First came the rumours out of Germany concerning Thiago Alcantara, rumours claiming Liverpool were ready to bid around £35M to bring in the 29-year-old, injury-prone midfield star who’s currently making £200k per week at Bayern Munich.
Journalists in England were skeptical. The player’s age, wage, and injury history would make him a very unusual signing for data-driven Liverpool and mark a radical shift in recruitment. That didn’t much stop a lot of fans getting excited, though.
Then came another set of rumours out of Germany. This time they concerned Ozan Kabak. There were claims Liverpool were now ready to bid around £35M to bring in the promising, 20-year-old Turkish central defender from Schalke.
Again local journalists were skeptical. Liverpool see Joe Gomez as Virgil van Dijk’s long-term partner and £35M is a lot for a player to battle Joël Matip for third choice—and a player who would need minutes to develop and justify his fee.
Again, though, some fans insisted on getting excited about a potential signing that’s almost certainly not happening, and one of the most common rationales is the idea it no longer makes sense to speculatively link players with Liverpool.
Unfortunately for any Liverpool fans looking to keep their sanity this offseason, though, there has never been a better time to speculatively link players with Liverpool. Because this offseason, Liverpool probably should be making signings.
The club are Premier League champions. They’re European champions—at least until someone else wins it in August. They’ve got the game’s most highly regarded manager. They’ve got a squad edging towards the end of their prime years.
Only they aren’t going to spend. At least not much or quickly. Jürgen Klopp has repeatedly said as much. That the club allowed Timo Werner—their top attacking target and a player desperate for a Liverpool move—to go to Chelsea shows it.
And so we’re left with a situation where the entire football world knows that, were it not for the uncertainty caused by coronavirus, Liverpool would have certainly made a splashy signing or two this summer. But instead they’re waiting.
Right or wrong, they’re waiting for a little certainty about next season’s Champions League. A little certainty about fans coming back. A little certainty about broadcast money. A little certainty about an endless list of coronavirus issues.
Which means that any plans for signing players they might have wanted have been put on the back burner. In Werner’s case, there were reports the player had been asked to wait; told Liverpool still wanted him. Werner didn’t wait.
There will be other potential targets, too. Liverpool might move for them later in August or September or not at all. And if you’re an agent or selling club, that makes it the perfect time to use Liverpool’s name to try to drum up business.
In another summer, with Liverpool where they are now, saying Liverpool wanted Thiago or Kabak could scare other clubs off. Not this summer, though. Not when Liverpool are waiting and everybody knows that Liverpool are waiting.
This summer, saying Liverpool are interested is a way of telling other potential suitors that they have a chance of beating Liverpool to signing a player that Liverpool really want if only they’ll hurry up and bid. Because Liverpool are waiting.
Which means that if a player is going to cost a big fee or wages and doesn’t fit the profile you’d expect of a Liverpool signing or doesn’t fill a position of obvious need, more so than maybe ever, this summer there’s probably nothing to it.