After a relatively quiet start to the transfer window, chaos reigned this past week. Manchester City confirmed the signing of Jack Grealish for a record £100 million fee from Aston Villa, and Harry Kane looked to be holding himself out of Spurs training to push through his own move to the blue side of Manchester.
Then the real bomb dropped: Barcelona announced that Lionel Messi would not be returning to the Catalan club.
Quietly, underneath the astonished babble and furor over Messi, news began to leak that Inter Milan might be close to bankruptcy. Within a day, it was announced that Chelsea had a £97.5 million deal for Romelu Lukaku sealed up pending a physical, granting Chelsea a player and Inter a financial reprieve.
Meanwhile for Liverpool, while the club made an early splash for their center back of the future in Ibrahima Konaté, most of the chatter (and any actual deals) since his signing have involved outgoings, and when it comes to further incomings it has been radio silence in recent weeks from any and all respected sources.
So where does this leave Jürgen Klopp and the mighty Reds?
Everything’s The Worst
If you’re of a negative bent, Liverpool are falling behind in the domestic arms race. Manchester City, after crying poor at the beginning of the window, will have yet another massive net spend summer after handily winning the league last season. Chelsea and Manchester United are spending money hand over fist as they so often do, trying to close the gap on City, bringing in big names like Jadon Sancho and the aforementioned Lukaku.
On the continent, PSG gave massive wages to former Liverpool player Gini Wijnaldum and seem set to now bring in Leo Messi. Bayern Munich don’t spend nearly as much, but they get to treat the Bundesliga as their own academy, cherry picking to top talent year in and year out from their rival clubs.
Then there’s Liverpool, whose owners Fenway Sports Group seem to prefer shopping in the bargain bin rather to bringing in the big names. They have an ageing front line, with both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané set to miss time this winter due to AFCON, while Roberto Firmino has underperformed xG significantly for three seasons in a row now. The doubters would ask if he can really be trusted to lead the line any more (and also for you to disregard his two goals against Osasuna since that was just a friendly)?
In the midfield, Liverpool let Wijnaldum, their most dependable and durable player, walk on a free this summer. So far, the replacement plan seems to be for them to rely on a group of permanently injured players (Thiago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita), a senior citizen (James Milner), and two children (Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott).
So where is the money going then, FSG? New contracts for the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, and Alisson are nice, but can we really expect noting more on the new signings front when every other top club in England seems to be splashing the cash?
Everything’s The Best
Sure, Liverpool aren’t making multiple massive signings every summer, but this isn’t career mode in FIFA. That’s the obvious counter, that FSG are making sure Liverpool continue to live within their means—and that they’ve managed to curate a world class roster with a mix of shrewd buys, academy talent, and a couple of big splashes when the time was right. At this point, the Reds have the deepest, most talented squad from top to bottom outside of Manchester City. Despite the multitude of injuries last season, the team still manage to finish third in the Premier League, and are looking well rested and revved up with fans back in the stands. So perhaps those running the club have earned just a little trust.
And while there is no such thing as a good billionaire (we checked), FSG at least have built something sustainable without being too icky by sports owner standards. Manchester City are yet again under investigation for financial doping, and the unlimited funds City, PSG, and Chelsea have access to are thanks to human rights abusing petrostates and mineral rich oligarchs. That might be ok for some clubs, but it’s not a good fit for the ethos of a club like Liverpool.
Meanwhile, two continental title winning teams from last season, Inter Milan and Lille, are currently in financial difficulty and selling, or looking to sell, key players. Barcelona is an absolute dumpster fire financially, and even after losing Messi can’t register the players they have brought in this summer until they further trim the wage bill. Real Madrid and Juventus are also holding onto the dream of the European Super League because they too are in a precarious situation. Across Europe, Football appears to be broken, but at least Liverpool seem to be on solid footing, and with a squad capable of challenging for hardware.
With Liverpool having a settled squad, their recruitment has shown forethought rather than panic over the past few windows. Michael Edwards and FSG have focused on identifying players who can work well with the current core group and perhaps step into a more major role in the future. There’s Diogo Jota, who brought fantastic underlying stats as a finisher and showed his mettle last season as an attacking option. Now there’s Ibrahima Konaté, young and talented defensive depth after last season’s massacre at the center back position.
Liverpool have also made sure to hand out new contracts intended to keep the spine of their team intact. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, and Alisson all signed new deals, with Virgil van Dijk expected next, meaning there will be consistency down the center of the pitch for years to come.
And why should Liverpool spend massive money when they have some of the most exciting young talent in the league, if not all of Europe? Harvey Elliott is already looking like he will pay dividends this year in a midfield or attacking role. Curtis Jones has shown he’s ready to step into a more significant role. There are a bevy of players behind them, including Kaide Gordon, Mateusz Musialowski, Conor Bradley, and Billy Koumetio who are all making waves in the youth ranks. Liverpool have spent considerable sums for many of their youth players, looking to sign potential superstars before they break through. And even if they go the way of Rhian Brewster and Harry Wilson before them, Liverpool will likely at least stand to profit on their eventual departures.
With all of that in mind, can we please trust Liverpool’s recruitment team? And if that team believes there’s a need, then there is still time to get more done this window. After all, Diogo Jota and Thiago were both relatively late signings last season, and Liverpool need to shift at least one non-homegrown player to create room for an incoming signing.
Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you worried that the club seemingly hasn’t tried to match Man City’s signing of Grealish or United’s of Sancho? Are you worried Lukaku’s return to Chelsea means Liverpool are now the chasing them rather than the other way around? Do you have faith in Michael Edward’s laptop to find the Reds an eighth-choice forward who will turn into a star? Or are you somewhere in between?