The prospect of signing Brighton’s best player would have alarmed some Liverpool fans 12 months ago – but it is in keeping with the Fenway Sports Group model
Certain supporters would have gone into meltdown if 12 months ago they were told Liverpool’s main priority of the following summer’s transfer market was to sign a Brighton midfielder.
Few, though, will be complaining as the Reds continue to chase the signature of Alexis Mac Allister, having made the Argentina World Cup winner their focus as they look to strengthen their midfield options.
Comments from the player’s family and friends suggest a deal is close, with Anfield sources quietly confident the transfer is progressing well. And Mac Allister himself did little to quell the speculation when directly asked about Liverpool interest last week.
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Thumbs up for that move. But Reds fans are divided over a number of other linked players, dependent largely on where they are currently playing. Ryan Gravenberch of Bayern Munich is an exception, but midfielders Khephren Thuram of Nice and Manu Kone of Borussia Moenchengladbach, along with Wolfsburg centre-back Micky van de Ven, have prompted debate. Why aren’t Liverpool trying to sign players from better clubs?
Critics of Fenway Sports Group have jumped on the appointment of new sporting director Jorg Schmadtke – famed for working transfer miracles on a shoestring in his native Germany – as a pointer to Liverpool spending little in the coming months following their failure to qualify for the Champions League.
But while Schmadtke will be working with the largest budget of his career, his expertise will allow the Reds to continue with their tried-and-trusted method of seeking out the best value for prospective signings and only paying large fees when they are deemed absolutely necessary.
And it’s worth bearing in mind a post on social media over the weekend that gained traction by pointing to where the side that won the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 were signed from.
Roma provided both Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah, while Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane came from Southampton. Roberto Firmino was taken from Hoffenheim, Andy Robertson from Hull City, Gini Wijnaldum arrived from Newcastle United, Fabinho from Monaco, Jordan Henderson was a Sunderland player while Trent Alexander-Arnold came through the Academy and Joel Matip signed on a free having left Schalke. Of the substitutes that came off the bench, Divock Origi was taken from Lille, Joe Gomez from Charlton Athletic and James Milner’s previous team had been Manchester City.
The number of European Cups won by that collective group of former clubs? Zero.
Indeed, it has, until recent times, been unusual for Liverpool to sign players from former European champions. Marko Grujic (Red Star Belgrade) and Dominic Solanke (Chelsea) were two during the early years under Jurgen Klopp, but were both youngsters who ultimately failed to make a regular breakthrough into the first team.
The last few years, though, has seen a noted increase, although Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich) apart, they have come from clubs who would be considered a rung below Liverpool in the European ladder – Luis Diaz (Porto), Darwin Nunez (Benfica) and Cody Gakpo (PSV Eindhoven). As expectations have heightened at Anfield, so too has the level of players needed to meet them.
That said, should Mac Allister complete his move, he will join a very small group of players who will have featured for Liverpool as a World Cup winner.
For some context, the Manchester City team that beat Arsenal in the effective Premier League title decider in April included players bought from Benfica, Wolfsburg, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Porto, Atletico Madrid, River Plate, Monaco, Leicester City and three from Borussia Dortmund, which has long been a breeding ground for leading talent. Jude Bellingham, anyone?
While there will be angst in some quarters that long-time Reds target Mason Mount is likely heading to Manchester United, moves for senior players to Liverpool from a traditional Premier League ‘big six’ club are rare. In the last decade, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came from Arsenal in 2017, Milner after leaving City two years previous, Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea in 2013. That’s it.
In whichever league, clubs are always extremely reluctant to sell to rivals competing for the same honours. And elite level clubs will usually not allow players to leave unless they are tempted by a monumental transfer fee or the player is deemed beyond his peak. When Liverpool were striving to regain former glories in the early 2000s, the signings of Jari Litmanen from Barcelona and Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid were evidence of the latter. They arrived clearly past their best.
The FSG model, though, determines most new arrivals will fall under the profile of being able to improve both themselves and the team during their time at Liverpool. As John Henry told the ECHO in an exclusive interview earlier this year: “We continue building at Liverpool Football Club in a responsible manner.” And, as is being shown by the pursuit of Mac Allister, that isn’t going to change this summer.