Liverpool’s second choices in the transfer market have come up trumps in recent years.
In the summer of 2016, the Reds were heavily linked with a move for Mario Gotze, a player who enjoyed his best footballing days under the management of Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund. The German, however, opted to rejoin Dortmund from Bayern Munich. Klopp wasted no time and decided to push for a move for Sadio Mane from Southampton.
Since then, the Senegalese winger has become one of the foremost attackers in world football and Gotze’s career — thanks to a combination of injuries and health issues — has stagnated and the 28-year-old now plies his trade in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.
Similarly, in the summer of 2017, Liverpool were said to be pursuing then Bayer Leverkusen attacker Julian Brandt. Klopp was said to favour a move for the German international, but — worried about his chances of playing regularly at Anfield — Brandt decided to remain at the BayArena.
After failing to land the now Dortmund attacker, the Reds focused their efforts into signing Mohamed Salah from Roma. Klopp has since admitted that he only greenlighted the move for the Egyptian after being convinced that the former Chelsea attacker was on the brink of a dramatic improvement by the club’s recruitment team.
And how right they were. In his first season at Anfield, Salah broke a Premier League goalscoring record for a 38 game season. Since then, the 28-year-old has cemented himself into the history of the club with a starring role in the clubs sixth European Cup title and first league title in 30 years.
In the early months of 2020, everyone and their dog was under the impression that Timo Werner would soon call Liverpool his footballing home. The German was effusive in his praise of Klopp and his team in interviews and German reporters and their English counterparts both claimed that the respect and desire to work together was mutual between the player and the Reds.
However, with the financial impact of COVID19 the English Champions — unable to pay the entirety of Red Bull Leipzig’s £47.5 million release clause upfront — decided to pull out of the deal to sign Werner. Sensing an opportunity, Chelsea — bankrolled by the billions of their oligarch owner and given financial wiggle room by UEFA relaxing their financial fair play rules — swooped in and signed the German.
Liverpool bided their time and assessed the market before pulling the transfer trigger and landing Diogo Jota in a deal worth £41 million in early September. Crucially, the transfer allowed the Reds to pay just £5 million upfront with the remainder payable over the course of the contract. The Portuguese winger had impressed with Wolves during his two years in the Premier League, but even the most optimistic Liverpool supporter couldn’t have foreseen how quickly the 23-year-old would settle at Anfield.
At the time of writing, the former Porto and Atletico Madrid attacker has notched nine goals in 14 appearances in all competitions, including a brilliantly taken hat-trick away to Atalanta in the Champions League. Jota’s ambidexterity, his ability to weave his way through the most compressed areas with his velvet-smooth close touch and drilling ability; his surprising aerial capability that has already yielded two goals; and his supreme shot selection has already made the Portugual international a fans favourite.
Werner, meanwhile, has started life at Stamford Bridge reasonably well — scoring eight times in all competitions — but there are still question marks over where the German fits into Frank Lampard’s plan’s when all the Chelsea players are fit. Additionally, the former Stuttgart flier has increasingly been tagged as flat-track bully. In the Blues’ big games this season, they are yet to score — drawing blanks in a loss to Liverpool and draws to Manchester United and Tottenham — and Werner has often looked peripheral and unsure of what he is supposed to be doing from a tactical perspective.
Whether Jota is a better player than Werner is up for debate — although, the objective of a team sport is creating the best, most balanced team and not just shoehorning a host of brilliant individuals in, so it hardly matters — but it is becoming increasingly clear that he fits Klopp’s plans brilliantly and perhaps better than Chelsea’s current number 11 would have.
Liverpool have been brilliant in the transfer market in recent year, and in their number 20 they appear have struck gold once again.