A free transfer. Exploiting a bargain release clause. To a club, it’s just good business. To fans, though, not paying a high price for a player can sometimes lead to a belief that, well, maybe he just isn’t all that good.
In recent seasons, Liverpool have something of a mixed bag record when it comes to finding transfer bargains, having brought in James Milner, Emre Can, Loris Karius, Joël Matip, and now Xherdan Shaqiri on the cheap.
In every case, at least some fans have ignored the contract situation that made them available for below market value and instead asked how, if the player was any good, the club could have signed him for so little.
“If a player costs nothing there is a suspicion he must be useless,” manager Jürgen Klopp told Sport1 in Germany this week while discussing the way fans—and many pundits, too—view transfers in England.
On form, Milner has been one of the league’s top midfielders for a year now. Matip, back in his Bundesliga days and before he was hit by a run of injuries, was considered one of the best centre halves in Germany.
Both are often undervalued because Liverpool signed them for nothing. And until he scored a bicycle kick in pre-season against Manchester United, people similarly questioned Shaqiri for costing so little.
“There was a lot of questioning around our interest in Xherdan Shaqiri,” Klopp added. “We paid £13M for him after he got relegated but he’s a fantastic player and now everyone at the club loves him. In Germany, it’s different”
Liverpool’s spending power has given Klopp, for the first time in his career, the ability to go big to sign the absolute best players available in the market. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still appreciate a bargain.
It would serve the club well if more fans were able to take a similar approach and embrace the idea that not every player brought in at a discount is inherently worse than the more expensive option.