Analysing Brendan Rodgers’ transfer mistakes

Liverpool fans were left questioning Brendan Rodgers’ sanity on transfer deadline day after our boss allowed Tiago Ilori, one of the highest rated young defenders in the world, to leave on loan for a third successive season.

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Rodgers’ reputation over transfer decisions has certainly not been helped by the Ilori saga – with the Portuguese still waiting for his first appearance for the club he signed for back in the summer of 2013, despite the indifferent performances of Dejan Lovren and co.

Incredibly, Ilori becomes the thirteenth player signed by Rodgers to leave the club again, either permanently or on loan. In total, the players listed below cost us a combined fee of £75.2m, and yet none of them have been able to earn Rodgers’ continued faith over the last three years.

Where did it all go wrong? We discuss all that and more below…

2012-13 SEASON

Fabio Borini – £11m from Roma (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers worked with Borini at Chelsea and Swansea and rated him highly. He told the Mirror upon signing him: “He’s a multi-functional player who can play in a number of positions and someone I believe has got great growth. He is arguably the best physical player I’ve worked with in terms of his pace, power and fitness. Mentally, he’s very strong.”

What went wrong? – Borini broke his foot in October 2012, an injury which kept him out for three months and severely hampered his development. In February 2013, just a month after his comeback, he dislocated his shoulder and didn’t play again until April. He spent the following season on loan and by the time he returned to the squad in the summer of 2014, it had become clear that he was no longer viewed as a first-team player.

Where are they now? – Borini joined Sunderland on a permanent basis this summer.

Oussama Assaidi – £2.4m from Heerenveen (via Liverpool Echo)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers though he’d uncovered a gem when he signed the Moroccan, and told BBC Sport: “He fits our style perfectly. He’s an exciting player who is very good in one-versus-one situations and I think he’s a player who will excite the crowd. I’ll look forward to helping his development and I hope he’ll become a very good part of this club.”

What went wrong? – He was a player that very much didn’t see eye to eye with Rodgers, who in turn was probably a little underwhelmed with his signing’s lack of strong performances. Assaidi’s parting shot, detailed by the Echo, saw him say: “They buy big names for big money and then they have to play them. I came from a small club in Holland and I took a big step to go to Liverpool because they said I was a good player and would get a chance, but I didn’t get the chance.”

Where are they now? – Assaidi had two spells on loan with Stoke before joining Al Ahli Club in the UAE.

Nuri Sahin – Loan from Real Madrid

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers was delighted to secure what looked the coup of the summer, saying (via our official website): “We are delighted to welcome him to Liverpool and also to say thank you for loaning us such an exciting talent. He is a player with great technique and motivation and someone who will fit in smoothly to our playing model.”

What went wrong? – The biggest issue appeared to be a personality clash between the midfielder and Brendan Rodgers. The Turkey international has since said of his time on Merseyside (via the Daily Mail): “After scoring a few goals the manager started playing me behind the striker which does not suit my game. Despite my love for the club and the fans, I had to leave due to the managers insistence on playing me in that role.”

Where are they now? – Sahin rejoined former club Borussia Dortmund and made the deal permanent in 2014.

Samed Yesil – £1m from Bayer Leverkusen (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers, like many Liverpool fans, was excited that he’d secured a deal for one of Europe’s hottest properties, with many supporters tipping him to have an instant impact.

What went wrong? – The then teenager ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament mid-way through his first season with us. Cruelly, he then suffered the same injury shortly after his comeback, meaning he’s missed virtually two years of his time at Liverpool – something which has understandably slowed his development.

Where are they now? – Yesil has recently joined Swiss club FC Luzern on loan.

2013-14 SEASON

Luis Alberto – £6.8m from Sevilla (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Another young prospect that Rodgers got overexcited about. He once said of Alberto, in quotes taken by The Guardian: “He has the correct footballing profile and mentality to be a Liverpool player. I look forward to working with him to develop his talent.”

What went wrong? – Alberto, sadly, just wasn’t good enough to be a Liverpool player. A handful of cameo appearances were all he got before he was shipped out on loan and the fact that he was never entrusted with anything more than that underlines how unimpressed Rodgers was with the former Barcelona B star.

Where are they now? – Has recently begun his second consecutive season on loan, this time with Deportivo.

Iago Aspas – £7m from Celta Vigo (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Aspas hit the ground running for us in pre-season and had Rodgers excited. The boss told the Daily Mirror: “The idea was that Aspas would give another dimension to our attacking play, and he’s done that. We now have some outstanding talent who can make a difference in the final third – and that has been the most encouraging thing, that we have real quality in that final third where it matters.”

What went wrong? – Aspas’ chances were few and far between due, in no small part, to the immense success of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge – also known as the SAS – who smashed in over 50 goals between them during Aspas’ single season with the Liverpool first-team. When he did get his chance, his form wasn’t good, and he ultimately paid the price for that.

Where are they now? – The Spaniard is back with former club Celta Vigo after a season on loan at Sevilla.

Aly Cissokho – Loan from Valencia

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – “His fitness is excellent and he knows the role well. He will provide real stiff competition for that position this season,” Rodgers told the Echo at the time. Although admittedly, he was only up against Jose Enrique…

What went wrong? – Jon Flanagan became the Scouse Cafu and made the left-back spot his own. Oh, and Cissokho just wasn’t very good, that didn’t help.

Where are they now? – The Frenchman joined Aston Villa last summer and has since moved on loan to Porto.

Tiago Ilori – £7m from Sporting Lisbon (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers was very optimistic about Ilori’s potential after signing him. He told ESPN at the time: “He is 6’3, super quick, power, can jump, and he just needs to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. He is one for the future, but he can be a really big talent.”

What went wrong? – Back-to-back loan spells with Granada and Bordeaux were not as fruitful as Rodgers would have been hoping. Ilori’s development was also not helped by a series of injuries which restricted him to just 21 league appearances during those two years away from Anfield.

Where are they now? – Ilori joined Aston Villa on a season-long loan deal on transfer deadline day.

Victor Moses – Loan from Chelsea

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – He was only really brought in as a squad option and with the likes of Sterling and Coutinho performing so well, Rodgers won’t have been that fussed. He challenged Moses to fight for his place and earn himself a permanent move to Anfield (via the Metro), but it never happened.

What went wrong? – Moses struggled to adapt to life with Liverpool, where he was perhaps a little out of his depth, and failed to make a major impression during his year with us. His success with Stoke City last season suggests that he would be a better player for a mid-table team, rather than one with European ambitions.

Where are they now? – On loan at West Ham United following a deadline day move from Chelsea.

2014-15 SEASON

Rickie Lambert – £4m from Southampton (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – We all knew Lambert was going to be a back-up option from day one. And yet, Rodgers promised us that he was going to be a success. In quotes taken by the Daily Express, he said: “He is a big supporter of the club but he is past that now. He is here to do a job and I trust him to do that job. He will do a great job for us.”

What went wrong? – The wrong player at the wrong time. At Southampton he was the main man, everything went through him and he benefited from the continued faith of the various managerial teams there. He didn’t suit playing five minutes here and ten minutes there – coming on and trying to make a difference as an impact player – and the goals dried up as a result.
Where are they now? – Lambert joined West Brom earlier this summer.

Lazar Markovic – £20m from Benfica (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers could not contain his excitement when he signed the Serbian last summer, telling our official website: “Lazar is flexible to play a number of positions, but I like the way he attacks games and is always positive and looking to make something happen. He will fit in with the way we play at Liverpool. He is the sort of character who is hungry to get better and progress; this is what we look for in players.”

What went wrong? – Flexibility is one thing, but there is value in consistency. Markovic was moved all over the place and, as such, had no time to settle in any position. He was regularly hauled off early on in games as well and that can’t have done much for his confidence. His talent has, sadly, been rather miss-managed so far.

Where are they now? – Markovic has joined Fenerbahce on a season-long loan deal.

Javi Manquillo – Loan from Atletico Madrid

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – Rodgers said in May that he believed in the youngster but he ultimately chose to cut short his two-year deal. He told the Echo: “Young Manqui is a good defender. He has come in, he signed a two-year loan because the first year was always going to be about adapting to the league and of course he hasn’t played as much as he probably would have liked to play. But a lot of that has been due to the system change. He is a good kid and hopefully he comes back in pre-season and can work well and work his way into the team.”

What went wrong? – Rodgers lost faith in the Spaniard and barely played him during the second-half of the season. The signings of Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez this summer ended any chance he had of continuing his career at Anfield beyond the end of our last campaign.

Where are they now? – Manquillo returned to Atletico Madrid before joining Marseille on loan.

Mario Balotelli – £16m from AC Milan (via BBC Sport)

How highly did Rodgers rate him? – It’s hard to tell. What was made clear was that Rodgers, like so many before him, thought he could change Balotelli. He told the The Guardian: “He is a world-class talent and it is an area we need to strengthen. It is a calculated risk but one where we believe we can help him as a player and to mature as a young man. He comes with a reputation but we hope at our club we can curb that behaviour.”

What went wrong? – The decision to sign Balotelli was a calculated risk and one that quite simply didn’t pay off. From almost day one, the Italian simply didn’t look like he fitted at Liverpool, with Rodgers becoming increasingly more frustrated with his player’s attitude both on and off the field. Even at his best, Balotelli probably would have struggled at Liverpool, particularly with Rodgers insisting on playing him as a lone striker.

Where are they now? – Balotelli has rejoined AC Milan on a season-long loan deal.


It’s worth pointing out that Brendan Rodgers has also made some strong signings, most notably Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. There are also high hopes for this summer’s crop – which includes the likes of Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne and Christian Benteke – so we can only hope that there won’t be a fourteenth name to add to this list in the near future.