As Liverpool close in on another painful transfer window, Michael Edwards must soon decide how he is to engage in what could be his final dealings as Liverpool’s Sporting Director. Since FSG installed Michael Edwards into his role, he has had a near faultless record in being able to recruit undervalued players, thus allowing Jürgen Klopp to turn such players into bonafide superstars. The ability to engineer certain deals was always based upon club sales, and given the market is somewhat stagnating now could be the time to be creative.
With the season only a handful of games old, Liverpool have already encountered problematic injuries within their midfield roster, and will hope that they can maintain a steady period, allowing senior players to appear in all up coming matches. In choosing not to replace Gini Wijnaldum in the summer, Michael Edwards and the recruitment team could well embark on a new transfer strategy in order to enhance the current squad. In Klopp’s tenure as Liverpool manager, we have seen the club delve into the free transfer market on occasion, in looking to attract players out of contract. In the past three seasons (and especially since the signing of Virgil van Dijk), the Bosman signing of Joël Matip has proved a tremendous piece of business. His wages would not have been too high (when signing for the club), and to replace him would see Liverpool parting with at least £40 million. The fact that he has proved such a success, could make other such recruitments attractive to a club working within a tight budget.
Instead of looking too much at what has transpired in past windows, it will be interesting to see if any players approaching the final months of their contracts can be swayed into joining the reds. The central midfield and forward positions will see the more illustrious names mentioned, and presumably a low risk right-back will be signed in the summer. Once Neco Williams has been off loaded, this could offer the chance to sign a Kostas Tsimikas type player for the other side, which would not require a significant outlay. There is the need right now for an understudy to Trent, however it appears that James Milner’s final season will include this task.
Franck Kessié is a name that has been floated a few times these last few weeks, and could be the ideal Gini replacement. He is currently well into his final contracted year at AC Milan, and would represent brilliant business. Whether or not he could be signed as early as January (for a nominal fee) is debatable, but it could well be a new strategy that Liverpool adopt going forward. Having seen Gini, Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge leave the club at the end of their deals, it could be that Edwards can look to exploit this very market. Liverpool have too often allowed their assets to walk away for free, and it would be sensible to reverse that trend, and bring more such players in the future.
FSG will not be signing Kylian Mbappé or Erling Haaland (that much is for sure), yet may well be able to talk to certain agents regarding players in their final contracted years. To enable and secure the elite players Liverpool need, this could offer the only means of obtaining such talents, at least in the short term. Liverpool will not splurge huge fees on players in the near future, and Philippe Coutinho type sales are in short supply. Liverpool have been smart under Edward’s watch, and may have to be that bit more savvy in order to address problem areas. The market is rich with players winding downs their current deals, and huge fees could be watered down to large contracts and signing on fees. The saving would still be hugely significant, and the difference between signing either a good or elite player, could well transpire.
Other midfield options that could be considered (this season) consist of Boubacar Kamara, Marcelo Brozovic, Denis Zakaria, Corentin Tolisso and Fábio Vieira. All of which could offer some good depth, and indeed the amount of players now commonly winding down their deals could make one of these (or Franck Kessié) a viable addition.
The forward line most certainly needs addressing, as the historical three starters all close in on 30 years of age. Eventually Divock Origi will leave, and despite the assumption that Harvey Elliott would replace left winger Xherdan Shaqiri in the squad, it appears his role will be more of a midfield option. Ousmane Dembélé is a name that appears before each window, and the ultra talented wide forward could well be worth the risk, given his enormous talent. Paulo Dybala would normally cost north of £75 million, but a Bosman transfer could see that deal become more affordable, and therefore attractive.
With Newcastle set to make huge waves, the two Manchester clubs keen on spending, and Chelsea recruiting heavily these past two seasons, now could be the time to explore what type of deals can be done. Whether or not the big transfer fees become feasible could well depend on Mohamed Salah’s future, as his departure would bring in well over £100 million. The likelihood is that the world’s greatest forward commits to a new deal, and the forward line be built around his genius. In this case, the correct players must be attained. If a certain Ivan Toney was signed for less than £50 million, this may well make a Dembélé less of a risk. Dembélé is now an undervalued asset that once cost Barca £100 million, and the chance to sign this young man could prove inspired business, as long as a consistent forward like Toney was brought in also.
The meantime (and final days of Michael Edwards’ reign) should therefore be spent looking at any and all possible recruitment avenues. With the pandemic still playing a part in many clubs spending potential, the chance to entice players to pre-contract agreements, should most certainly be considered in order to stay in touch with Liverpool’s huge spending rivals.