Entering this summer transfer window, Liverpool had identified five targets. Four of them—Fabinho, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Alisson Becker—now proudly wear the liver bird across their chests. Nabil Fekir does not.
It was a stellar window, and one to match the ambitions of the upcoming season. However, the Fekir pill is a tough one to swallow.
This morning, on the eve of Liverpool’s season opener, James Pearce of The Echo gives a full account of what happened in the Fekir not-a-saga.
Pearce’s reporting more or less tells us everything we already know. There are no surprise twists, or mysteries.
Liverpool and Lyon agreed to a £48.4 million fee with a further £4.4million in add-ons for Fekir, pending a medical. The deal was so advanced, that the French international had an interview with LFCTV. However, the medical raised concerns with club physicians that Fekir’s knee was too big of a risk in the long term for Liverpool. The club pulled out and never reconsidered, despite the rumblings from Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas throughout the summer.
Additionally, Pearce firmly dispels the rumors that Shaqiri was a “Fekir replacement.”
“Some have suggested that Xherdan Shaqiri was the alternative to Fekir but that’s simply not the case,” Pearce writes.
“Shaqiri had long since been identified by Liverpool’s recruitment team as the perfect addition to their attacking armoury as he would offer something different.
“The Switzerland international is viewed by Klopp very much as a forward whereas Fekir would have played centre midfield.”
It is easy to feel disappointed or frustrated by the lack of a “plan B” in midfield after the Fekir deal fell through. However, in looking at Liverpool’s transfer record under Klopp, finding a backup plan isn’t always so straight forward or easy. Nearly ever transfer since the summer of 2016 has been a successful one, and some wildly so.
The recruitment team spends months identifying, targeting, and convincing the right players, in the right positions, and with the right attitudes to come to Merseyside. As we saw with the agonizing waits for Virgil van Dijk and Keita, sometimes there just is no suitable backup plan available.
Some are concerned that this transfer failure will leave us a little light in midfield. This concern was fully realized at the tail end of last campaign when the Reds were down to exactly three healthy senior midfielders after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Although the club has been closing the gap to those above us, it is still playing catch up with a significant financial disadvantage. It means that we have to continue the transfer success of recent seasons, hitting well above average and minimizing unnecessary risk. In this regard, walking away from this deal was not just the right move, but a necessary one.