The most effective policies are always the best until they aren’t. Now Liverpool may have no option but to rethink an approach to the transfer market that has served them well for much of the recent era.
Under the guidance of manager Jurgen Klopp and with owners Fenway Sports Group managing the finances, the Reds’ recruitment team have honed a well-defined strategy in terms of the transfer market.
The preference for bringing in younger talent with the ability to improve both themselves and the team – and still have potential resale value – has meant that only one of the last 18 outfield signings since Xherdan Shaqiri was brought in five years ago has been over the age of 25.
The arrivals of the summer, 24-year-old Alexis Mac Allister and 22-year-old Dominik Szoboszlai continue the trend after the arrival of Cody Gakpo in January and, the year before, Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Calvin Ramsay, Fabio Carvalho and Ben Doak.
READ MORE: Fabinho transfer latest as Liverpool and Al-Ittihad continue talks over £40m
READ MORE: ‘Felt something’ – Naby Keita suffers new injury nightmare after Liverpool transfer
The exception, of course, is Thiago Alcantara, who was already 29 and a player with a solidly established winning streak when he moved from Bayern Munich for £27.4m almost three years ago.
But Liverpool now find themselves once again in a position where immediate squad improvement may require them to temporarily ditch their tried-and-true approach.
With Fabinho edging closer to a £40m departure to Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad, the Reds could soon part ways with one of their most experienced engine room operators with Jordan Henderson, another senior defensive midfield option also attracting interest from the Middle East.
Thiago has also been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia, although reports have suggested the Spaniard rejected an initial approach. It will hardly be the last. And with James Milner having already departed on a free transfer to Brighton & Hove Albion, there is a very real prospect of a gaping hole soon emerging in terms of midfield know-how in a position that calls for it.
Liverpool were already looking for a young, long-term replacement for Fabinho – Southampton’s 19-year-old Romeo Lavia the preferred choice – but have subsequently increased the profile in anticipation of the Brazilian’s possible departure. They know they need a player now, not just the future.
However, the problem is accessibility. There are targets out there – Fulham’s 28-year-old Joao Palhinha would be one of the more appealing given his Premier League and European experience – but the cost may well prove prohibitive for many, with Liverpool unwilling to spend huge amount on a type of player they hadn’t seriously considered buying until a few days ago. Selling clubs will also surely command a premium given any Reds’ interest.
Having identified and captured their two primary midfield targets this summer in Mac Allister and Szoboszlai, Liverpool and new sporting director Jorg Schmadtke will not compromise those efforts should they be forced to take such a key position.
And it may ultimately be that the Reds choose to show faith in their current squad – and their transfer strategy – by continuing to pursue a younger player. Henderson, if he stays, is expected to start the season, while Stefan Bajcetic, when fit, will challenge for a place alongside any new arrivals.
Indeed, there is a case for Liverpool to resist cashing in on Fabinho and instead stick to their original plan. After all, it would be a dereliction of duty to allow the Brazilian to leave and then replace him with an inferior player of the same age for an equal or greater transfer fee.
The signing of Thiago was, for some observers, a luxury Liverpool could afford as they sought a player who could help win a way through deep-lying opposition defences.
However, any move for an experienced talent in the coming weeks will be born of necessity. The Reds must decide whether to stick with the transfer plan – and risk some short-term pain for long-term gain.