Brendan Rodgers is a lucky man. Most managers who splurge £106.75million on seven players in one summer, and then see most of them flop, simply don’t get the chance to wave the cheque book again a year later.
But Liverpool’s owners have been different. When Nathaniel Clyne completes his £12million move from Southampton this week he will become the sixth signing of this close season and the signs are there will be more to come.
If there’s a big difference about the 2015 version of the Anfield spending spree it’s that this one appears far better planned, and has far more value.
Clyne was one of the Premier League’s standout performers for Saints last season, and when he got his chance in an England shirt looked as if he could lock down the right back berth as his own. And to get him for £12million looks terrific value set against the £31million that Manchester United paid for another full back from St Mary’s when they bought Luke Shaw.
James Milner on a free has to be the best bit of business anybody will do. People talk about his work rate and application, but there’s so much more to him than that. He can get a goal or two, he can keep the ball, and he can also pick the killer pass as he proved on many occasions for Manchester City last season. Quite how they ever allowed him to be out of contract is a mystery.
Roberto Firmino has the right pedigree, although his performance for Brazil in the Copa America over the weekend hardly filled you with optimism. But at 23 he can improve, and his record of creating the most chances of any player in the Bundesliga over the last two seasons with Hoffenheim has promise.
The other big difference, of course, is that the half dozen new recruits are all ready to start pre-season training this week rather than arriving in dribs and drabs when the campaign was already kicking off.
Will it all deliver a return to the Champions League? Liverpool are [3.9] to achieve a Top 4 Finish but there’s one key element still missing from their recruitment, and that is a guaranteed goalscorer.
Danny Ings at £8million has had only one season in the top flight, and for all the promise he showed in a Burnley side heading for relegation it remains a big ask for him to make a difference at the top end of the table. Rickie Lambert is almost certainly on his way out. Mario Balotelli was an unmitigated disaster and there’s no reason to think he’d be any different this time.
What Rodgers needs is one more piece of faith from his owners – the £32million to trigger Christian Benteke‘s release clause from Aston Villa. That will probably only come if Manchester City up their offer to take Raheem Sterling away – but it would actually make sense to get on and do the incoming business now and then collect the cash for the unsettled England striker later.
Chelsea showed last season the value of getting business done early. Jose Mourinho had the titled tied up almost before the first day of training. Liverpool have copied that approach and could reap the same sort of benefits – but they must pay one last huge fee to be sure of the goals to top off all their other good work.