With Liverpool’s interest in PSV forward Memphis Depay now seemingly confirmed in the British media, Jack Lusby anticipates another missed target and further transfer disappointment.
The news that Liverpool are joining the race for PSV Eindhoven’s high-potential young forward, Memphis Depay, will have likely piqued the interest of many Reds.
Manchester United reportedly represent Liverpool’s main rivals in vying for Depay’s signature, and there have already been suggestions following this report that Louis van Gaal’s side are in “pole position.”
A £25 million signing targeted immediately after one of the most crushing weekends in Liverpool’s 2014/15 season may seem, to the cynics among the Kop, to be nothing more than a well-timed distraction.
This may be an accurate call—are Liverpool just setting themselves up for more transfer disappointment?
Signing a two-goal, one-assist World Cup star may well be considered a risk, particularly by Liverpool fans with the failures of El Hadji Diouf still lingering, but beyond his exploits as a bit-part player for the Netherlands last summer, Depay represents one of the best young talents in Europe.
This season, he has scored 20 goals in 27 Eredivisie games as PSV surged for the title with three games left to play.
Most spectacularly, he helped earn his side their title-winning victory over SC Heerenveen with a remarkable free-kick.
He is a wide forward capable of a variety of spectacular finishes, with a dazzling skill set and blistering pace.
At just 21 years old he also represents a player of malleable potential.
He would fit perfectly within Brendan Rodgers’ fast-paced, attacking aesthetic at Liverpool—he could operate well in a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2 or a 3-4-3, as has been the manager’s whim this season.
Depay will likely be one of the most-coveted players in the transfer market this summer—perhaps just below Liverpool’s own Raheem Sterling—and this may be a major sticking point in any interest from Rodgers and Fenway Sports Group.
Since FSG’s 2010 takeover on Merseyside, Liverpool have struggled to compete for top talents in the transfer market—this isn’t necessarily their doing; more so that of their predecessors.
But it remains a disappointing trend, and one that has occurred with regularity over the past few years:
- Wesley Sneijder, 2013 – The Dutchman opted to join Galatasaray, despite Steven Gerrard’s best attempts to persuade him.
- Diego Costa, 2013 – With the Reds tabling a £20 million bid for the striker, he instead renewed his Atletico Madrid contract, before then joining Chelsea in 2014.
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 2013 – The highly rated attacking midfielder chose to join Borussia Dortmund over Liverpool, with BVB challenging in Europe and in the Bundesliga.
- Willian Borges, 2013 – The Brazilian winger moved to Chelsea after spurning the interest of “favourites” Liverpool.
- Victor Valdes, 2014 – Joined United, as David de Gea’s understudy, after being offered no assurance that he would be Liverpool’s No. 1 goalkeeper.
- Radamel Falcao, 2014 – Colombian striker joined United in a big-money loan deal after Liverpool made a summer enquiry.
- Alexis Sanchez, 2014 – Chose Arsenal over Liverpool because “Arsenal is a top club and Arsene Wenger is a top manager.”
In each of these instances, the potential arrival of these high-profile players was met with widespread Merseyside joy, only for hopes to be dashed in favour of a more financially capable club.
Most disappointingly, and perhaps unlike when Sanchez chose Arsenal over Liverpool, there is now even more reason for Depay to opt for a move to United over the Reds this summer.
Firstly, as Falcao’s move to Old Trafford last summer proves, the Red Devils are more financially able and importantly, liberal, than their Merseyside adversaries—the Colombian is still, bizarrely, linked with a move to Liverpool, but can anyone really imagine FSG shelling out the £6 million loan fee and £265,000-a-week wages required to secure his signature?
Moreover, with United currently sitting third in the Premier League table, a whole eight points above the Reds, Van Gaal’s side are likely to secure Champions League football for 2015/16 in the coming weeks.
The same can’t be said of Liverpool who, despite having a game in hand, need results to go way in their favour for any hope of top-tier European qualification this term.
United securing Champions League football over Liverpool gives them an extra financial bonus too, of course.
Finally, as former Dutch international and Van Gaal-Ajax acolyte Ronald de Boer told talkSPORT, the pull of a familiar manager will likely help sway Depay to move to Old Trafford: “I don’t want to say which club is more suitable for him, but if he goes to United he knows there is a Dutch coach there who knows him from the World Cup. That is an advantage.”
It’s a disappointment situation to face up to, but United are a much more attractive proposition than Rodgers’ Liverpool.
Do Liverpool Need to Be More Realistic?
Of course, as De Boer continues on Depay’s quality that “he is one of the biggest talents in Europe [and] has skill compared to a young Cristiano Ronaldo,” it is clear that this is the calibre of talent that Liverpool will require to firmly establish themselves at the next level.
In theory, Depay could go on to rival Luis Suarez in terms of Eredivisie talents making an impact on the Premier League—he is that well equipped.
But the signing of Suarez remains an anomaly for Liverpool under FSG.
Suarez’s £22.7 million move from Ajax to Merseyside in 2011 represents the only time an FSG-helmed Liverpool have acquired a major talent from under the noses of high-profile opposition.
As Sam Wallace of The Independent rightly noted at the end of last year, players of Suarez’s calibre rarely switch to clubs like Liverpool, or former suitors Tottenham Hotspur:
[pull_quote_center]The greatest misnomer about Liverpool’s summer is that they should have signed one or two players to replace the quality that they lost with Luis Suarez’s departure. The brutal truth is that players of Suarez’s standing don’t sign for clubs like Liverpool.
It takes years of heavy investment – and success – as with the case of Manchester City and Chelsea, to earn a real upgrade in transfer market status.[/pull_quote_center]
Unfortunately, Liverpool are a rung below the likes of City, Chelsea and United in the transfer market, and therefore have to work covertly, frugally and astutely.
Wallace cites the 2004 signing of Xabi Alonso as one which aligned perfectly for the Reds, as an under-the-radar signing, and value definitely remains in the modern market.
But Depay is perhaps a step above the players available to the Reds at this juncture.
Of course, if there is an opportunity for Liverpool to sign the 21-year-old then they must go for it; if United lose interest, for example, Rodgers and FSG must act fast.
But instead of setting themselves up for another disappointment, like Mkhitaryan, like Costa and like Sanchez, perhaps they should take a more realistic approach.
Should Liverpool target Memphis Depay, despite Manchester United’s interest? Let us know in the comments below.