When it appeared that Kylian Mbappe might be available, Liverpool showed ambition, signalling their interest. It was an opportunistic move, a long-shot; less a reflection of any great desire to sign a striker this summer and more about moving for one of the game’s top young stars when the chance presented itself.
Even for a fee of around €100M, it was a move that could have been justified by the player’s age, talent, and likely end goal of moving to Real Madrid, with the idea being that after three or four good years at Liverpool he could have been sold to the Spanish giants at a profit no matter the fee paid this summer.
Alternately, if Mbappe was a success and decided to stay at Anfield for much of his career, that equally would have justified such a hefty fee. For a player already as talented as he is, and with the upside he has, even a fee of that size can be rationalised in the current market. So when he becomes available, you look into it.
It’s what both Liverpool and Arsenal did, despite that many fans of both clubs reacted with incredulity given their at times stingy reputations compared to Chelsea and Manchesters City and United. Mbappe expressed doubts about moving to Madrid at this stage, though, and so Liverpool rightly looked into it.
Now, though, reports in France and Spain claim Madrid are pushing hard for him. That manager Zinedine Zidane and president Florentino Perez are working to convince Mbappe and his family that it isn’t too early for him to move to Madrid; that he will get regular playing time there; and that money is no object.
It would seem to end Liverpool’s chances of a surprise Mbappe signing, and Arsenal’s too. For their part, the Gunners appear to have moved on and are being heavily linked with Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette. Liverpool, though, aren’t being seriously linked with another striker yet—because it was never a priority.
Industrious rumour mongers will be sure to fill the void in time, but Mbappe was always a target of opportunity. Whether he stayed at Liverpool the rest of his career or moved to Madrid in three years, the transfer math could be made to work. For an older top striker, a striker like Lacazette or Aubameyang, it wouldn’t.
Both would cost in the £60-80M range this summer, less than Mbappe up front. Both, though, would be making their last big move. Lacazette is 26, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 28. In either case, Liverpool would be signing a player at peak value while knowing that said value would only decrease.
If the Jürgen Klopp made striker a priority, they could justify it—the signing of Mohamed Salah and pursuit of Virgil van Dijk shows a willingness to spend on peak value talent—but it has been made clear a striker is not the same kind of priority as wing and centre half and midfield, where Naby Keïta is the top target.
For Mbappe, the math was different. The up front cost was higher, but over the long-term it could be made sense of for an 18-year-old can’t-miss prospect of his calibre. Now that he appears certain to be heading to Madrid as originally expected, Liverpool fans shouldn’t expect a move for another big name striker.