Liverpool’s transfer dealings have moved up a gear in the past few days with the arrivals of Luis Alberto from Sevilla and Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo, each in reported £7 million deals (widely reported by the Skysports, Dailymail & the Mirror).
Until this summer, very few English football followers had even heard of these players. And with the giants of Merseyside struggling to keep touch with the Premier League’s pace-setters, fans may have expected a rather more ambitious outlay.
That is not to say that Brendan Rodgers’ latest signings are without sense. One just needs to look at how his former club, Swansea City, benefited after taking a £2m punt on an unheralded forward by the name of Michu. A year and 22 goals later, we can safely put that bit of business in the ‘success story’ category.
The move for Aspas in particular smacks of a similar approach from the Reds manager, not least because the Moana native spent several seasons playing alongside the Swans’ star striker at Celta. Like Michu, he is a late bloomer who has only hit his stride in the last two years, including a stellar 25-goal campaign that saw him named the Segunda Division’s best forward in 2011-12. And as Michu did, he will head to the UK with just one top-flight term under his belt.
That is one more than the Reds’ other new acquisition can claim. With just seven Primera Liga appearances to his name, Alberto’s reputation comes almost entirely from his work in the second tier. Although the young forward-cum-midfielder has no profile to speak of outside his homeland, a tally of 11 goals and 18 assists while on loan at Barcelona B last season gives a fair indication of the Spain U21 representative's talents.
That these deals have been completed quickly and early in the window is a good thing, but such signings would make a lot more sense if Liverpool were settled, on the up and looking to bolster their squad rather than revamp it. As well as the addition of veteran defender Kolo Toure, so far Rodgers has brought in cheap gambles when there remains a very real possibility that his marquee man could leave.
Luis Suarez has been flirting openly with Real Madrid in recent weeks, to the point where the Kop bosses have reportedly told him to either hand in a transfer request or stay out of the press altogether. The ever-controversial Uruguayan has all but carried the five-time European champions on his back these past few years, so the question is: can the likes of Alberto, Aspas, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge adequately cover such a loss?
The right answer is ‘nobody knows’, but the most common response will be ‘probably not’.
There is nothing wrong with buying coal and hoping it turns into diamonds, but it is hardly the best way to go about replacing your brightest jewel. Rodgers and co will surely be keeping an eye on potential targets in the event that Suarez is sold, but they would do well to make it their top priority besides convincing the former Ajax man to stay.
The last time Liverpool had to make a late swoop following a superstar departure, they ended up spending £35m on Andy Carroll. He was recently traded to West Ham United for about half of that club-record fee, having managed just 11 goals in 58 outings for the Reds. (That adds up to a bit over £3m per strike, for what it’s worth – and that’s not including wages.)
The Carroll fiasco came about for a number of reasons: the need to find an immediate replacement for the Chelsea-bound Fernando Torres; then-manager Kenny Dalgleish’s desire to build a predominately British squad; and former sporting director Damien Comolli’s knack for spending well over the odds on unremarkable players (read Darren Bent and David Bentley at Tottenham Hotspur).
But the overriding factor is that Liverpool weren't prepared for Torres’ exit. The whole saga occurred at the tail end of that January window, after a late bid from Stamford Bridge spurred the Spaniard to demand a transfer. This, on the back of Roy Hodgson’s sacking, threw the club into turmoil and resulted in a panic buy of epic proportions.
Simply put, the men now in charge at Melwood cannot afford to make the same mistake with Suarez. No matter how convinced they are that their South American striker will stay, they must have a serious contingency plan in place. This year’s market is awash with top-notch forwards looking for a new home, and Liverpool should be talking to every one of them.