Every fan has gotten caught up in the idea of signing a new player. A name gets linked, rumours heat up, it seems a done deal or at the very least a deal that might and could and should get done. Then it comes to nothing. The signing falls through. Perhaps was never even all that close in the first place.
Sometimes, though, it turns out to have been a good thing when a deal falls through. That the player fans were so excited by the prospect of signing shows over the years that Liverpool signing him would have been a mistake.
With that in mind, we decided to look back at the past decade to try to build an eleven that Liverpool appeared on the verge of signing. And then didn’t. And that, looking back on from here in the future, it turns out missing out on them was a good thing.
Here, then, is our admittedly attack-heavy Thank Fowler We Didn’t Sign Them XI.
Goalkeeper / Joe Hart
Despite Liverpool’s struggles over the past decade—from Pepe Reina’s decline to Simon Mignolet’s mid-table competency to the unfulfilled promise of Loris Karius and now to truly world class in Alisson Becker—there hasn’t been that much turnover at goalkeeper. There also haven’t been many publicized misses or supposed misses for the club in the transfer market to choose from.
Through it all, though, it’s felt as though Joe Hart was on the verge of signing for the club, and while there may have been a time Hart rated out on par with the likes of Mignolet, the years have made it clear that he wouldn’t have been better at any point than the players Liverpool did sign. That makes for a slightly softer Thank Fowler we didn’t sign him than a lot on this list will get, but still, there’s at the very least no regrets we never did.
Defender / Phil Jones
We somehow missed the story when it came out, but Andy Nulty kindly pointed out to us that Phil Jones recently revealed he turned down a Liverpool move back in 2011. Now, those were dark days for the Reds while for Man United Alex Ferguson was still around, so it’s not the most surprising thing that he did. Still, no matter that darkness we’re happy to have had the likes of Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel in the back and to have missed out on the man who holds the league record for most bizarre facial contortions in a season.
Defender / Kyriakos Papadopoulos
What a player Papa looked, as Liverpool were heavily linked with the Bayer Leverkusen man during the Brendan Rodgers era and hopes were high the club were on the verge of signing a young centre half who could anchor the defence for the better part of a decade. Injuries, though—an increasingly lengthy list of knee and ankle tendon and capsule tears—were a concern, and in the end the club passed.
Not everyone thought they made the right call at the time—in fact, we may have scrubbed any memory of Liverpool almost signing him and needed to be reminded by Benitez_LFC because of how high our own hopes for him had been—but in retrospect it’s clear they did. Papadopoulos has struggled to regain his pre-injury form and played only 51 total games over the past five seasons—with 30 of those in 2017-18—while Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua pulled out of a deal to sign him in 2019.
Defender / Ryan Bertrand
Liverpool being linked with Bertrand felt like something of an annual right of passage for a few years, with the player most recently heavily linked back in 2017 when James Milner was filling in at the back. In the end, though, despite the frequent links—not just to Liverpool but to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City—it appears Bertrand found his level when he ended up at Southampton. Plus, in the summer of 2017 when the Reds didn’t sign Bertrand they ended up with Andy Robertson instead. Which seems like a good thing.
Midfield / Alexis Sánchez
Alexis Sanchez is perhaps the biggest name Liverpool have missed on in the past decade, the energetic and versatile forward and wide-man having been the consensus pick to replace the outgoing Luis Suarez. The fans wanted him badly, and so did the club, who pressed hard to sign him from Barcelona. In the end, though, the Reds couldn’t compete with the draw of London and he signed with Arsenal. Who he wasn’t bad for, at least at the start—just never as good as anyone thought he was going to be, and a little less impressive as the months and years passed. Until he ended up making a bizarre big-money move to Manchester United, a move that Liverpool’s rivals are still paying dearly for.
Midfield / Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Liverpool fans were so excited by the prospect of signing Mkhitaryan—and so certain of a deal getting done—that they collectively learned to spell his name. Some probably still can. Then he ended up at Manchester United instead, with the Red Devils paying a massive-for-2016 fee of £30M to bring the midfielder over from Borussia Dortmund when he had just a year left in his contract. He never came close to justifying the outlay, and eventually he was shipped to Arsenal as part of the deal that brought Sanchez to United, with about the best thing the Gunners can say about that being that at least they’re paying him less than United are paying for Sanchez.
Midfield / Clint Dempsey
Imagine a world where Jordan Henderson gives Brendan Rodgers what he wants and accepts his move to Fulham with back in 2012, with Dempsey heading in the opposite direction. Imagine a world with Liverpool’s current captain stuck down in the Championship while Clint Dempsey—the footballing personification of every negative American stereotype—smirks his way around Anfield. That’s a terrifying world that quite frankly we don’t want any part of.
Midfield / Alex Teixeira
Hey, remember back in January of 2016 when Liverpool thought they’d agreed a €30M deal for Teixeira and the player was desperate to move to Anfield only Shakhtar kept stalling and asking for more money and it turned out it was because there was Chinese Super League interest and then he ended up at Jiangsu Suning for €50M and some Liverpool fans were really angry the Reds didn’t match that? Yeah, turns out not matching was probably for the best. Not that Teixeira is or was a bad player by any means, but since moving to China he’s never hit the heights of his last two seasons with Shakhtar and, given that, even for €30M there would have been questions about whether he’d been worth the fee.
Forward / Nicolas Pépé
He’s only 24 years old and has only been in the league for a year, but even if he manages to improve from his current status of outright flop, there’s probably no way Pépé ever lives up to his £72M transfer fee with Arsenal, and Liverpool fans—many of whom were invested in his potential transfer to the club to a frankly bizarre degree—are now breathing a collective sigh of relief that it turned out that most of the talk of him joining the Reds was probably down to his agent feeding their name to the press in order to push through his move to Arsenal.
Forward / Loïc Rémy
When Liverpool pulled out of a deal to sign Rémy due to a failed medical in 2014, a lot of fans were annoyed. They got even more annoyed when he ended up at Chelsea given the Blues where above Liverpool in the Premier League pecking order at the time. In retrospect, two middling seasons at Stamford Bridge followed by a loan to Crystal Palace and then moves to Las Palmas and Lille say this was a good miss.
Forward / Memphis Depay
There’s a case to be made that the Depay of today isn’t the same as the one Liverpool missed out on when he moved from PSV to Man United in 2015, but his experience at Old Trafford—where his confidence and a seeming belief in his own hype appeared to be his undoing—proved he wasn’t ready for a move to the Premier League, and it’s difficult to imagine his career going any better if he’d ended up at Anfield. At the time, there was certainly a lot of hand-wringing over missing out on the Dutch forward. In retrospect, as with so many on this list, Liverpool appear fortunate to have not sealed the deal.