It has been a quiet January transfer window for Liverpool, largely due to the lack of player availability and a summer shopping spree that depleted the club’s coffers, but could manager Brendan Rodgers have considered his side’s precedent in winter business and scoured the market?
Liverpool have had considerable success during the mid-season transfer window in the past but have also made some costly mistakes.
Rodgers recently claimed, according to the Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce, that: “I don’t think January is a good time to spend. If you look back to last January we didn’t bring anyone in.”
But is the manager right to say that?
Here are Liverpool’s five best and five worst January transfer window signings from the Premier League era, subjectively ranked on quality, value and impact on the side.
We round off with the world-class Luis Suarez, but who else features in our list?
(Note: Jari Litmanen, Rigobert Song and Abel Xavier were all signed prior to the introduction of the official January transfer window but were included in this list to provide a more interesting spectrum.)
As we are tracking the five best and five worst January transfer windows for Liverpool in the Premier League, there are players who, for better or worse, didn’t quite make the grade.
Happily, for Liverpool, there have been more successes than outright failures in terms of winter business.
Here are our five honourable mentions:
£2.7 million, from Salernitana (1999).
Cousin to on-loan West Ham United midfielder Alex Song, Rigobert Song joined Gerard Houllier at Liverpool after a successful trial spell and boasted a strong reputation as a Cameroon international.
After a moderate 1999/2000 season, Song was swiftly phased out by Houllier, with his strong defensive approach failing to compensate for a lack of tactical intelligence.
Song was sold to West Ham United toward the end of 2000, with BBC Sport quoting a £2.5 million fee.
At the Boleyn Ground he was equally as ineffective—a player of higher reputation than talent.
Exchanged for Josemi, from Villarreal (2006).
A straight swap for Spanish right-back Josemi, Jan Kromkamp proved just as disastrous a signing as the player Rafael Benitez made his first signing at Liverpool.
Brought in to provide competition for the imperishable Steve Finnan, Kromkamp barely had a chance to stake a claim for a first-team spot, but when deployed in lieu of the Reds veteran, the former AZ Alkmaar man did little to impress.
Kromkamp’s spell on Merseyside lasted just eight months and 18 appearances before he was shipped off to PSV Eindhoven.
£800,000, from Everton (2002).
Abel Xavier emulated WJ Hartill, Dave Hickson and Nicky Barmby by making the rarely trodden transfer path from Merseyside rivals Everton to Anfield in 2002, but it remains difficult to fathom just why.
At the time, Reds assistant manager Phil Thompson claimed that “to get Abel for not a lot of money is a tremendous thing for the club.”
But despite scoring on his debut, the defender failed to win over Houllier.
Xavier made 14 league appearances for Liverpool before being loaned out to Galatasaray in 2003 ahead of a permanent transfer to Hannover 96.
If you’re going to make an exception to a rivalry-enforced, unwritten rule, perhaps make it a signing of a higher class than Xavier.
£6.3 million, from Real Madrid (2005).
After Liverpool sold the exceptionally clinical Michael Owen to Real Madrid, world-class striker Fernando Morientes moved in the other direction several months later but failed to emulate his predecessor in any form.
Morientes struggled with physical nature of the English game, and a lack of confidence stunted his ability.
Benitez famously assessed the situation in 2006, via Dominic Fifield and Matt Scott of the Guardian: “Nobody can say Morientes is a bad player. He is really good in the air, good with both feet, makes good movement and is a good finisher. He is a fantastic player. Is he playing at his level? Maybe not.”
Morientes scored 12 goals in 61 games for the club—a paltry return based on the striker’s reputation.
£35 million, from Newcastle United (2011).
To compensate for the £50 million loss of Fernando Torres to Chelsea, Liverpool shelled out an incredible £35 million for striker Andy Carroll, who had shown fine form with Newcastle United during his first half-season as a regular starter in the Premier League.
This valuation loomed over the target man throughout his time on Merseyside.
Carroll did perform when called upon by then-manager Kenny Dalglish, such as when he grabbed a two goals in a 3-0 victory over Manchester City in April 2011.
But the striker was never worth £35 million, and his signing can be considered a mistake on countless levels.
Jarring with Liverpool’s traditional possession-based attacking system, Carroll was sold to West Ham United for a healthy £15 million in 2013.
£5.8 million, from Brondby (2006).
Benitez took a risk when he decided to sign 21-year-old Daniel Agger from Danish Superliga side Brondby, but it was very much a calculated one based on the centre-back’s raw quality.
“Daniel will be one of the best centre-backs in England in the future, I am sure of that,” Benitez said, per BBC Sport. “A youngster like Danny can be worked with and he can become Liverpool’s centre-back for the next 10 years.”
Agger didn’t quite make that stretch, and an injury riddled time under Brendan Rodgers saw him marginalised and eventually sold back to Brondby in 2014, by which time he had become a Liverpool icon.
Classy on the ball, strong in the air and accomplished on the ground, Agger was Liverpool’s most complete defender, making 232 appearances for the club.
Were it not for his fitness issues, Agger would likely be marshalling Rodgers’ back line to this day.
£8.5 million, from Inter Milan (2013).
On Philippe Coutinho’s £8.5 million transfer from Serie A giants Inter Milan in 2013, the midfielder was labelled “a player for the future, rather than a star of the present,” by BBC Sport’s Simon Austin.
But the No. 10 hit the ground running, helping to salvage a faltering 2012/13 season with his creative zeal, showcasing his immense potential and underlining his immediate value to Rodgers’ side.
It took until this season, however, for Coutinho to truly reach a top-class level of consistency.
The 22-year-old is now one of Rodgers’ key players and the side’s undisputed chief playmaker—if Coutinho isn’t able to service Liverpool’s strikers, Liverpool invariably struggle.
That £8.5 million is beginning to look more and more of a bargain by the game.
£12 million, from Chelsea (2013).
Joining Coutinho as part of Rodgers’ 2013 January revival act, Daniel Sturridge was a considerable risk by the Liverpool manager, having struggled to impose himself at the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.
But Sturridge quickly vanquished any worries with an incredible 10 goals and three assists in 14 Premier League games in his first half-season at the club.
A run of 21 goals in 29 games the following season, as part of a telepathic partnership with Luis Suarez, saw Sturridge almost boost Rodgers’ side to a Premier League title.
Having lost Suarez in the summer of 2014, Sturridge’s injury woes this season have demonstrated his importance to the side, and a goal on his return in Saturday’s 2-0 home victory over West Ham was a timely reminder of his quality.
Sturridge has proved an invaluable signing.
Initial loan deal, from West Ham United (2007).
It took a long time to rubber-stamp the deal, but the agreement to sign Javier Mascherano from West Ham in January 2007 proved an incredible piece of business by the club.
Mascherano was regularly omitted in favour of Hayden Mullins under Hammers manager Alan Pardew, but Benitez saw the Argentinian’s immense potential.
A full-blooded, tough-tackling, supremely cultured defensive midfielder, Mascherano was of a rare breed.
Making the deal permanent just over a year later, Liverpool secured a formidable midfielder and a vital part in the fabled “best midfield in the world” alongside Xabi Alonso, Mohamed Sissoko and Steven Gerrard.
Mascherano is one of the few truly world-class players Liverpool have been graced with in recent years.
£22.7 million, from Ajax (2011).
As one of Liverpool’s best signings, it should be no surprise that Luis Suarez tops our list.
Unveiled alongside Carroll on deadline day of the 2011 January transfer window, Suarez’s Liverpool fate was to be vastly divergent to his then strike partner.
A goal on his debut—a substitute appearance against Stoke City—set the ball rolling, and Suarez enjoyed a free-scoring spell on Merseyside, inking his name in Anfield legend.
Suarez scored 69 goals in 110 Premier League games and sealed the 2013/14 Golden Boot and Golden Shoe awards following a remarkable return of 31 goals in 33 league games.
Brushes with football’s governing bodies aside, Suarez will be remembered as one of Liverpool’s greatest players.
The striker is by far the best January signing Liverpool have made in the Premier League era.
Statistics via LFCHistory.net.