Ahead of this weekend's Merseyside Derby match against Everton, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was effusive in his praise of Emre Can.
The 21 year old German youth international has been playing excellently, starting a long string of matches at center back and performing well in the role, despite it not being one he's spent significant minutes at in the past. Can has traditionally been most comfortable in defensive midfield, and most of his experience along the back line has been at left back. He's been taking great strides as part of Liverpool's three-man defense of late, though, and has been a big part of the squad's surge in form.
Rodgers, for one, couldn't be much happier about the way things are going for Can. "Emre is a big talent," Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo. "He’s also a great learner and very good tactically for a young player. He has a big future ahead of him. I think £10 million will prove to be a bargain for Emre."
Can's talent is the only one that Liverpool has been able to bring in for far less than the club felt he was valued. Liverpool has proven very good at identifying younger players who, for one reason or another, can be brought in for lower-than-expected fees and blossom once they reach Anfield. Rodgers went on to talk some about that model of transfer business:
"That’s the nature of the model here. We look to bring in players who we can develop. Look at Daniel Sturridge. We bought him for £12 million. What would Daniel be worth now? Philippe Coutinho, £8 million, what’s his value? What would Raheem Sterling be worth?
"They come into a real coaching environment here and it’s my job to make them better players. That’s all you can do as a coach and a manager and then the performances will follow."
Of course, the same transfer staff that implemented that model also brought in Dejan Lovren and Mario Balotelli in deals that continue to look very ill-advised, especially for the fees that they commanded. So nobody's perfect, really.
Still, it's hard to deny that Liverpool have a knack for finding the right players without spending much money. The four players that Rodgers mentioned - Can, Sturridge, Coutinho, and Sterling - were brought in for a combined £32 million, if you believe the high side of reports about Sterling's initial fee. If Liverpool were to sell those four today, they'd probably push £150 million in combined transfer fees.
Even when Liverpool have paid more for a player in recent years, it's worked out more often than not. Mamadou Sakho wasn't an inexpensive signing, but he's proved invaluable in defense. Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic earned the club criticism for what was perceived as overinflated transfer fees, but both have been looking full value for what they cost the club in recent weeks. Even reaching a little farther back, Jordan Henderson's once-ridiculed fee is looking like a bargain with how he's performed over the last two years.
The best part? A young talent like Emre Can helps Liverpool fill out an impressive young spine for this squad. Sure, Liverpool have had their struggles this season, failing to live up to the expectations of last year's title push, but this is a young and very, very talented side that's set up for significant success both now and over the next several seasons. Thanks to Liverpool's current transfer model, you can expect more signings like Can's in the future, and the more of those we see, the brighter that future looks.