Three different owners, four different managers over the course of five seasons, but one common thread binds them all these random numbers together – how truly rotten Liverpool’s transfer record has been in recent times – just how many successes has the club had since 2008-9?
Including this summer’s lone purchase of Fabio Borini, Liverpool have spent £221.8m on 36 different players since 2007/8 – I use that as a cut-off point as that summer, the club did some fabulous business, bringing in the likes of Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Martin Skrtel which led to the club’s title challenge a year later in 2008-9, where they narrowly missed out courtesy of two late strikes from Old Trafford’s forgotten man, Federico Macheda.
In 2008-9, the club signed Robbie Keane, Andrea Dossena, Albert Riera, David N’Gog and Diego Cavalieri, while Phillip Degen came in on a free transfer. The Irish striker was sold back at a loss of £7m just six months later to Tottenham, while Dossena, a memorable goal in the 4-1 demolition of Manchester United aside, made just 18 league appearances before returning to Italy with Napoli, with the club having made a loss of £2.5m.
Brazilian goalkeeper Cavalieri was signed for £3.5m from Palmeiras and then sold off Cesana for just £1m two years later, making a mockery of the fee forked out for him, seeing as he was never realistically going to dislodge Pepe Reina as the club’s number one, while Riera, after a bright start, faded badly after falling out with Rafael Benitez and was sold off to Greek side Olympiacos at a loss of £3m.
N’Gog may have come in for a lot of stick at the time and he was far from being good enough, but the club did at least make a profit of £2.5m on him after flogging him to Bolton and his goalscoring record, considering the majority of his appearances were made from the bench, wasn’t that bad.
Moving on to 2009-10 and Alberto Aquilani, Glen Johnson, Maxi Rodriguez and Sotirios Kyrgiakos were the players to walk through the gates at Anfield. Johnson may have his detractors still, but considering the club didn’t have to pay the full fee, after being owed some of the money by Portsmouth for the transfer of Peter Crouch still (a sign of things to come), which was immediately written off, the deal was more like in the region of £13m, which considering that it’s tied the position down for the past three seasons and more to come, seems a reasonable price and he’s criminally underrated if you ask me. Both Krygiakos and Maxi were signed with squad positions in mind and considering the relatively small outlay, they can be deemed as successes, but hardly huge ones.
Aquilani cost a great deal, at £17m from Roma that summer, with Benitez opting for the Italian on the advice of head scout Eduardo Macia, who is coincidentally now in a similar role at Fiorentina, the club Aquilani has just moved to. The move will go down as one of the greatest ‘what if’s’ in recent history. He was deemed good enough to play for both Juventus and AC Milan on loan, but not to force his way ahead of Charlie Adam, Christian Poulsen and Jay Spearing by Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish.
A knee injury may have interrupted his first season, but when fit, he looked like he had the potential to be a key player. The fee never got up to the £20m factored in for add-ons seeing as he barely played for the club, but it appears as he’s been sacrificed for as little as £7m this summer as Brendan Rodgers continues his pursuit of both Joe Allen and Clint Dempsey. It’s extremely harsh to label him as a ‘flop’, because if we’re honest, he never really got a fair crack of the whip, but due to a combination of mis-management and injury, the club still took a significant hit on him financially.
Roy Hodgson’s transfer record at Liverpool was supremely rotten, with Joe Cole, Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen all flopping. Jonjo Shelvey was a deal tied up by Benitez prior to his departure and while he hasn’t flourished quite yet, the signs are there that he could force his way into the first-team over the next season or two.
Raul Meireles is a player that few shed a tear for when he left for Chelsea, with the club having made a marginal profit on him – aside from a great run which saw him notch five goals in six games as part of the Dalglish resurgence in the second half of 2010-11, for the most part, he flattered to deceive, lacking any sort of real role in the side and frequently getting bullied out of games – he’s failed to win over the Stamford Bridge faithful since too for similar reasons.
Now, this is where it gets tricky. The club spent the huge amount of £58m on a brand new strike-force in the January transfer window in 2010-11 on Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, having sold both Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel to raise the money. Suarez has been an unqualified success on the pitch, but his penchant for controversy has seen the club radically altered since, while Carroll has struggled for both form and fitness after his record-breaking move to the club – of course, this isn’t to say that Carroll may not be a success at Anfield in the future, he certainly has the potential to be, and on form, he can be absolutely brutal, but he doesn’t look to have much of a long-term future under Rodgers at the moment and they’ll be fortunate to get over half of what they paid for him just 18 months ago now.
Kenny Dalglish was sacked in the summer after a whole swathe of players he signed in the summer of 2011/12, with the help of Damien Comolli, failed to perform or live up to expectations. Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson all had pretty rank seasons last year as the side slumped to an eighth-place finish. Jose Enrique was consistent, but faded terribly towards the end of the campaign, as did Craig Bellamy – you’d class them both as successes, but again, hardly huge ones, with Bellamy set to leave this summer amidst concern over his wages and injury-proneness, even if Jose Enrique does represent a sound long-term signing. Uruguay centre-half Sebastian Coates hasn’t quite adapted to the demands of the league yet, but his pedigree does promise more for the future.
Borini arrived from Roma this summer making him Brendan Rodgers first signing in charge of the club, costing £10m despite making just 46 first-team appearances in his career to date. The club’s sheer inability to negotiate itself a fair deal is laughably poor and Roma paid nearly £3m less for him just a few months earlier, after first buying 50% of his ownership rights, then the full lot before Liverpool moved for him and he represents something of a gamble given the outlay.
Out of the 36 players that the club have signed in the past five seasons, I’d go as far as to say that only Luis Suarez could be considered a resounding success for the impact that he’s had on the team, with the likes of Glen Johnson, Jonjo Shelvey, Jose Enrique, Sebastian Coates and Jordan Henderson providing decent value over time and some potential to keep a close eye on for the future. The majority of the rest of those deals can’t be considered anything more than huge flops.
The changes in management hasn’t helped matters, as the club has lacked a clear and coherent direction for quite some time now. Flawed transfers are almost part and parcel of being a Liverpool fan in the modern era, but the hit rate, even by their ropey standards, has dried up noticeably of late. You suspect that Rodgers is not quite done in the transfer market this summer, but he’ll have to improve a truly shoddy record, which at times, has cost the club huge amounts of money on fees and wages in the process.
It’s often perceived that after FSG bought the club, that Liverpool have spent heavily in the transfer market to little success, but when you take a closer look at their transfer activity, it’s all part of a wider, long trend. The lack of competitiveness from the side can be directly linked and partly attributed to their failures in the transfer market; the pressure is on for a change in approach and a higher hit rate, otherwise the club may continue to slide further from the pinnacle of the English game.
You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1