Liverpool knew that they were going to lose Philippe Coutinho.
They knew that Barcelona were interested and that the player wanted to go. They knew that the money was ridiculous – though perhaps in this market that was to be expected – and that it would be hard to turn down. And they also knew that these days it’s futile to stop a player from leaving when his heart is set on it. It is simply ill-advised, especially when poor performances would see his value drop.
Losing him, too, is a little easier to swallow when you still have a front three to put fear into the hearts of most teams in world football. Even sweeter when you add the transfer of Virgil van Dijk into the equation – a vital defensive addition turned instant hero. Barcelona have made Liverpool’s attack worse off, but their defence has certainly been improved.
But over the last week or so, the transfer news that speaks the most about Liverpool’s unenvious position is the one which has Emre Can thinking very seriously about joining Juventus.
He’s not the player Coutinho is. He’s not an attacking force, nor would he be sold for over £100m. But it’s not so much losing him that’s the problem, more that reports are claiming that Jurgen Klopp hasn’t actually given up hope of keeping him. Losing him might not be the worst thing that could happen. But if he goes even if Liverpool want to keep him, that poses a bigger question.
A club with the history and prestige of Liverpool will always see itself as an apex predator, not one whose best players leave. But as even Barcelona showed in the last transfer window, sometimes players just want to leave, and when they do you can be powerless to stop them.
Can is still young, though he should be able to hold a place in the team by now, and he is a versatile player. He’s useful, and Liverpool could certainly be doing with keeping him. But the Reds shouldn’t be in a position where he wants to leave.
For a team who should be at the top of the food chain, they are still taking some stick from rival fans who are gleeful at having the chance to call the Reds a selling club: with Coutinho having left, and the likes of Luis Suarez and Javier Mascherano having gone to Barcelona at various points over the last few seasons, Liverpool you can see why the charge might be levelled.
And yet, under Klopp, results may not seem to have changed much since the Brendan Rodgers era, but the team has certainly improved. Liverpool have qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time since Rafael Benitez was the manager, and they currently occupy a top four spot. Indeed, in the German manager’s first season in charge, the team even made it to two cup finals.
The record might need dressed up a little bit in order to look good, but that doesn’t mean to say that Liverpool shouldn’t be an attractive place to play football.
If Can leaves for Juventus, Liverpool will be able to replace him. There’s no doubt that he’s not that vital, and it wouldn’t be like losing Mohamed Salah just months after losing Coutinho. But it might point to a failing within the club to present the return to cup finals and to the Champions League knockout stages as a return of the Anfield club to the European elite.
And so losing him might be a worrying precedent for Liverpool to set.