With Liverpool in the market for at least one, if not two, more midfielders, and a left-sided centre-back also on their wish list, this summer will be one of the Reds’ busiest transfer windows.
Alexis Mac Allister has already arrived for a fee believed to be in the region of £35m, with club bosses monitoring a number of players as they weigh up their options ahead of making a move for the summer’s second signing. Should they land their desired three further signings, it would mark the most senior permanent signings Liverpool have made in one window since signing Fabinho, Naby Keita, Alisson Becker and Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer of 2018.
Granted, the Reds are unlikely to sanction a repeat of this £174.25m. GBP spend, which remains the club’s biggest total outlay since the transfer window was introduced in its current format in 2002/03. But they are still expected to spend heavily this summer as they look to bounce back from last year’s disappointing campaign in which they failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Of course, the club record £142m sale of Philippe Coutinho in January 2018 had helped fund the following summer’s business. With Liverpool unable to compete with the riches of Man City and the rest of their ‘Big Seven’ rivals, it has been jovially suggested how the Reds would capitalize on their ‘next Coutinho’.
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Club bosses have sold sensibly in recent years, with fringe players Christian Benteke, Jordon Ibe, Mamadou Sakho, Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings, Rhian Brewster and Neco Williams all fetching £15-30m each. Such signings have helped bolster Liverpool’s coffers as a result.
But unfortunately, the Reds do not possess such players that they would both be willing to move on, and who are likely to command a significant fee. Sure, Caomhin Kelleher would probably fetch upwards of £15m if he was allowed to move, but salable assets with such an asking price are few and far between at Anfield.
So far, academy graduate Leighton Clarkson is the only permanent exit after joining Aberdeen on a successful loan for an undisclosed fee. Such a transfer is unlikely to eat into the £35 million Liverpool have spent on Mac Allister.
Of course, the Reds have not been helped by the number of players who continue to leave the club on free transfers at the end of their contracts. Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all left for Bosman this summer, following in the footsteps of Divock Origi, Gini Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno and Emre Can in recent years .
While Coutinho is Liverpool’s record sale, Sadio Mane is the only other player to have been sold for more than £30m during Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Anfield. The departed Senegalese would join Bayern Munich in a deal worth £35m, with the Reds selling the forward for a small profit, having bought him for £34m from Southampton six years earlier as a result.
Liverpool received £27.5m up front from the Bavarians for the striker, with a further £5m due based on performances. They could also pocket £2.5m in add-ons, based on individual and team performances.
Considering Bayern’s initial offer was £21.5m, club bosses were happy with the overall package that was eventually agreed. But a year on, despite Mane’s struggles at Bayern, they could be forgiven for thinking they could have demanded more.
Mane played 38 games for Bayern last season and scored 12 goals. Yet he made just 25 Bundesliga appearances and 27 starts in all competitions as, not helped by injury, he failed to find his best form. And while the Bavarians would go on to win the Bundesliga title, it turned out to be the only major piece of silverware they won last season.
As a result, it is unclear how much of the remaining £7.5m the Reds have actually been able to fork out. And with Mane set to move on this summer after new manager Thomas Tuchel was reportedly deemed surplus to requirements, the full fee is unlikely to ever be paid.
But even overlooking Mane’s struggles and how much Liverpool would have actually received for the forward, Bayern’s latest pursuit of Harry Kane, who the Senegalese will essentially be moved on to make room for, brings further scrutiny to last summer’s deal.
Athletics reports that the Bavarians have made a formal offer of £60m plus add-ons for the England captain, with reports elsewhere suggesting that such a bid was rejected by Tottenham Hotspur. Daily Mail Reports the striker would be open to the move, although Spurs are adamant he is not for sale, with reports elsewhere suggesting they will demand €100m. to sell up.
Kane, who turns 30 next month, is out of contract until 2024. For context, Mane turned 30 a few months before his own move to Bayern, and had a year left on his contract himself.
So how is the England international ‘worth’ over twice as much as the former Liverpool striker? Of course he is an out-and-out forward. His 280 Tottenham goals far exceed Mane’s own total of 120 at Anfield.
Yet the Senegalese is a versatile striker who could play anywhere across the front line and has won honors for club and country. 2022 Ballon d’Or runner-up after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, he won every major prize with Liverpool, including the Premier League and Champions League.
There was a suggestion in Germany last year that Bayern’s bid for Mane was linked to their own £25m sale of Thiago Alcantara to the Reds in 2020. But the sight of the German giants bidding over twice as much for Kane than they paid Liverpool for their own forward 12 months promptly raised eyebrows, for sure.
Had the Reds had an extra £30m+ to play with last summer, they might have pushed ahead with initial plans to strengthen their midfield in 2022. Or perhaps further recruitment would have prevented them from missing out on Champions League qualification.
Admittedly, it is simplistic to suggest that selling Mane ‘on the cheap’ led to Liverpool’s struggles last year. Such a notion is nothing more than ifs and buts.
Of course, none of the clubs could have foreseen the striker’s struggles in Bayern. But the original fee of 27.5 million GBP still looks paltry looking back, even before Bayern’s £60m bid. GBP on Kane was filed and denied.
In hindsight, it’s still easy to argue that the Reds could have demanded more for Mane. Given how often Liverpool have been praised for their outward-looking business in recent years, Bayern’s own pursuit of Kane on this one occasion suggests they cannot pat themselves on the back and may indeed have been outmaneuvered.