Why Liverpool’s buy-to-sell model needs looking at

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Liverpool are, rightly, lauded for their transfer business. They’ve been near faultless with their incomings since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in 2015. The Reds have mastered the whole finding undervalued assets and turning them into stars thing. 

On the few occasions they’ve gone big on a player, the recruitment team have got it spot on with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson having a transformative impact on the team. 

They used to be just as effective at moving players on, too. 

Somehow, they effectively swapped Kevin Stewart for Andrew Robertson. They sold Brad Smith and Dominic Solanke for a combined £25million. Danny Ward went to Leicester in a deal worth £12.5million. Last summer, they pocketed around £30million when they sold Rhian Brewster to Sheffield United and Ki-Jana Hoever to Wolves. During this window, to date, they’ve made roughly £5million through the sales of Liam Millar and Kamil Grabara. 

More departures are expected as the club look to add to their coffers. 

However, as James Pearce said in a recent article on The Athletic, moving players on is proving problematic. 

Liverpool want between £12-15million for Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic. They’re also open to selling Neco Williams if a bid in the region of £10million arrives. The club wouldn’t stand in Divock Origi’s way if he wanted to leave for first-team football, but no bids have been forthcoming for the Belgium international. Then there’s Taiwo Awoniyi, valued at £8million per multiple reports, Takumi Minamino, Loris Karius and Xherdan Shaqiri to consider.  You could probably throw Nat Phillips into the mix, too. 

Minamino spent the latter half of last season on loan with Southampton and failed to really impress at St Mary’s. When he arrived, he was viewed as a potential bargain but also as guaranteed profit if he wasn’t up to Liverpool standard. Now that looks far from a certainty.

The Reds find themselves in a bit of a situation. 

They have players they want to sell, but there are no buyers. Those who are interested aren’t prepared to pay the asking price. And, to be honest, why would you? Liverpool’s model is tied to sales. Buying clubs are no doubt counting on Michael Edwards blinking first. They’ll be looking at what happened with Dejan Lovren last summer and hoping to save a few million. 

Zenit managed to sign Lovren for around the £10.5million mark depending on what reports you believe. It wasn’t a bad fee for a fourth choice centre-back, but Manchester City pocketed more when they sold Nicolas Otamendi to Benfica and Manchester United sold Chris Smalling to Roma for more money. 

There’s usually a lot of talk about how Liverpool hope to make x amount from sales during the summer. Then the summer comes along, there’s one big sale and the transfer window closes with the club having made close to £40million in sales and around £5million in loan fees. 

It has happened during the last three seasons. 

Last year, the one big departure was Brewster. The season before that was Ings and in 2018/19 it was Solanke. Those three all went for similar fees – around £20million. You could probably go back to 2017/18 too. Mamadou Sakho was the big sale at £26million before Philippe Coutinho got his move to Barcelona. 

There is quite clearly a plan.  Liverpool want around £40million in sales every summer. But what happens when there isn’t a market for the players they want to sell? At least not at the prices they want. 

The sell to buy model relies on sales. We’re seeing what happens when sales slow down. 

So, does Edwards eventually agree to a lower fee to get money in and free up squad spaces? The club could potentially raise £70million if asking prices are lowered and players are open to a move.  Or do we see a standoff whereby players are loaned out at the very last minute again? 

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