With three new cut price transfers arriving at Liverpool this week, Matt Sproston looks back at the bargain bin signings from years gone by.
It came as a relief to hear that Steven Gerrard doesn’t know much about our new signings Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas. I was beginning to think that I was the only person on Twitter who hadn’t witnessed Aspas’ every goal in Celta Vigo’s glorious 17th place La Liga campaign. Likewise, I was surprised at the number of Spanish Second Division experts fawning over Luis Alberto’s season on loan to Barcelona reserves. I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t heard of the latest stars off the Spanish production line.
Then I heard Brendan say that Luis Alberto is “another Coutinho type” and suddenly it clicked. He’s not necessarily “another Coutinho type” as in a quicksilver, two footed magician with an eye for a defence splitting assist. He’s actually “another Coutinho type” as in he’s young, he’s got potential and, most importantly, he’s cheap.
The reality is that we are in yet another “rebuilding” phase. We sign a stack of players and get rid of a load of ones that the manager inherited from the previous regime. Unfortunately, the days are gone when we would sign two top players and get rid of two top but old players.
With money tight, a rebuilding job means taking punts on cut price transfers. Hence, Aspas, Alberto and Toure will come in for Suarez, Downing and Carra with a resultant saving on wages and some spare transfer cash to go towards Mkhitarayan and another centre half.
But is a cut price signing a false economy? How often do they really work out? Will Luis Alberto really be another Coutinho or will he be a Mark Gonzalez?
I therefore used the latest cutting edge statistical analysis to devise the Bargain Bin-dex, a list of Liverpool’s cut price signings over the last 25 years. The list does not include players signed for the youth system (eg Ibe or Sterling). The upper limit of the transfer fee must be no more than 25% of Liverpool’s transfer record at the time the signing was made. Therefore, Coutinho is just about a cut price signing these days but in the 80’s would easily be the club’s record signing.
A player qualifies as being a success (a HIT) if I liked them or if they were good or if they were funny. A player is deemed to be a failure (a MISS) if they annoyed me or were rubbish or wore a blazer with brass buttons.
Nick Tanner (£20k) signed by Dalglish. Loaned out to Norwich. Played under Souness. Retired through injury. MISS.
David Burrows (£550k) Won league and FA Cup. However, my memory of Bugsy was seeing him in Rick Astley-esque blazer with brass buttons. Therefore MISS.
Glenn Hysen (£600k) Silver haired defender had great first season, winning the league before injuries and Graeme Souness spat led to free transfer. HIT.
David Speedie (£675k) blistering 14 game LFC career included goals against Everton and United before another Graeme Souness spat led to cut price transfer. MISS.
Don Hutchinson (£175k) despite early promise, off field incidents including newspaper photo of beer label covering genitals led to sale for £1.5m. HIT.
Jamie Redknapp (£500k) a good player whose long Liverpool career was hampered by injuries. HIT.
Istvan Kozma (£300k) woeful Hungarian whose perma-smile betrayed the fact that he knew he wasn’t good enough. MISS MISS MISS.
Rob Jones (£300k) a tremendous young player who would have been a club legend were it not for career ruining injuries. HIT.
Torben Piechnik (£500k) hopeless centre half signed by Souness and shipped out almost immediately. MISS.
Stig Inge Bjornebye (£600k) reasonable left wing back with a decent cross. Hung around for 7 seasons and half of the transfer fee was recouped. HIT.
Bjorn Tore Kvarme (free) centre half whose signing coincided with a catastrophic collapse from Premiership favourites to fourth place finish. MISS.
Karl Heinz Riedle (£1.8m) classy striker bought at the tail end of career. Struggled to relive former glories and released for a nominal fee. MISS.
Djimi Traore (£550k) sublime (Istanbul goal line clearance) to ridiculous (Burnley og). Sold for £2m. Can’t help but love Djimi. HIT.
Jean Michel Ferri (£1.5m) Jean Michel Jarre would have been better. MISS.
Sean Dundee (£1.8m) alarmingly bad German/South African striker whose best performance came as a right back substitute against Valencia. MISS.
Frode Kippe (£900k) Frode who? MISS.
Sami Hyypia (£2m) The signing that makes up for all the other Houllier misses. HITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT.
Erik Meijer (free) He was free. He was mad. He did no harm. HIT.
Titi Camara (free) He was free. He was mad. We sold him for £1.5m to Harry Redknapp’s West Ham. HIT.
Jari Litmanen (free) criminally underused playmaker. A lifelong red to boot. Could and should have been a bigger hit. HIT.
Gregory Vignal (£660k) started ok but an injury stopped his progress and he was released early. MISS.
Gary McAllister (free) considered to be past his sell by date when he signed. He was brilliant for 2 seasons and left with a sackful of medals and legend status. HIT.
Markus Babbel (free) at the peak of his career when he signed on a free. Struck down by illness after a brilliant first season. Never regained his form. HIT.
Abel Xavier (£1m) pointless signing from Everton. Their fans weren’t bothered. Says it all. MISS.
Anthony Le Tallec (£1.5m) Houllier called him a “gem”. More like cubic zirconia. MISS.
Florent Sinama-Pongolle (£1.5m) Houllier also called him a “gem”. Failed to sparkle. MISS.
Alou Diarra (free) weirdly never got a game for the reds despite a decent career. Went on loan about a thousand times. Sold for a couple of million. MISS.
Mauricio Pellegrino (free) was 32 when Rafa signed him from Valencia. Played like he was 52. MISS.
Josemi (£2m) got himself on the front row of the Istanbul celebrations. If only he was so eager in matches. MISS.
Antonio Nunez (free) makeweight in Owen to Real Madrid deal. We shouldn’t have bothered. MISS.
Mark Gonzalez (£2m) looked quick. Looked tricky. Looks can be deceptive. Made a profit though. MISS.
Jan Kromkamp (free) right back who wasn’t as good as Steve Finnan and therefore didn’t play. Made a bit of a profit on him. MISS.
Bolo Zenden (free) came in and did a decent job. Solid but unspectacular. HIT.
Robbie Fowler (free) prodigal son returned and did well enough with limited opportunities. Even if he was rubbish he would still have got a HIT.
Alvaro Arbeloa (£2.6m) excellent full back who was bizarrely allowed to run down his contract and sold on the cheap to Real Madrid. HIT.
Fabio Aurelio (free) classy but injury prone left-back. Memorable goal at Old Trafford ensures he gets a HIT.
Gabriel Paletta (£2m) centre back who was considered a prospect but was brought from Argentina at too young an age. Never got a real chance. MISS.
Nabil El Zhar (free) winger/striker who couldn’t score or create. Rafa kept playing him though even ahead of £20m Robbie Keane. MISS.
Damien Plessis (£400k) stunning debut away to Arsenal. Hardly played after that. Sold for a slight profit. Career went rapidly downhill after he left. MISS.
Sebastian Leto (£1.8m) winger who played four games and was then rejected for a work permit. Sent out on loan and eventually sold at a profit. MISS.
Yossi Benayoun (£5m) popular impact player who had a habit of nicking important goals. Fell out with Rafa and left for Chelsea at a loss. HIT.
Andriy Voronin (free) ponytailed striker who always looked decent playing for Ukraine but was hopeless at Liverpool. MISS.
David Ngog (£1.5m) hardworking but ultimately toothless striker who was sold for a big profit. Therefore a HIT.
Philipp Degen (free) perpetually injured, poor quality right back. MISS.
Maxi Rodriguez (free) fan favourite and popular in the squad. Maxi had an eye for a goal that most strikers on this list didn’t. Released too early. HIT.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos (£1.5m) Centre half with a head the size of a microwave oven. Great in the air. Woeful on the ground. Gave everything. HIT.
Danny Wilson (£2m) another promising centre half signed too young. Left on a free when contract expired. MISS.
Jonjo Shelvey (£1.7m) unlikely to make the grade to be first 11 regular but will be a competent squad player or will be sold at a significant profit. HIT.
Christian Poulsen (£4.8m) abject defensive midfielder who was released on a free transfer after 12 months. Crazy. MISS.
Paul Konchesky (£3.5m) abject left back who was sold after 5 months for a £2m loss. MISS.
Milan Jovanovic (free) lousy striker who scored less goals than Voronin. (Deal agreed by Rafa before he left). MISS.
Joe Cole (free) the most expensive free signing ever. Massive wage, signing on fee and huge severance payment for podgy playmaker. MISS.
Craig Bellamy (free) Second stint at the club was brief but productive. HIT.
Sebastian Coates (£4.9m) still a youngster and will only get better. Should be retained and possibly sent out on loan. HIT.
Jose Enrique (£6m) had a great start to Liverpool career. Suffered a loss of form which has left a question mark. Ended season well though. HIT.
Charlie Adam (£6.75m) one paced (slow) midfielder who was not up to scratch. MISS.
Oussama Assaidi (£2.4m) who knows? He doesn’t play. MISS.
Philippe Coutinho (£8.5m) potentially the future of Liverpool. If he kicks on from his excellent start the sky is the limit. HIT.
By my reckoning, only 43% of these signings were successful (and those figures are skewed by awarding hits to Traore, Camara and Meijer because they amused me). Kenny had the best hit rate over his two spells with 60% hits. Hodgson predictably had the worst with no hits out of 4 (although Purslow probably signed half of them).
It also seems to be the case that the older, experienced signings have a better hit rate than the youngsters with potential. This suggests that despite a lukewarm reaction from fans, Kolo Toure may prove to be better value than the other two.
Ultimately what does the bargain bin-dex prove? The answer is nothing (other than I’ve got too much spare time). We hope that Brendan has the Midas touch but even the manager doesn’t know how the new boys will work out. After all, who would have thought that little known Sami Hyypia would turn out to be one of the best signings in the club’s history and the much vaunted Joe Cole one of the worst?