When you think back to dark times for Liverpool in the Premier League era, there are none much darker than the summer of 2010. Rafa Benitez had been forced out, then-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett had piled debt on the club and the threat of administration loomed, and Christian Purslow was managing director.
Not content just to push Benitez out, he oversaw the arrival of Roy Hodgson and one of the worst summers in the transfer market the club has ever experienced. Enter Joe Cole, Christian Poulson, Paul Konchesky, Milan Jovanovic. Exit, rather acrimoniously, Javier Mascherano, who quickly followed Benitez out the door.
Now, Purslow is back in the news offering his opinion on what Fenway Sports Group and Jürgen Klopp must do to recover from the sale of Philippe Coutinho. In short, he wants a big signing. Which isn’t perhaps so hard to swallow. But he doesn’t stop there, instead diving into a rather bizarre promotion of Manchester United.
“They’re shopping at Harrods,” Purslow told Sky Sports today as he sought to explain what United are doing right in his eyes that Liverpool are—and have been over the past few years—getting rather wrong under their current set of owners. “Liverpool need to start shopping at Harrods rather than just selling the good ones.
“You are talking Paul Pogba, the most desired footballer on the planet went there last summer. The most productive centre-forward in the Premier League, Romelu Lukaku, went there last summer. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, probably the most admired creative midfield player in Germany, went there.”
Over the same time Liverpool have only gone and signed Roberto Firmino, who has one less league goal this season than Lukaku to go with a better strike rate and a tool-set that aligns more closely to Klopp’s wants in a striker than the big Belgian’s. For Klopp, replace most productive with most effective and you’ve got Firmino.
And if goals are the thing, one probably shouldn’t overlook Mohamed Salah, who the club bought last summer. Or Sadio Mané from the year before. Or, at the other end of the pitch, Virgil van Dijk. If Liverpool are meant to be shopping at the bargain bins while United peruse the Harrods racks, it’s rather had to explain that one.
To say Liverpool need to make a signing to replace Coutinho is fair. To suggest that signing has to be a top, top player—the kind of player who can walk into the starting eleven of a side that wants to win titles and trophies—is fair. Even coming from a man who oversaw Liverpool’s darkest year in the Premier League it’d be fair.
To claim United’s recruitment in recent seasons is somehow aspirational when sat out next to Liverpool’s own record in the market, though, is rather bizarre. And more than just being wrong, it’s a touch hard to take coming from the man who brought Cole, Poulsen, and Konchesky to the club and installed Hodgson as manager.
“I just think Liverpool have to aim high,” Purslow added. “I don’t want fine, I want brilliant, because they just sold brilliant. ‘Fine’ gets you fourth, fifth, sixth.” So do we, Christian, but the recent record of Klopp and FSG suggests they’re going to at least try to do that—and that we probably won’t get another Joe Cole out of it.