Before the weekend, it was easy to forget that there were mere weeks remaining in the 2013-14 season. Or at least to ignore what was coming, inevitably, when that season was over. Today, despite that Liverpool remain top of the table, Manchester City's game in hand means that they no longer control their own destiny. With that, all of a sudden some of the focus has shifted to what comes next. And what comes next is transfer silly season.
Liverpool remain in the thick of the title race, despite that they've lost the position of favourites, but all of a sudden budgets and rumours and potential incomings seems to take on a far greater importance. With the club rumoured last week to have between £40-70M plus whatever is recouped from sales set out as a tentative summer budget, this week we're starting to see a few of the details get filled in.
The first and, potentially, one of the biggest, are the firming up of rumours linking Southampton's Adam Lallana to Anfield. Links in the less than reputable Mirror were quickly followed up by The Times' rather more authoritative confirmation, and with it, Lallana quickly takes the lead from Will Hughes in the "English midfielder most likely to end up at Liverpool" category. Though of course there's still plenty of time for Hughes to rejoin the party.
Two-footed, technical, positionally flexible, and a hard worker with nine goals and six assists this season, Lallana fits a role—and brings a skill set to the table—roughly evenly placed between Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho. He's also about to enter the prime of his career, is English, and is valued by his club. All of which means he wouldn't come at a value, which suggestions of a £20-25M fee confirm.
That he wouldn't be a bargain, though, shouldn't be misconstrued to suggest Lallana isn't worth such a fee. He is. But Liverpool would be paying something like full price for him, as they did with Henderson, and not plucking him out of the half off bin like Coutinho or Daniel Sturridge. Assuming the rumours are true, then, that would make him something of a signing showing real purpose.
This isn't buying a youngster and helping him to develop, and it isn't seeing something in an unwanted spare part that can be had on the cheap. This is a top four and Champions League calibre midfielder who would, while not necessarily a clear upgrade on either Coutinho or Henderson, be expected to share minutes with them and make 35+ appearances across all competitions.
He's a player who would be expected to make a difference for a side once again aspiring to domestic and European silverware from the moment he arrived at the club. Like Diego Costa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Yevhen Konoplyanka, he's a player nearly any top side could be made better by adding. If true, that makes Liverpool's interest, even with the player likely to be sold at something around market value, exciting.
Hopefully this time around, with Champions League and an improved budget on offer, the club can seal the deal.