Last summer, Liverpool found themselves thwarted in their attempts to sign a few absolute top players by the fact the club had finished the previous season a lowly seventh. This summer, coming off a second place finish and ahead of a return to the Champions League, they will need to convert that on-field success into success in the transfer market.
Achieving what they did last season with a thin squad and ahead of the club's own schedule deserves much praise. Yet it also brings with it added difficulty as Liverpool need to strengthen the squad enough to sustain that success in one summer whereas before that work would have been done over another year or two. And that means securing a few absolute top signings.
"I don't want to put a figure on how many but I would rather have one or two absolute top players than seven that might not help us," said Rodgers. "It's about the quality. We can't be going into the Champions League this year with doubts about players. We have to be going in knowing what the players' capacity to play is and their capabilities."
The club at least tried to sign those sorts of players last season. They were ready to pay Diego Costa's release but the player chose to stay at Atletico Madrid. Willian chose Tottenham and then he chose Chelsea. Henrikh Mkhitaryan preferred Borussia Dortmund's offer of Champions League football. Simply trying won't be enough this time around.
Failing to make the big signing they wanted, in the end many of the deals Liverpool did manage were of the cheaper, more speculative variety. Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, and Tiago Ilori combined cost more than £20M, and none have yet made an impact at the club. If rumours are to be believed, at least two of them are likely to be right back on their way out.
It's clear what Liverpool need this summer with a shallow squad, a return to the Champions League, and the need to hold on to their regained position in the top four. And what they need aren't more gambles on value and the future. They need proven quality that can deliver straight away—and, preferably, they want to get it in ahead of the World Cup.
"Ideally you would want to get things done beforehand," continued Rodgers, "but it's difficult because transfers are so complex, especially if you are doing a big signing. The World Cup does make it difficult but the club and ourselves have been preparing for quite a few months now so we will try and get the business done as early as we can."
Rumours that Liverpool's top attacking target is Adam Lallana and that their top defensive target is Alberto Moreno are both steps in the right direction, as are their clear attempts to get those deals done as quickly as possible. Now the only question is whether, this time around, they can in fact get in those few absolute top players they're clearly after.