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Between The Lines

Summer transfers from Liverpool (revisited)

 

Back in June we looked at some of the players who could be heading for summer departures from Liverpool. Now that the transfer window is closed, let’s look at who actually left and more importantly, how successful Liverpool were in finding ways to dispense with players they no longer needed.

Three months ago I came up with a list of eight players who I thought would leave Liverpool in the near future. They were:

Alberto Aquilani
Fábio Aurélio
Joe Cole
Milan Jovanovic
Paul Konchesky
Soto Kyrgiakos
Christian Poulsen
Maxi Rodriguez

Some of these were complete no-brainers, particularly the transfers of Paul Konchesky (who was sold to Leicester City) and Milan Jovanovic, who moved back to Belgium to join Anderlecht. What about the others?

Alberto Aquilani (loaned to Milan)

Back in June, I wrote: “Any sale would allow the club to move on from what has ended up being a costly gamble on a player who never looked to be physically or mentally capable of becoming the top quality Premier League playmaker that he was bought to be.”

Despite playing well on the club’s pre-season tour, Aquilani always looked as if he would go back to Serie A somewhere, so this was no surprise. The purchase clause based on appearances makes it almost certain that Aquilani will be bought outright, finally putting an end to the saga.

Joe Cole (loaned to Lille)

In June I wrote: “Although Cole arrived on a free transfer, his salary of around 100k a week (£5m+ pa) was another absurdly generous four-year contract given to a 29 year old player by former Chief Executive Christian Purslow… Would FSG sanction a transfer similar to the one Manchester City did with Cardiff last season for Craig Bellamy? Probably only as an absolute last resort.”

Liverpool had to get at least some of Cole’s salary of the books. It looks as if they are still going to be paying around 60% (£3m) of it next season while he’s on loan in Ligue 1. It’s difficult to see how they could have done much more than that. There were rumours of late interest from Aston Villa, but they wanted to pay a smaller proportion of the player’s salary. Liverpool will be hoping that putting Cole in the Champions League shop window with Lille will boost his transfer value so that they may be able to sell him for a couple of million next summer, partially offsetting what he’s cost so far.

If Liverpool have also put themselves at the head of the queue to sign Eden Hazard next summer, then this is a great piece of business by Damien Comolli.

Soto Kyrgiakos (sold to Wolfsburg)

I wrote: “It may still be time to thank Kyrgiakos for his efforts and let him leave on a free transfer. But there’s always the option of keeping him around for one more year if he’s happy to continue as a squad player.

Although he signed a one-year extension, the imminent arrival of Sebastian Coates probably allowed Liverpool to let Kyrgiakos go. He’ll be remembered as someone who gave everything he had whenever he pulled on a Liverpool shirt.

Christian Poulsen (sold to Evian)

I wrote: “If any central midfield players are brought in this summer, Poulsen will clearly be surplus to requirements.”

That was before Henderson, Adam and Downing were signed. And so it came to pass. There’s no indication that Liverpool received much if any of the £4.5m Poulsen cost last year. An awful signing with Roy Hodgson’s fingerprints all over it. At least Poulsen’s salary is of the books.

 

Still here?

So what of the two players I listed who are still with Liverpool? Fabio Aurelio has another year left on his contract, but with Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Jack Robinson all capable of playing at left back he’s not likely to see much action. He probably isn’t costing much either.

I had a sneaky feeling Maxi Rodriguez would leave because of his age and salary, but it looks as if he’s staying to provide experienced backup. Those eye-catching hat-tricks aside, he wasn’t particularly productive last season and I’m not sure he’ll play much this year either. A little expense for a squad player perhaps, but with so much fat being trimmed from the wage bill elsewhere it’s probably something that Liverpool can bear.

 

Other departures

There are of course others players who have left who I didn’t mention. David Ngog was sold to Bolton for £4m, which is a decent price for someone who wasn’t going to play much, especially after the return of Craig Bellamy. Daniel Ayala was sold to Norwich, but sadly he’s suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for a couple of months.

Emiliano Insua was sold to Sporting Lisbon and Philip Degen – who most people had forgotten was still a Liverpool player – had his contract terminated by mutual consent.

But the big surprise was the transfer of Raul Meireles. Chelsea offered a strange deal involving Yossi Benayoun and £7m for Meireles the day before the window closed. That was rejected, but half an hour before the deadline on Wednesday the club announced that Meireles had handed in a transfer request and suddenly he was gone.

Although he was the only one of Roy Hodgson’s signings who had a good season last year, he’ll be 29 before the end of this season and had apparently been looking for Liverpool to honour an informal agreement that they would improve his contract if his first season was a success. It appears that the club weren’t willing to give Meireles what he wanted, so with a surplus of players at his favoured position and an offer from Chelsea that was more than he cost last summer, it may not be as strange a deal is it appears.

 

In Summary

Overall, this has been a very successful transfer window for Liverpool. Many of the lengthy contracts given to older, unproductive players (like Paul Konchesky, Milan Jovanovic and Christian Poulsen) by the previous owners and management team have been wholely or partly (in the case of Joe Cole) removed from the wage bill. As the Telegraph’s Rory Smith pointed out:

“As far as I can tell, Liverpool have cut £30m off their wage bill and earned about £25m in transfer fees this summer.”

I hope this will help to silence some of Damien Comolli’s more vociferous critics too. Martin Samuel‘s pre-season comment that “Comolli is embarking on a customary supermarket sweep of the best English and British players” was an insulting and deeply inaccurate portrayal of Liverpool’s current transfer strategy. It’s clear that a great deal of careful analysis has been done by Liverpool’s director of football and the rapid re-shaping of the squad that has taken place so far is anything but a random, panic-driven process.

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