Today is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar. It’s the one guaranteed day that sees all football fans checking websites and text messages hour by hour, monitoring the latest coming and goings, as the transfer window slams shut.
But as we all check in with the hope that Liverpool Football Club has finally landed that 20 goal a season striker, my mind started to wonder about some of the false idols that have been and gone; the previous players who have arrived with fanfare, been lauded as the missing piece of the jigsaw, and inevitably failed to deliver.
Below is a tribute to the players responsible for this misplaced excitement, a starting 11 of transfers which fans wish had remained, ‘window shopping’.
Goalkeeper: Chris Kirkland
It was as the transfer window closed in the summer of 2001 that former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier desperately searched for a new goalkeeper following Sander Westerveld’s poor start to the season. As time ran out Houlier bizarrely had separate bids accepted for Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek and brought both to the club to fight for the number one spot. Kirkland signed as a 20 year old keeper who was already on the fringes of the England squad, and had impressed at Coventry City. Had it not been for injuries and misfortune Kirkland could still be Liverpool’s keeper, but instead has slid down the leagues to Sheffield Wednesday via West Brom, Wigan, Leicester and Doncaster.
Left Back: Christian Zeige
Liverpool were fined £20,000 pounds by the Football Association for the use of improper channels to sign the German left back from Middlesbrough. After a successful debut season, showing himself to be defensively sound and scoring some spectacular free-kicks Ziege looked like he would be an asset for any premier league team. Sadly Zeige’s form was never recreated at Anfield, and within 12months he was transferred to Tottenham, with Liverpool having to wait for the arrival of John Arne Riise before they had a secure left back.
Centre Back: Phil Babb
European Championships and World Cups provide all players with an opportunity to advertise themselves on a global stage, and no player has ever taken this opportunity as well as Phil Babb. A number of stand-out performances at World Cup ’94 earnt himself a £3.5 million pound move to Liverpool. It speaks volume that 128 matches and 18 years later this is still our fondest memory of him.
Right Back: Philipp Degen
Philipp Degen arrived from Dortmund on a free transfer to provide competition to Alvaro Arbeloa, already an established international in the Swiss side. Unfortunately, injuries never allowed Philipp to provide much competition to the ever reliable Alvaro, and only managed to make seven appearances for the club before moving back to his native Switzerland.
Left Wing: Harry Kewell
Throughout the 2002/2003 season Liverpool were derided for their lack of width and invention, and the club turned to the premier league proved, exciting wing-wizardry of Kewell to address the problem. Kewell arrived from Leeds with a reputation for goals and assists that he never managed to live-up to at the club. Kewell spent five years at the club, and managed to pick up F.A. Cup winners and Champions League medals for his early match cameos.
Central Midfield: Joe Cole
All fans struggled to get excited by the transfer dealings of Roy Hodgson; the arrival of Konchesky, Poulsen and Jones had a feeling of managed decline about it. But the one arguable exception to this was the Joe Cole. Cole’s achievements at Chelsea excited fans, in both the league winners medals he could put on the table and his various youtube compilations. Sadly, a red card on his debut and a loss of fitness and form meant that Cole never recreated this form in Liverpool red, and he became just another nail in the coffin of Hodgson.
Central Midfield: Paul Ince
It’s always rare for a new player to immediately become club captain, it’s even rarer when that player has captained your biggest rivals, but that was the case with Paul Ince. Liverpool had pushed United close for the title the 1996/1997 season, and a number of fans felt we just needed some experience and ‘grit’ in midfield to help us make that extra step and mature from the ‘spice boys era’. Sadly, Liverpool never won the league with Ince as Captain, but who knows, maybe one day the ‘Guv’nor’ will return as the ‘Gaff’nor’.
Right Wing: El Hadji Diouf
Houllier’s scouting programme in the summer of 2002 clearly never got any further than the opening game of the World Cup, and France’s defeat to Senegal, with the performances of El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao earning them both big money moves to Merseyside. A transfer fee of £10 million brings a weight of expectation, but El Hadji didn’t meet the bare minimum standards; fined for spitting at fans and the dubious accolade of being the only Liverpool #9 to go a full season without finding the net.
Striker: Djribril Ciise
Djribril Ciise was never signed by an incumbent Liverpool manager; instead, he was a £14 million gift that Gerard Houllier passed to Rafa Benitez as he walked out the door. Ciise had been pursued openly by the club for over 12 months and he was seen as the man best suited to partner Michael Owen. Unfortunately, the immediate transfer of Owen to Real Madrid, and a horrific injury suffered on an away trip to Ewood Park meant that Djribril never fulfilled his potential at Liverpool, and never lived up the billing that he received prior to his arrival.
Striker: Robbie Keane
If Ciise wasn’t bought by Benitez, it has been argued that our next striker wasn’t either, with Rick Parry playing a strong role in the arrival of the Irishman. The £20 million Liverpool spent on Robbie Keane in 2008 was being invested into a striker with a proven premier league pedigree, and an ability to score goals on a weekly basis. Keane’s record at Anfield reads 19 matches and 5 goals, but his time at the club was limited to six-months with the club taking a £7million loss on their investment.
Striker: Andy Carroll
Andy Carroll is the 13th most expensive footballer of all time. Liverpool Football Club broke their transfer fee for a player by almost 50% to bring him to the club as a replacement for Fernando Torres. Here we are, 18 months down the line, and whilst fans revel in the memory of his winning goal against Everton the hard truth is that his 35 league games last season saw him score four goals, the same number as Bolton’s defensive midfielder Nigel Reo Coker.
Liverpool fans love to support Andy Carroll, respecting his aggression and effort. But, the bottom line is that Liverpool have paid over £3million for each of his goals, as he heads his way towards Upton Park.