Shrewd business or hands tied at Liverpool?

Brendan Rodgers

Football is hardly ever black and white. Liverpool’s comparatively small spend this summer cannot simply be construed as Brendan Rodgers working with one arm tied behind his back, but rather due to the circumstances necessitating the purchases the club have made thus far.

The fact that Liverpool are being heavily linked with a move for Diego Costa says as much. The Atletico Madrid forward will reportedly cost upward of £20million and will probably be seen as the like-for-like replacement for Luis Suarez should the Uruguayan leave. If a player is on the table and is directly available to Liverpool, the signs seem to point to their openness to make a move.

But some applause, please, for Liverpool knuckling down and finding value for money in the market. £20 million can either get you a Stewart Downing, or a fraction of that price will bag you Iago Aspas with change left over for a new, Premier League-ready goalkeeper in Simon Mignolet. If Liverpool had the capacity to draw in even bigger names, isn’t it likely the ownership would sanction them? But Liverpool don’t have Champions League football on offer, they’re not a title contender, they don’t pay the highest wages, and when competing with traditional and recent powers on the continent, all of those factors come into consideration for players. There is no time for long-term building when instant success is on the table for players elsewhere.

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This could have been much worse for Liverpool. The club could have sat back and just accepted what they bought in January as enough for this coming campaign. Does a good transfer window have to be defined by heavy spending? It says a lot about the makeup of the modern game that a debate has to be raised as to how much flexibility Rodgers has in the market. There is money, obviously, but the club are having to make do with buying a couple of tiers down from where they’d obviously like to be. The fact that the ownership want to buy young players with sell-on value isn’t really a negative; which clubs wouldn’t want to buy younger players with plenty of miles ahead of them over a 30-year-old? Tagging on the “sell-on” aspect only adds fuel to the fire for those who want to take easy shots. It’s part of the business.

I wrote earlier in the year that Coutinho was a fine example of high-calibre players being available for very little in comparison to other deals today. The Brazilian represents a market where future world-class players can be bought for minimal fees and who can come in and make an immediate impact. Liverpool have identified that and are running with that model for building.

Daniel Sturridge, for his flaws, is young and has a lot of upside. Aspas was a standout name in the early part of last season in La Liga, often dominating discussion in a league where Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the headliners. Aspas isn’t world class and he’s extremely, extremely unlikely to bag 30 goals for Liverpool in the way Suarez can. But he’s good, he’s value for money rather than “cheap” and he will make an immediate impact.

And for a club like Liverpool – and let’s not kid ourselves, Liverpool are not the draw that they once were; they have to rebuild their status among Europe’s top clubs – to grab a youngster out of La Masia with bags of potential is extremely astute business. Sergi Canos is already making an impression in England.

Liverpool have tunnel vision with only positives at the end. This ownership group have presided over that summer splurge that landed Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, etc. and it’s not an approach that worked for them. As I mentioned, it isn’t simply a case of black and white, and there were surrounding factors in place which made that summer and January, in hindsight, a complete bust.

Taking on a pragmatic approach now and working with what you have shouldn’t always be interpreted in a negative light.

Is Brendan Rodgers shrewd or working with one arm tied behind his back in the transfer market?

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