Reported Liverpool target Connor Wickham has officially signed on with Sunderland today for a base fee of £8M rising to £12M if he meets certain performance and appearance benchmarks. He's 18 years old, a highly rated striker, and was likely assured of playing time at Sunderland while the club must be sure themselves that in four or five years they'll be able to move him on him for twice as much.
As a result there's been much gnashing of teeth amongst some Liverpool fans who were convinced he was a target, but with an £8M base fee and the player reportedly a fan it might be better to ask if Liverpool was ever seriously in for him. Wickham, along with Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, and Charlie Adam, have been rumoured targets since before the transfer window opened. They were targets before Liverpool was seriously linked to Sunderland's Jordan Henderson, who they then signed relatively quickly. They were also rumoured targets before Liverpool took a run at Phil Jones, another case that went from nothing to Liverpool having their bid accepted to Jones deciding he'd rather head to United in the course of a few days.
In January, talk of Luis Suarez as a target only ever leaked out from Ajax as they attempted to drive up his price by finding another potential suitor through the press. Then when Torres made it clear he wanted to leave, Andy Carroll was lined up and signed up in record time. Which is all to say that not a lot comes out of Liverpool these days, unless of course it's things that never seem to come true and may or may not actually be coming out of the club. Meanwhile, two weeks ago Ipswich's manager explicitly stated that Liverpool hadn't made a bid, and this was after weeks of rumours in the press and from supposed In the Knows that his signing was immanent.
So maybe Liverpool got pipped by Sunderland and everybody should be tearing their hair out. Or just maybe Liverpool were never seriously in for him. Given the increasing evidence that nobody's actually in the know when it comes to Liverpool under FSG, Comolli, and Dalglish, while the most solidly sourced soundbyte on Wickham suggests Liverpool never went that hard for him if they were going for him at all, one option fairly obviously makes more sense.
Unless of course you're a journalist who is paid to know these sorts of things and suddenly finds that more often than not he doesn't. Or unless you're somebody claiming In the Know status to secure some kind of minor internet fame and a boatload of followers on Twitter. If that's the case, then you've spent the last month and a half saying Charlie Adam is signing tomorrow, having his medical right now, or being driven to Liverpool at least six days a week. You've also been saying that Liverpool is exceptionally interested in Connor Wickham even though they just dropped £35M on Andy Carroll in the age group above him and have their own highly rated prospect, Adam Morgan, an age group below. Then it's very much in your best interest to push the angle that Liverpool was somehow beaten out by Sunderland for a player they desperately wanted and needed, and that it all points to doom, chaos, and crumbling transfer plans.
Either the club has dropped the ball on Wickham and doesn't quite know what it's doing, or all the people who claim oracle status are almost entirely in the dark and constantly shouting "Charlie Adam!" in the desperate hope that the transfer everybody expects to happen eventually will in fact take place and that they can then somehow claim vindication and validation.
So Connor Wickham has signed for Sunderland, and congratulations to them. He's a quality prospect, already a decent player, and he should bag them at least a handful of goals next term while being an asset with high resale value. Still, it's hard to see him having gotten meaningful minutes with Liverpool next season, and even if the club was interested in him, any actual hard information suggests that it was a minor interest at best. That makes it a bad day for the club if you're the sort whose personal reputation would be damaged by admitting it's really not that bad a day for the club.