JANUARY is not the best time to invest, so sayeth Sir Alex Ferguson who never hesitates to declare that there is no value for money during the winter transfer period, whilst also never hesitating to contradict his own opinion when it suits his need (Zaha, anyone?)
It is the desperate time where teams looking for a quick fix spend their money lavishly and often ludicrously in an attempt to haul themselves higher up the table and all too often they end up short changed.
But that is not so for Liverpool FC. Now, many will point at the giant Geordie Andy Carroll with a big grin and say that he is living proof that buying in January is a bad idea. However, Liverpool’s record signing should be viewed as the anomaly in the results of Liverpool’s winter business.
In fact, while there are a couple of deals that ultimately didn’t work out, only Andy Carroll and Fernando Morientes could be viewed as outright bad moves. There is also the possibility, albeit minute, that Carroll could be a successful signing; he is still a Liverpool employee after all.
Morientes lasted 18 months at Liverpool, as a big name signing on 13 January 2005 it was hoped that he would help fire Liverpool to greater things in the Premier League. After a total of 60 games and only 12 goals at a price of £525,000.00 per goal, Morientes is probably best remembered for celebrating Liverpool’s Champions League win in emphatic style despite only being able to look on as a cup-tied spectator.
Andy Carroll’s mega deal at £35m continues to look like the most embarrassing deal in Liverpool’s history, which is fairly spectacular when one considers that Alberto Aquilani, Robbie Keane and El Hadji Diouf have competed valiantly for that accolade. With 58 games under his belt and 11 goals in a red shirt his £3.181m per goal, Carroll’s would be a hard act to best.
Now, it is never nice to dwell on deals that have offered hope but delivered despair but it is necessary to point out the isolated failures so that the frequent successes can be seen with greater clarity.
Liverpool picked up God on a free as well as Daniel Agger for £5.8m in the 2005-2006 window. Agger has proved a fantastic January addition and while he has suffered with injuries, there is no doubt about his quality as a classy, ball playing centre-half. He is likely to notch up more than a decade of service at the club which is a milestone that only the worthy few reach.
However, it was Robbie Fowler’s return to Anfield that truly captured the imagination that year. The signing was of such emotional significance that it was impossible to be a failure. His return to the Kop had an air of divine intervention, bringing many a Red to tears. The prospect of this Anfield son being rightfully restored had been consigned as vain hope long ago. His creditable record of 12 goals in 39 appearances as a back-up striker was the punctuation marks on an already brilliant script.
Those two merely scratch the surface of LFC’s excellent work in the presumed inferior transfer interlude. Javier Mascherano (although signed in February) was an exemplary footballer in the centre of the park; he added steel to the midfield and formed a formidable partnership with Xabi Alonso which saw their complementary skills and styles power Liverpool to the Champions League final that year. Alvaro Arbeloa also arrived and at £2.64m was actually one of Rafael Benitez’s best signings; a brilliant fullback whose first task was to mark Lionel Messi out of the game against Barcelona. After carrying out that duty manfully, Arbeloa consistently delivered on the pitch for the remainder of his stay with LFC.
The theme continues with the entrance of Martin Skrtel in January 2008. Although he endured a shaky start to his career suffering an alarming examination by Havant and Waterlooville, the £6.5m man has gone on to be a mainstay in the centre of defence for Liverpool racking up 200 appearances and bullying some of the Premier Leagues best strikers into anonymity.
Another success came in the form of Maxi Rodriguez, a free transfer that proved a shrewd decision by Rafa Benitez. Maxi was a good professional for Liverpool and as a valued squad member he provided two and a half seasons of good service and 17 goals to boot.
However, the best winter deal has to go to £23m sharpshooter Luis Suarez who has been an absolute revelation. A truly world-class player and worth every penny paid. Every moment Suarez plays in a red shirt should be savoured by Kopites because talent like that is the reason people fall in love with the beautiful game. The turn against Norwich on the goal line was simply sublime and the almost wilful nutmegs are unlikely to be seen again for a long, long time.
It should therefore come as no surprise that our new no.15 Daniel Sturridge has taken to life at Liverpool so easily thus far. Of course, it is far too early to sign the striker off as a good transaction but all the indications are that he could well be a very smart Winter window signing.
So do not fear the summer’s much derided little brother for transfers. He has done pretty well by Liverpool FC and long may he continue to do so.
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