Liverpool commenced their transfer campaign on Tuesday by announcing that they had reached a deal with Kolo Toure, whose contract with Manchester City will expire at the end of June.
In reflection, it is not a surprising move. With the retirement of Kop hero Jamie Carragher and continuing uncertainty over the future of Martin Skrtel, the Reds are in dire need of experienced heads at the back.
In that sense, nobody can argue against Toure: with Arsenal and Man City he has racked up over 400 appearances on his way to two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, while he boasts some 103 caps for his native Ivory Coast.
The question marks arise not over the 32-year-old’s impressive credentials but rather over his recent output, or lack thereof, as he has featured in only 29 league games for the Citizens over the past two seasons.
And so as he nears the end of a decorated top-flight career, with little regular football under his belt, just what sort of impact can a player like Toure have on a proud club that is rebuilding after years of mediocrity?
The first thing to note is that unlike most of the squad at Anfield, the Ivorian is a proven winner; among his soon-to-be colleagues, only Steven Gerrard would have a comparable medal collection. How telling that will be on the field remains to be seen – read Queens Park Rangers – but it is a welcome attribute nonetheless.
The most important factor is whether or not Toure will be expected to slot straight into a starting role on Merseyside. With Carragher gone, Skrtel likely to leave, Sebastian Coates on the chopping block and Martin Kelly yet to establish himself due to injury, there is a desperate need to find a new partner for Daniel Agger – another whose body has a habit of breaking down.
While worse options have turned up in the gossip pages, one would have to say that Toure’s best is behind him and the likelihood of him running out an entire season in the first XI is slim. However, the Bouake-born stopper is just one among what should be a slew of defensive signings this summer.
Brendan Rodgers will be absolutely intent on avoiding the kind of transfer gaffe that left him embarrassingly short of strikers last season, when Andy Carroll was loaned out before the proposed deal for Clint Dempsey fell through.
Thus, Liverpool fans can expect plenty of additions in every department, but especially in the back half where the gaps are most obvious. Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld has been mentioned frequently since January (although Roma is firming as his likely destination), as have FC Twente’s Douglas and Swansea City’s Ashley Williams.
Whatever combination of names the Reds add to their roster, Toure is just the first of many. And whether he becomes a key component or a bit-part player, as a free transfer he represents a solid (and virtually risk-free) first step in Rodgers’ attempts to make Liverpool more competitive at the top end next season.