The big transfer news from Liverpool ’s POV on Friday was the supposed phone call that Kenny Dalglish had made to Palace regarding Wifried Zaha. It had been rumoured for a couple of weeks that Liverpool had shown a tentative interest but with the news on Friday morning it would appear that the Liverpool manager was making a firm approach for the England U21 International.
I would be the first to admit that I know little of the player or his ability but I have heard positive things about him and that much is the promising aspect of the possible deal. The downside for me – as always, with British players – is the price. £10 million for a 19 year old with 2 U21 caps and less than 75 games in England’s 2nd tier does not represent good value for me. It is the same price that Demba Ba apparently has written in to his contract; it is more than Liverpool paid for Pepe Reina, Jose Enrique, Dan Agger, Martin Skrtel, Lucas, Charlie Adam , Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez. There is no doubt he has potential but we are paying a premium now for a player that might be good in the future, because you can guarantee he won’t go straight in to the first team. When you look around, there is any number of proven players – particularly abroad – that are available for little more than this that could make an immediate impact and in case the board and coaching staff haven’t noticed, with our players being banned left and right and dropping like flies, immediate impact would be more beneficial to us at the moment.
It is rumoured that we’re looking to sign Zaha as a striker, or at least a forward, as opposed to a winger. Which, given his 6 goals in 74 games for Palace, is a little concerning. Don’t get me wrong, if Zaha could be signed for £5 million or less, I would have no complaints. I am however utterly loathed to hand out so much money for a rough diamond, particularly one that is completely unproven in the position we’re apparently looking to fit him in to.
Another aspect of this is the amount we’ve paid for relatively unproven Premier League players, such as Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson . Both have had small success before joining Liverpool but neither warranted the massive £51 million we paid for the two and neither have done much to justify the fee since they joined us. It is fair to say that players require time, particularly young ones. I was one of Lucas’s biggest supporters from the minute he joined and I was always imploring others to ‘just give him time’ because I could see something in him. I’ve heard others say the same of Carroll and Henderson, so I am prepared to give them both at least another 12 months to start showing something other than promise. But with the news of our solid interest in Zaha, you have to wonder whether we’re looking to build a team whose only attribute is just that: promise. You can’t win the league with potential and you can’t win cups either.
Liverpool won a chess match against Manchester City on Wednesday night and the key to that win was experience, which the side Liverpool had on the field had in abundance. People these days laugh at Alan Hansen’s comments in the 90’s that ‘you can’t win anything with kids’ and point to United’s success with the likes of Beckham, Scholes, Giggs and the Neville’s. What people like to forget is that that team was based on the foundation of Schmeichel, Bruce, Irwin, Pallister and Keane. The also had Andy Cole and Eric Cantona, both of whom played more than 30 games in that particular title-winning season. So, in effect, Hansen has still not been proven wrong: you will never win anything with kids. Unless, of course, they are complimented with experience.
I can understand that we are investing in the future and I can only get behind that ideology but given that we’ve only signed one outfield player over the age of 26 so far under Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli (Bellamy doesn’t count, he was for free), from a total of 10 made in 2011, there is a worrying trend starting to show. You also have to worry about Kenny Dalglish’s future too because while NESV/FSG appear to be right behind the ‘youth first’ policy, they are also expecting success. With the money spent already, I can only imagine they will be extremely disappointed should we fail to qualify for the Champions League. And with another possible £10 million spent on more potential in this window, they may begin to wonder where their money is going.
I am not against signing players with potential, not in the slightest, I am all for it. However, that needs to be balanced out with signings of genuine, tangible quality now because success breeds success and if these young players we’re signing are around a squad that is failing year on year because of a lack of investment in experienced, talented players they are only going to suffer for it. And so will we. You also have to ask the question: if we are adamant that youth is the way forward, then why are we seeing glowing right-ups of Conor Coady, Raheem Sterling and Suso and then seeing nothing of them? And these players are not far off the age of Zaha and are probably better prepared for Premier League football, having trained and been primed at a top club.
If only we could look in to a crystal ball and see the future, we might know better whether the prices we’re willing to pay for these players is truly worth it, or whether we’re going to be rueing all of these expensive English signings for years to come.
Article courtesyof David Tryer from Live4Liverpool