The transfer window had only been opened for a few days yet Liverpool had picked up a few new recruits. Suited. Booted. And...leaning on objects across Merseyside. Luis Alberto, Gerard Deulofeu's partner in crime at Barcelona B. Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo's talisman and local hero who was instrumental in saving the club from relegation. Kolo Toure, the approving reserve centre back for a club that finished 17 points ahead of Liverpool last season. Simon Mignolet, Sunderland's player of the year who registered an astounding 124 saves in 38 league matches.
The signings appear to be solid but not quite as spectacular as some fans crave. The fees aren't staggering either, four signings made with less than £25 million electronically transferred out of Liverpool's petty cash box. Furthermore, the sales of Carroll and Shelvey mean that this summer's transfer spending isn't as considerable, and some portion of Pepe Reina's wages are now on Napoli's books as part of his season-long loan.
And yet just a few weeks ago, excitement was promised to be not far away, so seatbelts should have been at the ready. Yesterday's bid for Diego Costa seems to be a step in that direction, and with a month to go, there's hopefully more in the works.
There have been words and sentences of dissatisfaction being communicated wirelessly and through ethernet cables across the Liverpool supporting community. Liverpool's transfer business appears to be humdrum compared to the riches gleefully lavished by Manchester City's oil-propelled operation. All clubs have different financial platforms from which they operate from but every club has to buy a player from somewhere. City's marquee signing of today or tomorrow could be a youngster brought through a club's youth system (Jesús Navas) or a player who didn't get an opportunity at a European giant so had to make his name elsewhere (Álvaro Negredo).
What dictates the status of a transfer signing? If a club has a plethora of effective attacking midfielders yet signs a player of widespread renown and commonly acknowledged quality then does that player become a key signing? What if that very same club signs a young defensive midfielder of reasonable current ability to remedy the lack of competition at the base of midfield?
In the summer of 1950, Akira Kurosawa's legendary period drama Rashomon arrived in Japan. The film is a curiosity because it is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece involving multiple characters with differing views of the same incident. But by the beginning of 1952, after its American release in late 1951, audiences and critics from Japan and The West held alternate responses to the same film. Over time there was a convergence of opinion and Rashomon stands as a totem in film as a fine cinematic example in storytelling, lighting, characterisation, and symbolism.
Initial impressions can obviously also divide opinion in football. Perhaps players, management, and fans have different ideas of what a marquee signing might be. Last summer, Rodgers was delighted that Joe Allen joined him from Swansea because the player understood and excelled in Rodgers' preferred "way of working" on the football field. Rodgers probably remains convinced that Allen is a key player because of the player's qualities and mentality, yet some fans remain sceptical.
For fans, a marquee signing might very well be a player to thrill and entertain or to provide hope for the future. Often the price of a player reflects the quality being purchased but it could just be the value that the buying and selling clubs are willing to agree on. In terms of talent, Philippe Coutinho was worth a lot more than £8.5 million but arrived for that fee. Daniel Sturridge was signed for a few dollars more. In January, both players arrived with cautious fanfare yet eight months later they're twin beacons of hope for Liverpool fans awaiting a revival of fortunes and a return to the Champions League.
Last month, Roma sold Marquinhos to Paris St-Germain for £27 million, but the Italian capital club signed him 18 months prior to this huge move for just £3.9 million. He wasn't a marquee signing for Roma but is now one for PSG in such a short space of time. Would Aspas be a marquee signing if he arrived for the same fee but rejected Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Atlético Madrid to join Liverpool? Maybe in a season's time he'll reject moves to some of those clubs to remain on Merseyside. Like Michu, Aspas arrives with a lot of fans uncertain of what he can bring, but experts and fans in Spain remain convinced that with time, success will arrive. That is not to say that Aspas' move to Liverpool will replicate the exact prosperity enjoyed by Michu at Swansea, yet heartening parallels exist.
A bargain signing of today might just be the marquee player of tomorrow, and the expensive signing heralded by fans across forums may be the albatross waiting to be cast off at the earliest opportunity. Regardless of the size of a club, fans need a player or two who can dazzle in attack or a trooper who appears as unmoveable in the centre of defence or at the heart of a busy midfield. Even when a player is signed and we're sure of his potential impact on the pitch, we all have to wait to be sure he is what we think he is.
A little patience and a little time can sometimes work wonders.