In recent seasons, Liverpool and the transfer window have gone together like oil and water, err let's try again... like peanut butter and glass. Ah one more shot, let's see... like Prometheus and eagles. It'll have to do.
Analogies aside, the truth is that the transfer market has not been too kind to Liverpool in recent years. The global recession caught
trailblazing investors debt leverage tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks with their pants around their ankles and saw Rafa Benitez's crew stall, stutter, and then splinter bit-by-bit.
Roy Hodgson and Christian Purslow joined forces like Elmer Fudd partnering Wiley E. Coyote, and with similar success as that power couple. Thankfully they failed to offload current vice-captain Daniel Agger (the viceroy of Sweden preferred Sotirios Kyrgiakos, no seriously) and one of the Prem's best midfielders in Lucas Leiva (again, Mr. Fudd preferred Christian Poulsen), but still did pull off some practical jokes gone awry with the likes of Paul Konchesky, the aforementioned Poulsen, and the Coyote's successful completion of the most costly "free" transfer in history with Monsieur Joe Cole.
Out of well-earned respect it suffices to say that Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli (drop the "well-earned respect" part here) sent out treasure chests full of money in return for a handful of undeserving players -- Gremlin aside of course. On the heels of that painful stretch, we learned that a club with inexperienced management and devoid of a scouting department may, in fact, struggle in the market. Indeed, Brendan Rodgers's first summer in charge seemed more about dismantling the work of his predecessor than building upon much of anything.
Then, last January, the club's fortunes began to turn around. The winter arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Phil Coutinho -- with a giddily insane value:cost ratio - rectified some of the previous wrongs and hinted that maybe, just maybe, lessons had been learned. Building genuine forward momentum however, was going to have to wait until this summer.
Things kicked off in promising fashion with deals closed quietly and quickly for Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure, Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas. All four have shown varying degrees of worth for either the club's immediate present or impending future, even both in the cases of Mignolet and Aspas. Doubt though, still lingered. It was some but not enough.
Leaving the cluster of early signings behind, the club set sail for potentially even greener shores, only to be reminded of the transfer market's treacherous waters. The Gremlin's forked-tongue machinations with a Machiavellian Arsene Wenger threatened all the progress seemingly made over the past six months. Meanwhile, flirtatious glances at the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Diego Costa, and Willian still saw the club head home solo at the end of the night, reminded of its diminished stature in modern times.
Out of the mess of the Gremlin affair came a very real positive, and not just Liverpool's greatest talent sticking around for another year. Brendan Rodgers's deft handling of the situation - in which he simultaneously crushed the transfer, reprimanded the Gremlin, and all the while left the door open for his return - was a serious sign of growth in his leadership ability after a mixed debut season.
The lack of further signings however, soon began to gnaw and nibble away at the psyche. Either ownership was disinterested in spending money or the club was indulging in the brinksmanship of the market, pushing negotiations right up until the deadline.
Now, transfer deadline day holds a special place in my heart. Then again, anything that manages to combine the most extreme features of both Christmas and Russian roulette would have a special place in my heart, so take that as you will. It's a day that has burned the club in the last few years, and like George Costanza and Festivus, a holiday I was wary to partake in once more.
No need to look further back than January deadline day in 2011 for one hell of a ride. We had the jubilation of getting the Gremlin from Ajax, the (then) despair of Fernando Torres's move to Chelsea, and the self-inflicted carnage of Andy Carroll's massive fee. You can capture it all on home video, but waiting to watch until you can laugh about it may take some time.
With those shadows dancing in the caverns of the mind, seeing Tiago Ilori, Victor Moses, and Mamadou Sakho sitting in the stands for Liverpool's game against United was at once hugely encouraging and a potential hammer-blow to the spirit - ask Spurs fans how much a medical means these days. So to wake up on deadline day morning and see all the signings officially confirmed and goofily pimping the team shop's newest merchandise was a bizarrely normal sight. Where were the mad dashes to the airport? Why wasn't the club struggling to comprehend Spain's VAT laws amid insane rumors of club negotiators turning out to be imposters?
Well, Arsenal fans got the exhilarating high of thinking you're getting coal for Christmas only to walk downstairs and see a pony chained to the fence outside. Good for them (but seriously f*** them). Meanwhile, United fans were forced to come face-to-face with life after Ferguson and the reality that their club is now left totally naked to the cold hands of the Glazer ownership group.
No, we didn't get the attacking "marquee signing" we had explored all summer, but "marquee signing" rivals "bottle" for the most useless common phrase in English football's lexicon. Sturridge and Coutinho each signed for less than half of Carroll's fee and with even fewer headlines. Currently, they are central factors in the club's perfect start to the season and, in the striker's case, also probably a factor in Chelsea's refusal to allow Liverpool a purchase clause in Moses's deal.
Instead, we got one of the most highly-rated defensive prospects in Europe, a speedy and tactically flexible winger to give the manager some options, and, in Sakho, a player who could legitimately turn into one of the best center backs on the planet.
It is Sakho's signing (what the post was supposed to be specifically detailing before this monstrous tangent began spiraling out of control) that, for me, confirms that the club is now truly moving in the direction hinted at back in January when Sturridge and Coutinho came aboard.
Liverpool is currently in a position where it will both struggle to attract top-end players, yet will need to make every penny in the budget a productive one. In order to catch up with the teams who so gleefully profited from Liverpool's demise, the club will need to rely upon an organized recruitment program that attracts undervalued, yet highly talented players who are about to reach their prime. That's real Moneyball for you, though I doubt you'll hear that phrase tossed around Anfield ever again.
In many ways, the real point to this winding discourse is that Arsene Wenger and David Moyes worked late into Monday night to bring just one player to their respective clubs. Liverpool brought in three and Rodgers got to leave Melwood early. This is how things should be done.