With Liverpool wasting no time in arranging actual and potential transfers for the 2013/14 season, there's a feeling of optimism that the club will avoid a repeat of last year's disastrous summer transfer window that saw numerous players leave without any viable replacements brought in to compensate.
There remains the lingering question, though, of whether or not the types of players who can help propel the club to a Champions League qualification spot are also the type who would be interested in signing for the club without the promise of any European football at all in their first season with the club. Liverpool's managing director, Ian Ayre, doesn't think this is much of an issue at all.
"We can still attract top players to Liverpool," Ayre stated unequivocally. "I've never been in negotiations with anyone who has said they don’t want to sign for Liverpool because we’re not big enough or not successful enough. We can still attract top talent. It’s about finding the right talent at the right price. The deal has to be right for the club."
It's encouraging that Ayre hasn't ever been told that the club's profile doesn't match the aspirations of the players Liverpool have tried to recruit, as it suggests there is enough buy-in from transfer targets even without the promise of European competition. It can't hurt that recent transfer successes Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho had been misfits of sorts at their previous clubs despite those clubs' Champions League participation, and their relative youth means they have lots of time to turn themselves into a integral part of Liverpool's Champions League ambitions.
Still, Ayre is reluctant to commit to the two words that were on everyone's lips at every opportunity last season: fourth place. Sounding like a weary parent on a long car trip whose children keep asking "Are we there yet?", Ayre seems to be taking the "We'll get there when we get there" approach to Champions League qualification.
"This football club is steeped in the tradition of the European Cup," Ayre continued. "That's where everyone wants to be from the owners down. But there is no point saying we expect to finish in this position. All that does is just focus everybody — the world’s media — on a particular place.
"We want to be playing in the top flight of European football. That's why fans buy tickets because they want to see Liverpool at that level. Our ambition is to get there. Whether we do that one year, two years or three, we will see. That's where Liverpool Football Club should be."
While waiting three more years for Champions League football might seem a depressing prospect — and it very well would be if it takes that long — it's also reassuring that the club's management are taking a more steady, long term, and hopefully sustainable approach to getting back into Europe. Continental competition is no good if it only lasts for a season, and if Liverpool are good and steeped in European tradition then the club need to be a consistent presence once they find their way back.