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A Closer Look at Liverpool’s Transfer Decision on Timo Werner

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It now seems all but certain that the exciting German attacker is going to Chelsea. But why?

1. FC Koeln v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga Photo by Ina Fassbender/Pool via Getty Images

For ages, it looked like RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner was destined for Anfield (and not just as an opposing player). Then news broke on Thursday that Chelsea were prepared to trigger his release clause, and that Liverpool apparently backed out of the deal.

It was a moment that all the FSGOut-ers and rival fans had been waiting for. Cue the outrage. Cue the top bantz.

Somehow, the ownership which had gotten everything right for the last five years, leading the club to new heights in the process, was suddenly “lacking ambition.”

It’s never a great feeling losing out on a Big Name player, especially not to a domestic and Champions League rival. But one thing is clear in all of this: it was Liverpool’s choice to let Werner go. As such, we have to examine that choice.

For me, the most obvious explanation is around market uncertainty. No one knows what the transfer market will look like going forward. While Werner’s ~£50 million release clause looked like a steal pre-crisis, it’s now impossible to know how good that value is post-crisis. When you add in the wages Chelsea were willing to pay, it would have been closer to a £100 million deal.

Clubs around Europe, Liverpool included, face an uncertain future. It’s unclear whether this season can be finished; equally, no one knows what next season will look like, when it will start, whether it can be finished, etc. No one knows how much revenue will be lost, and when—or if—things can return to “normal.” With spectators banned for the foreseeable future, and with the prospect of a second or even third wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, the club decided on a cautious, “wait and see” approach.

Moreover, Werner was always a luxury buy. We’ve watched clubs that don’t have to worry about finances, like Manchester City, go out and buy the likes of Riyad Mahrez to sit on the bench and be a rotational cog in their machine.

Liverpool were just on the verge of being able to do the same, but instead we’ll have to stick to our world-class front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mané. It is the same first-choice front three that we would have likely had, even with Werner—at least in the short term. When you add in the likes of a fully-integrated Takumi Minamino, wonder-sub Divock Origi, and exciting up-and-coming attackers like Rhian Brewster and Harvey Elliott, Liverpool are far from desperate for good options off the bench and throughout the squad.

Additionally, all the players at the club will have had plenty of rest and recovery time between matches. Asking these players to “go again” is not the same as when they have had essentially no break between seasons and international tournaments.

Naturally there is a gulf between what Werner can bring, and what we currently have at the club. He would have been a great signing: one for the future and for now. But any gains he could have given this side—one that, you may recall, hardly loses football matches—would have been marginal.

Michael Edwards & Co. must have asked themselves “is a £100 million outlay worth the marginal gains we would have gotten?” Unlike other Big Name signings—namely Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, who both massively improved our squad—the answer here was clearly “no.”

As European, World, and soon-to-be English champions, we naturally wanted to strengthen from a position of strength. But equally, we cannot continue conducting business as if the world hasn’t changed. The world has, and we must adapt with it.

FSG, Klopp, and our recruitment team have hardly set a foot wrong in recent years. If they thought Werner was not worth it, I think we can trust their judgement.