Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Chelsea and Liverpool were the biggest spenders during January‘s window. As Fernando Torres edged ever closer to a record breaking move to Stamford Bridge, there was an ill disguised frenzy at Anfield to reinvest tens of millions of pounds anticipated from the transfer.
The club first completed the purchase of Luis Suarez from Ajax. The fee, a mere £23 million, had been agreed over the weekend, but the player only put pen to paper yesterday. More controversially, a reported £35 million was then spent on Newcastle’s young striker Andy Carroll.
Liverpool’s caretaker manager, Kenny Dalglish, spoke about securing a “marquee signing” during January in order to boost morale. In the event the club managed two such purchases, but lost its best player. There is undoubtedly a high degree of risk to its last minute wheeling and dealing.
The January transfer window is a notoriously tricky option for team building. With half a season’s football under their belts, clubs can easily be tempted into panic buying and the hot-house atmosphere lends itself to vastly inflated price tags.
If Liverpool’s gamble gives the club a mid-season fillip and gives it the impetus to push on up the table, then Dalglish and FSG will feel vindicated. If, on the other hand, it deprives a new manager (whomever that might be) of the funds to rebuild in the calmer summer months of pre-season, it will be a major error.
Both the transfers involve players of unproven potential. Suarez is exactly the type of bright young world star whom Liverpool should be chasing. He is quick, hard-working and as the videos show, can do a passing on-field impression of Torres.
His reputation, though, has been built at international level and at Ajax, playing in the reasonably forgiving Dutch league. His youth gives him a good chance of adapting to English football, but Liverpool supporters must be patient, despite the large transfer fee.
Critics will point to Diego Forlan, as a precedent for a Uruguayan international failing to settle sufficiently quickly in England. And Liverpool need look no further than their own Dirk Kuyt to see that impressive goal-scoring tallies in Holland aren’t always replicated in the Premier League.
At least Kuyt is an asset to the club. Ryan Babel’s potential was never realised and he is another high-profile player who has moved during the transfer window. Liverpool finally cut its losses, recouping around £7 million, after the Dutchman signed for Hoffenheim.
If Suarez is something of an unknown quantity, the wisdom of a £35 million investment in Andy Carroll is even more open to doubt. He is certainly a talent, possessing height, aerial ability and a powerful left footed shot. There are also serious questions over his temperament, discipline, lifestyle and fitness. Liverpool has spent the sort of money usually reserved for a sure thing, on players about whom there is considerable uncertainty.
Can Carroll and Suarez gel into a formidable partnership? Will the former, in particular, fit the passing game which Dalglish favours? Admittedly, I’ve had few chances to watch the player, other than on Match of the Day. During a highlights package, he’s the man whom Newcastle frenziedly lump the ball up to during the last ten minutes of matches. For my liking, they became too reliant on hoofing it up to the big man. Liverpool supporters won't appreciate a similar approach.
If Carroll’s greatest asset is his aerial ability, how, in any case, does Liverpool hope to supply him with consistent service? The team still desperately lacks width. There was speculation that the club could also tempt Ashley Young away from Aston Villa yesterday, but that transfer didn’t materialise.
No-one can deny that Liverpool has shown ambition in targeting promising young players and spending serious money. Partly that ambition was facilitated by Torres departure, partly it was forced upon a new ownership, desperate to reassure fans that a major departure would not derail their plans.
Has the club made the right decisions under these circumstances? I don’t think there’ll be a definitive answer to that question until at least next season.