spent. Aston Villa forked out £18million for Darren Bent a few years ago, which could potentially rise to £24million, despite the former England international being half the player that Suarez has proven to be.
Similarly, Sunderland had to spend £16million to bring in Steven Fletcher, even though the forward’s final standing for a Premier League season has been just 12 goals. And of course, the move that was the prologue for Suarez’s move to Anfield; the £50million wasted by Chelsea on former Liverpool star Fernando Torres.
The problem I have with the majority of Liverpool’s recent transfers is that compared to their initial fees, the players have no real resale value. I recently wrote an article discussing this issue, which was received by comments arguing the contrary. One Liverpool fan argued that Stewart Downing could be sold on for around £6million, and Andy Carroll £12million -the latter being a rather optimistic estimate in my opinion – but is the collective £18million really an acceptable return on the English pairing that cost an overall of £55million, that have scored just six goals between them in two years at the club?
However, the same cannot be said for Suarez, who is reportedly a transfer target for almost every European elite club, most notably Bayern Munich and Manchester City, with prices ranging from £40million to £50million – not a bad profit for a striker who all in all has had one exceptional season for Liverpool.
And although Liverpool fans may not wish to admit it, selling their controversial figure may become a real possibility in the summer. It is clear to see that Suarez enjoys being at Anfield; he often plays with a cheeky grin as he hassles opposition defenders by nipping at their ankles, and there is no doubt he responds positively to the ever-in-song Kop faithful.
But he is 26 years old and must always have his career in mind. Champions League football is surely his number one priority, and although he will give his all this season to help Liverpool return to the promised land of Europe’s top club competition, should they fail to mount a successful late surge for fourth place he will have some difficult decisions to make in the next transfer window.
However, should the Liverpool talisman leave, the blame should not be placed on him. It would be wrong to brand Suarez as a traitor or a Judas. If the club are forced to sell, should an offer come in that cannot be refused, it will be due to the club’s other poor acquisitions that over time have depreciated the value of the team and lead to the Reds shifting from being outside title contenders and Champions League regulars to a mid-table side.
Although the Uraguayan’s departure would be a tough pill to swallow for Liverpool fans, and it would be a shame to see him move abroad as he has been one of the cornerstones of the Premier League this season, there is a silver lining. His potential £50million fee, of which over half would be no-strings attached profit, could be exactly the type of investment required to return the Anfield club to their past glories.
The Reds have a lot of promising youngsters on their books, and recently signed Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho – two rather smart pieces of business. If the Suarez transfer kitty can be put to equally good use, Brendan Rodgers would have the freedom to build on the solid base he has formed this season and further improve upon it by bringing in players that fit the style he wishes to create and institutionalise at Liverpool. Of course, it will be viewed by many as a step in the wrong direction, but sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward.