It's nearing the end of November, results for Liverpool have been terrible, and with the bad news of Daniel Sturridge's setback, sights have been set on the January transfer window for a much-needed boost. As such, I've decided to look back on all eight of the transfer windows Liverpool have experienced under FSG.
Transfer window: Winter 2011
League Position on 1 January: 12th
A mere four months after John Henry and Fenway Sports Group saved Liverpool Football Club from administration, they faced their first real challenge. Roy Hodgson, the manager they inherited upon arrival, had overseen the team falling to twelfth place and playing some of the most turgid football in the league. The decision to get rid of him had to be apparent early on. So too who his successor would be, since fans were unanimously calling for King Kenny to be returned to his throne. The team needed help, and all eyes were on FSG to see how they would do in their first transfer window. The term ‘Moneyball' got thrown around so often that it lost all meaning.
Ins: Luis Suarez, Andrew Carroll
Outs: Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, Paul Konchesky (loan)
The One Who Got Away: Charlie Adam, valued by Liverpool at £6m, but whose ‘corners alone [were] worth £10m.'
Transfer! Deadline! Day! Drama! While I'm not one to lend credence to the English media's tendency to sensationalize every bit of transfer gossip, in this instance the results lived up to the hype. As someone who called off sick from work on 31 January to watch it all play out in real time, this window had it all. Three days before the deadline, Liverpool fans became aware of a bid from Chelsea for talismanic striker Fernando Torres. Twitter laughed it off initially, before realizing that only 48 hours after securing the talents of the mercurial, but undoubtedly talented, Luis Suarez, that they'd be losing their best player. The story gained traction in the days that followed, until it all came to a head on the final day.
It was like the John Grisham novel of deadline days: betrayal, broken hearts, shocking swoops, intrigue, politics, ticking clocks, men exchanging millions of pounds - to say nothing of Andy Carroll essentially providing proof of life to the Newcastle fans after being kidnapped from Tyneside and shoved into Mike Ashley's Liverpool-bound helicopter.
So what of the business done? In hindsight, getting £50m for the rapidly declining Torres was great business. Unfortunately, 70% of that great business was turned over to Newcastle for Andy Carroll as a last minute, panic replacement for Torres. Was Carroll the right choice for Liverpool? Well, no. He was young, injury-prone (in fact, he was injured when we bought him, in a freak Jagerbomb-and-barstool incident), and the £35m price tag was like a lead weight around his neck.
There's more to consider in this story, though. New owner John Henry could not have his first act in the transfer market be selling the team's superstar striker without lining up a replacement. In fact, after the final years of the previous owners sucking Liverpool dry, selling off players without investing any money back into the club, this would have been the nightmare scenario for many fans. Another damn greedy American.
And while it's a mere footnote now, this window also saw the departure of Ryan Babel, the previous holder of the ‘Liverpool player least deserving of a last minute helicopter arrival' title. This left the club with David N'Gog as the only option up front. Suarez, at the time, was thought to need a partner in order to be effective.
That's ridiculous, of course. Suarez is Suarez: a one-man soap opera, one of the greatest players to ever wear a Liverpool shirt, and an absolute steal at £20m. Had the owners and fans known then what they know now, they likely would have considered Suarez a much-needed upgrade from Torres, with the added bonus of £30m in the bank for the summer. At the time, though, many were still skeptical of FSG after living through the harrowing Hicks and Gillett disaster. The new owners risked losing all of the goodwill they had accumulated by sacking Roy Hodgson and bringing back a Liverpool legend as interim manager, so they took a big risk that didn't pay off in the long run.
Final League Position: 6th
Transfer window: Summer 2011
Expectations were high after the team's improvement under Dalglish in the second half of the previous season. FSG had made it clear that the club would have a significant war chest to work with over the summer. Dalglish, Damien Comolli and the transfer committee started early and worked diligently through the summer to acquire their many targets, proving themselves willing to pay top dollar for even the most mediocre of players.
Ins: Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique, Doni, Stewart Downing, Sebastian Coates, Craig Bellamy, Jordan Henderson
Outs: Paul Konchesky, Danny Ayala, Milan Jovanovic, Sotiros Kyrgiakos, Emiliano Insua, Christian Poulsen, David N'Gog, Raul Meireles, Joe Cole (loan), Daniel Pacheco (loan), Alberto Aquilani (loan)
The One Who Got Away: Yann M'Vila, because defensive midfielders are for losers, I've always said that.
After the indignity of spending £35m on Andy Carroll, Liverpool followed that up with shelling out £30m more on Adam and Downing. FSG made the crucial mistake of telegraphing their naivety in the football transfer market, their desperation for new blood and their willingness to spend big, and other teams took shameless advantage of it. Fans tried to convince themselves that Downing would be the supplier on the wing that Carroll needed to finally kickstart his Liverpool career. He wasn't. Adam was an accident waiting to happen and too slow by half. Both players were bought at British premium player prices.
Speaking of British players with high transfer fees, after Liverpool acquired future vice-captain Jordan Henderson for £16m from Sunderland, he was lumped in with Carroll, Adam, and Downing — the H in the dreaded CHAD. While he started out shaky, three years later most Liverpool fans must feel he was worth every pound spent. Jose Enrique continues to earn his wages by posting ridiculous tweets and gleefully eviscerating teenagers at video games. Craig Bellamy did a job in his second spell with the team. Coates scored that one goal against QPR.
It wasn't a great return for the money put out. After all of the hype and big talk coming out of the club, it was downright depressing. Where FSG did well, though, was removing the tons of dead wood from within the squad. Players like Konchesky, Kyrgiakos, and Jovanovic were moved off the wage bill in an efficient and decisive fashion. The only exception was the decision to sell Raul Meireles, one of Liverpool's best players from the season prior, to Chelsea on deadline day.
League Position by 1 January: 6th
Transfer window: Winter 2012
The first half of Dalglish's final season was uninspiring, with an emphasis on crosses into the box. This style was ill-suited to Luis Suarez, who single-handedly kept the team afloat regardless. While their league form was floundering, the team was in the midst of a deep Carling Cup run. Lucas Leiva's best season in a red shirt was ended prematurely after a collision with Juan Mata at the beginning of December. Just in time, Steven Gerrard came back into the team after several injuries had kept him sidelined for the first half of the season and the tail end of the one before. The new signings were unimpressive, with only Enrique as the standout until his bright start faded into him being, well, Jose Enrique. Still, we had a decent left back! One whose bones weren't made out of daffodil fluff and cotton candy!
Ins: Jordon Ibe, Danny Ward
The One Who Got Away: We were never going to sign any first team players during this window, come on.
After coughing up all the money with so little return in the summer, John Henry and FSG became understandably gun-shy. Jordon Ibe is an excellent prospect, but not for at least a year or two. With the squad they had, Liverpool made it to two domestic cup finals, winning the Carling Cup, but did their stagnancy hurt them in the league? No strike force that contained Luis Suarez could be termed ‘weak', but it was lacking. There were gaping holes in the midfield, despite the fact that we were loaded down with central midfielders. There enough of them, in fact, that when Henderson did get to play, he was shunted out to the right where he was largely ineffective, if still enthusiastic.
Ultimately, the team's poor league finish cost Dalglish his job, but while reinforcements may have helped, the caliber of player Liverpool could attract at that time, especially in the January window with its accompanying price inflation, likely wouldn't have made much of a difference.
Final League Position: 8th
Transfer window: Summer 2012
After a disappointing season, John Henry replaced Kenny Dalglish with Brendan Rodgers. Opinion was divided on the former Swansea manager, and he had plenty to prove. The owners, still feeling burned from the previous summer's poor business, gave Rodgers less of a free reign over transfer business, causing well-publicized friction between both parties. Rodgers was a man known for having a very specific style of play, and fans were eager to see who he would recruit to help bring his vision to Liverpool.
Ins: Fabio Borini, Joe Allen, Oussama Assaidi, Nuri Sahin (loan)
Outs: Fabio Aurelio, Dirk Kuyt, Stephen Darby, Maxi Rodriguez, Alberto Aquilani, Craig Bellamy, Nathan Eccleston, Charlie Adam, Andrew Carroll (loan)
The One Who Got Away: Clint Dempsey, and for the low, low price of only £7m, your first born, and a pint of bone marrow! Step right up!
Joe Allen was the best of a mediocre bunch in Rodgers's first foray into the transfer market for Liverpool. Loyal servants to the club Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez left early on in the window, along with the talented but injury-prone Fabio Aurelio and Alberto Aquilani, whose desire for a permanent return to Italy was well known.
Rodgers also began the process of trying to fix the mistakes of the previous season. The writing was on the wall for Andy Carroll the moment that Brendan Rodgers signed on with the club, since it was obvious that Carroll's direct style and lack of mobility made him unlikely to suit Rodgers's preferred style of play. The problem came when Carroll was loaned out to West Ham without a replacement planned. Rodgers made it clear early in the window that he intended to pick up another striker by the end of the summer. Time ticked by, rumors linked Liverpool with every striker in the world, including the offer of a season-long loan for Daniel Sturridge.
By deadline day, all the talk was of Clint Dempsey, who was trying to capitalize on a good season with Fulham to engineer one last, big move. As negotiations dragged on, Liverpool, perhaps recalling that time they spent £10m on Charlie Adam, refused to budge in their valuation of the player. Meanwhile, allegations of the club tapping-up Dempsey marred the whole process and made Fulham unwilling to come to a compromise. In the end, Liverpool brought no one in to replace the departing Carroll, and the first half of their season suffered greatly from that misstep.
This transfer window will always be remembered in horrifying clarity by fans as the one where Brendan Rodgers offered Fulham Jordan Henderson (!) plus £7m (!!) for Clint Dempsey (!!!).
League Position on 1 January: 10th
Part 2 of this series will look at the more recent transfer dealings of FSG and Rodgers, and will include hard to pronounce names, difficult farewells, a majestic unicorn and a guy with a funny dance who no one wanted.