Liverpool's January transfer adventure saw the club publicly miss out on a pair of attacking targets. Mohamed Salah, FC Basel winger and Egypt's answer to Lionel Messi, headed off to Chelsea when Liverpool tried to bargain down his fee and gave the London club time to swoop. Then, Dnipro's owner dithered on paperwork and the transfer window closed before a deal could be completed for Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Rather less publicly, there were also widespread rumours of attempts to get deals done for a pair of defensive midfielders, with Porto's Fernando and Rubin Kazan's Yann M'Vila rumoured to have been close to a move. While for many missing out on Fernando remains a regret despite Liverpool's stellar second half, to hear Rubin manager Rinat Bilyaletdinov tell it, the club may have dodged a bullet in M'Vila.
"He has to prove his value and work like everyone else," Bilyaletdinov told France Football when asked about M'Vila's current status out of favour and on the fringes at Rubin Kazan. "I don't mean that he doesn't work, but we can see that he misses France. In January M'Vila behaved badly—one day he trained, one day he didn't."
As to why M'Vila was frequently absent from training back in January, Bilyaletdinov believes it was down to the player expecting a move to Liverpool before the Russian league returned from its winter break. As the manager saw it, the player had already mentally checked out at Rubin and didn't particularly expect it to matter if he alienated the coaches and his teammates at the Russian club.
"Maybe his agents had promised him something," said Bilyaletdinov. "He thought he was already in Liverpool. I told him: 'It is not your level. If you go, you will be on the bench.' He was very disappointed. Now I haven't seen him for a while. I have been told he is in France to cure an injury. Even if he is back to full fitness, I don't know where to play him."
There's always the chance it could be sour grapes on the part of his current manager, and there may be far more to M'Vila being on the outs at Rubin than Bilyaletdinov's side of the story tells. For a player often surrounded by questions about attitude and effort, though, it's hardly a promising picture of M'Vila painted by Rubin's manager.
If his is a fair assessment, it is another red flag for a player who already has more than a few of them, and a sign that perhaps Liverpool were lucky not to get a deal done for M'Vila in January—and that they should be looking elsewhere come summer.