As Liverpool close in on Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne, with the English right-back set to have a medical this week, they will have made six signings before the transfer window even officially opens in July.
Too many players arrived late last summer, with the Reds having to deal with the Luis Suarez transfer to Barcelona and the frustration of missing out on top targets, such as Alexis Sanchez. Instead, the Reds desperately searched the market before arriving at the likes of Mario Balotelli.
It was the biggest factor behind the disappointing campaign of 2014/15.
Therefore, it’s good to see that owners Fenway Sports Group, manager Brendan Rodgers and the transfer committee recognized that changes had to be made for this summer regarding the approach and methods over transfers.
Being quick and decisive over transfer targets sends out a clear message about your ambition to the fans and players, while also providing incentive for other names linked with the club to join a promising project rather than a sinking ship, which Liverpool’s 6-1 defeat to Stoke City at the end of last season seemed to suggest.
Instead of any negativity, positive signings made early in the summer demonstrates the effort being put in behind the scenes and would impress other targets that the club are looking to sign.
Consequently, if you can manage to bring in a few players on your shortlist early on, you then have a better chance of signing the rest, instead of having the image of a club scrambling around after being rejected by target after target.
Diego Costa, Sanchez, Mohamed Salah, Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan – the list goes on.
However, this time round the mood seems to be different. James Milner turned down Manchester City’s strong appeals to stay with the club and instead signed for Liverpool (yes he will be paid handsomely at Anfield but it would have been no different in Manchester), the Reds beat Tottenham to the signature of Danny Ings (even though Tottenham have stolen plenty of our targets in recent years), while long-time Manchester United target Clyne is on his way to Merseyside.
Yet it is the signing of Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino that has really captured the attention of the fans and told the giants of the Premier League that Liverpool will be looking to compete again at the top.
Manchester United were also linked with the Brazilian, but there were a number of clubs all around Europe that were interested in Firmino. You might ask why none of those rumoured to be interested, such as Bayern Munich, made a move when Liverpool did?
After all, that’s what usually happens when we announce our interest in a top player.
Yet Ian Ayre knew this, and worked quickly to get the deal done, while there is little doubt that Philippe Coutinho played a part in persuading Firmino to move to Anfield.
The best teams in Europe cannot sign every single top player, as there are too many. It is about convincing the right player at the right time that he should be playing for Liverpool, which the club has struggled to do in recent years (Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen remarked that Liverpool showed little desire and effort when trying to convince him to join, compared to his chosen employers).
It is a signing that has the feel of Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres, as even though the Reds may have to fork out a potential £29m, that could quickly become a bargain, such is Firmino’s ability.
As with Suarez, Firmino’s transfer is overshadowed by a saga involving one of Liverpool’s top players. Again the fee demanded is £50m, again the player has alienated himself from the fans (though Torres’ demand to leave was more sudden but the Spaniard did cut a dejected figure that season for Liverpool) and again it seems Liverpool will be bringing in two players to compensate for the loss of one.
Whilst Firmino may have been a planned signing and not a direct replacement for Sterling, if one of Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca (sadly seemingly close to joining AC Milan), Zenit St Petersburg’s Salomon Rondon or Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrives for £20-30m, Liverpool will roughly have secured the signings of two class players for one potential star who has done little so far in his career.
Selling Raheem Sterling for £50m would be a masterstroke and also allow the club to complete its summer business without the worry of having to ship out eight or nine players for funds, although most would still want to see the likes of Jose Enrique, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, Luis Alberto and others leave Anfield.
It seems unlikely that a centre-half and goalkeeper will be pursued, given Bogdan’s signing, Kolo Toure, Andre Wisdom and Martin Skrtel’s new contracts and Tiago Ilori being offered a chance to play first-team football this season.
Subsequently, at most there will be three more signings – a left-back, defensive midfielder and the most likely signing, a striker.
Yet having already brought in six new faces, Liverpool now have time to pick out the final players they need and balance the squad next season by putting a lot of effort into helping unwanted players leave the club.
However, whilst the Reds could play a waiting game to secure cheaper deals for their final signings (Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke comes to mind), if all the incomings could be finished in the next few weeks it would be hugely beneficial for Rodgers.
Already, the speed of the new signings allows the Northern Irishman, who is still surely on thin ice after last season, to integrate more of his new signings earlier into pre-season. This gives them more time to settle in, become familiar with the pressures and expectations at Anfield and adjust to the style of play implemented by the manager.
Speed has served Liverpool well thus far. They do not want to be slowing down and undergoing another trolley dash at the end of August, which has happened in recent seasons.
Considering the amount of time that will be needed to shift all of Liverpool’s deadwood, completing the list of arrivals as soon as possible will allow the Reds to be in the best possible shape going into the start of the season.
For Liverpool to actually enjoy a successful transfer window, there is a bit more work that needs to be done, and quickly.