Tiago Ilori is heading out on loan. It appears only a matter of time, with widespread and increasingly reputable reports of loan interest from Granada and Valencia and Liverpool's willingness to let the player leave for the remainder of the season. When it happens, Liverpool's January transfer activity will amount to loaning out Ilori and Ryan McLaughlin, extending Conor Coady's loan, and selling Adam Morgan. There will have been no incomings.
Meanwhile, there are no reliable reports linking the club to the kind of established star player who could make a difference in this season's efforts to finish in the top four—or perhaps even to challenge for the title. There are a handful of rumours of incomings that continue to circulate, but for the most part they involve players reminiscent of Ilori—young, highly rated players who might turn into stars over a few seasons and a few extended loan spells but won't walk into the first eleven.
Ilori's situation has rightly left many Liverpool fans scratching their heads, wondering if £7M for a youngster who has made the bench once for the senior side will go down as a wasted opportunity. Particularly when set next to similar fees paid for striker Iago Aspas and midfielder Luis Alberto, a duo who have seen hardly more action than Ilori, the club's £25M expenditure on players unlikely to play any role in this season's success or failure does seem profligate.
Add in current links to Emmanuel Badu, likely to cost a similar fee and similarly likely to be a depth player now with—Rodgers and Liverpool will hope—a bright future, and ongoing rumours the club is chasing Mohamed Salah for a fee in the £10M range, and it's hard not to have transfer-induced doubts. Building for the future is key to competing with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City over the long term, but it won't much matter if Liverpool don't secure a top four finish this year.
More even than the top four, Liverpool entered January appearing poised for a shock title challenge in one of the most competitive, uncertain Premier League seasons ever. Yet it now appears possible—even likely—that the club will end the month having spent another £10-20M on players for the future. That is if they spend anything at all. Along with the summer's speculative purchases, that's the kind of money that pays for a Diego Costa; the kind of money that pays for a Mesut Ozil.
It's impossible to know the future of course, and if Rodgers had known where the club would stand today he might have spent differently in the summer. Yet where Liverpool now find themselves is far easier to judge than where they might find themselves in five years. The future is never certain; in the present, Liverpool are in prime position to turn a smart January purchase or two into one of the most memorable seasons in the club's recent history.
That Tiago Ilori cost £7M and appears on the verge of being sent out on loan isn't a problem. The problem will be if Rodgers and Liverpool look at Ilori, Alberto, and Aspas, then look at where the club stands in the current Premier League landscape, and then proceed to buy a few more players like them—players who may add valuable depth or who could develop into something special down the road but won't play a role in where the club finish this season.