It’s silly season again. Every summer, Liverpool FC are linked with upwards of one hundred players through various media sources. Online, paper and television media cram their inches and sound waves who’ll next sign on the dotted line for the Reds, from up-and-coming English players to the very best South America has to offer.
Most of the time, of course, the rumours are nothing more than pure fabrication.
But sometimes, the papers do get it right: one way or another, Liverpool’s transfer targets find their way onto the back pages and the blogs, the yellow ticker bars and the click-on headlines.
Once in a while—take January with Luis Suarez, for instance—we get a full day-by-day account of how the move is progressing, with the moment of truth just hours away according to some, days away according to others.
And other times, when all seems to be plain sailing and the timing is right, the player suddenly has a change of heart, or the club fail to agree to terms, or something else scuppers the deal. Sometimes, Liverpool don’t manage to snare their man.
Here is a recount of some of those times, both the ones we were devastated to miss out on and the ones that were blessings in disguise.
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‘Twas the summer of 2007 and the Reds were oh-so-desperately in need of a winger, someone with pace, trickery and the ability to beat a man and provide a stream of crosses and passes to our forwards.
Florent Malouda was the man marked to fill the void; however, the move never materialised after Chelsea reportedly outbid the Reds, even though Malouda had shown an interest in joining Rafa Benitez’s outfit.
After an inauspicious start to his career in London, Malouda has blossomed and become one of the finest goalscoring wide players in the league, playing in a number of positions for Chelsea, including more centrally at times this year.
In the time Malouda has been at Chelsea, Liverpool have tried and disregarded the likes of Albert Riera, Sebastian Leto, Ryan Babel, Maxi Rodriguez and various others. Perhaps this summer Dalglish will find someone to become more of a permanent fixture than those who have come before.
Speaking of which, Sylvain Marveaux was watched by Damien Comolli several times and earmarked as one of the signings for this summer. The pacey but injury-prone left midfielder for Rennes was a guest of the club at a match at Anfield in January, and he was widely linked with a Bosman transfer to the Reds in the coming weeks.
However, amid rumours that he has failed a medical with Liverpool recently, Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew swooped in to make him their second signing of the summer, meaning he will face the Reds in 2011-12 instead of playing with them.
While his impact is obviously yet to be determined, Liverpool have been looking for a wide player with pace to burn for a while. A fast start by the former Rennes player might raise question marks in the minds of Reds about the real reason he didn’t sign for the club.
In what was the great shafting of Rafa Benitez by former club Chief Executive Christian Purslow, the Spaniard wanted to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa in a deal worth upwards of £16 milllion.
Purslow invited Rafa to sign Robbie Keane, a forward from Spurs, to which Benitez was agreeable—on the condition that Barry was signed first. Barry was the key to how Benitez wished the team to line up and was to be the main supply line to the front duo of Keane and Torres.
Cecil, as he was known, told Benitez not to worry, that there was plenty of time and money to do both deals. Of course we know what happened next. Keane signed and Barry did not, reportedly after Purslow later told Benitez the club could not afford both deals in the end, meaning Keane was a loose piece in a broken jigsaw at the club.
The following season—Keane already offloaded by this time—Benitez was hoping to sign the English midfielder again, but he jumped ship to the Arab play toy of Manchester City instead.
Following the farce of the Robbie Keane deal, the next January transfer window proved apparent that Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin was available for transfer following the closure of the Russian league.
Benitez wanted to offload Robbie Keane in a hurry, as Spurs were willing buyers, and use the proceeds to bring in Arshavin.
However, all too familiar dallying on the part of the Reds’ boardroom meant that while Keane was eventually sold, Arsenal rushed in to capture the signature of Arshavin instead—leaving Liverpool without a reinforcement in the attacking area of the pitch.
The costly nature of this slow movement in the transfer market was all too apparent. Arshavin scored no less than four goals in a single game against Liverpool at Anfield in what was one of the all-time epic Premier League matches, finishing 4-4.
The more recent signings of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez give hope to the Liverpool fans that such slow decision making is a thing of the past under the new ownership of FSG, and that the Reds will not be made to pay in such a way again.
Almost certainly a blessing in disguise that he decided against a move to Liverpool, Luke Young was Roy Hodgson’s first candidate for a fullback signing, putting pressure on Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio on both sides of the pitch.
Given the fact that Young struggles to nail down a place regularly in the Aston Villa side, and that most of Hodgson’s signings were in fact beyond dreadful—plus Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson were all featured and did superbly well in the full back areas for Liverpool this season—it is probably fair to say that all Reds fans are relieved that Young pulled out of the move.
After speaking to the club, Young decided against joining Liverpool. He didn’t want to be a back up player or feature prominently on the left side of defence.
One presumes it wasn’t because he was scared of a fight with Paul Konchesky for a first team spot.
Whatever happened to Stephen Ireland’s career? Three years ago he was seen as the cornerstone of Manchester City’s rebuilding, one of a generation of players including Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards, Ched Evans, Joe Hart, Michael Johnson and Daniel Sturridge.
Fast-forward a couple of seasons, and now only Richards and Hart remain as fixtures in the City side, while Ireland has gone into freefall.
He retired from international football playing for, obviously, Ireland, then had an offer from Liverpool turned down by Manchester City. Then when Hughes left and Mancini came in it all started going wrong for him. He played out of position or not at all, and he lost his form and confidence.
When he was let go to Aston Villa at the beginning of last season, it was supposed to be a new start for him. But things still didn’t seem to work out and he was loaned to Newcastle United for the second half of the season where he spent an injury-laden couple of months.
Once heralded as the new Steven Gerrard, he has now played just 34 league games in the last two seasons for three different clubs, and he now faces a fight to get his career back on track.
Liverpool actually did sign Nicolas Anelka – on loan for half a season, in 2002. Alongside a top-of-his-game Michael Owen he had a great impact on the Reds’ attack as they finished second in the league.
At the end of that season, then-manager Gerard Houllier had the chance to make the deal permanent.
He decided against, and instead signed Senegalese spitter El-Hadji Diouf.
I think that is all we need to say here.
One for the memory banks: Michael Laudrup, Denmark’s finest export (no matter what those beer adverts say).
Twice he was linked to a move to Liverpool, and twice the Reds failed to capture what was one of Europe’s greatest talents of the pre-Premier League era.
Once upon a time, he was actually said to have agreed to a move to Liverpool, until the club tried to insert an extra year into the length of his contract. This caused his father and agent to pull the plug, before he sealed a move to Italy instead.
Later, after the great man himself had openly stated his desire to play for the Red men alongside the likes of Barnes, Aldridge and Beardsley, Liverpool again failed to seal the deal and Laudrup headed for a spell in Spain instead.
One of the true greats who Liverpool let slip through their fingers – twice.
And fast-forward twenty years or so, to the latest instalment of the Liverpool nearly men. Phil Jones, formerly of Blackburn Rovers, has just agreed a move to Manchester United, reportedly turning down moves to Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur along the way.
The versatile youngster has just completed his first major season in the Premier League and had a huge impact playing all the way across the defence and in midfield at different times.
A £16 million escape clause in his contract meant that Rovers had no chance of standing in his way. And though Liverpool were thought to have been the club to have activated that clause, he has taken the complete opposite route to the one Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish must have hoped for in signing for Manchester United.
Those eight on the list weren’t the first, but they won’t be the last.
Gael Clichy? Jose Enrique? Charlie Adam? All have been heavily linked with Liverpool for months and yet could end up at other clubs. Roma are reported to have a large interest in the Gunners left back while various clubs including Spurs and Manchester United have previously held Enrique and Adam in high regard.
Whoever ends up signing for Liverpool will get the full backing of the fans and experience the great nights at Anfield along the way. Those who choose an alternative route, however, might well spend the odd moment pondering on how differently their careers might have gone if they had chosen differently. Especially if, as hoped, King Kenny leads Liverpool back to their former glory.