Dressing room unrest & financial failings – How Liverpool missed out on top transfer targets

Liverpool’s modern-day recruitment is as good as it gets – but it hasn’t always been this way at Anfield. Far from it, in fact.

We all have our tales to tell on which players would have made the crucial difference that bit earlier, could have helped Liverpool end their wait for the Premier League title—had we managed to sign them.

Thankfully, that tale of woe looks set to be finally ended by Alisson, Henderson, Salah and Co. this season—but it all comes after a long string of failed transfer attempts by the Reds.

Writing for the Athletic, James Pearce has detailed some of the higher-profile deals the Reds tried to get over the line and failed in; some of which are already well-known, but some of which might have slipped under the radar somewhat.

Either way, it’s a fascinating look at the calibre of players Liverpool have attempted to sign over the past couple of decades, dating back through managerial changes and different owners and executives.

Considering how much some of the players went on to transfer for, the monies which Liverpool could have spent seem farcical in some cases—such as for Gareth Bale.

LILLE, FRANCE - Friday, July 1, 2016: Wales' Gareth Bale slides on the pitch as he celebrates a 3-1 victory over Belgium and reaching the Semi-Final during the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship Quarter-Final match at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Back when he was still an untried youngster at Saints, the Reds proposed a swap with midfielder Darren Potter for the youthful left-back, but Southampton wanted money, too.

Liverpool didn’t see that as a fair trade…and Bale went on to Spurs, then Real Madrid for around £100 million, winning multiple Champions Leagues along the way, while Potter played 17 games for the Reds before playing for the likes of Wolves, MK Dons and Rotherham.

Similarly, Liverpool didn’t pay low-cost fees for Aaron Ramsey (£500k) and James McCarthy, before they went on to move elsewhere, while other prospective moves fell apart as the players were given new contracts with their then-current clubs—Alan Shearer, John Terry and Christian Pulisic fall into that category.

There were also plenty of audacious attempts to secure the finest players from Europe and beyond which fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons…though mostly it was either dithering by the board or an inability to stump up the finances.

LYON, FRANCE - Wednesday, July 6, 2016: Portugal's captain Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates the 2-0 victory over Wales during the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship Semi-Final match at the Stade de Lyon. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s quoted price to the Reds was £4m, but before the club’s mind was made up he went to United for more than three times that amount.

Sergio Aguero was a target for Rafa Benitez, but his £16m pricetag was too much of the entire budget to go on one player—and the same issue saw the Reds miss out on Dani Alves after a move for £8m was all-but-agreed.

Elsewhere there are many tales of missing out due to difficult negotiations—often blamed on the selling party it must be said—with Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro) and Gabriel Heinze (Man United) all mentioned.

Other names from yesteryear will bring back memories of frantic rumours and almost-done deals for Reds fans: Simao, Malouda, Vidic, Duff, Mkhitaryan, Costa and more besides were all said to be on the verge of moving to Anfield at various times.

Graeme Souness, Liverpool manager, 1991 (Picture by Ross Kinnaird EMPICS Sport)

Even further into the past, Graeme Souness’ time at the club was one of restructuring and trying to lower the age in the squad—and bearing in mind there were far fewer scouting videos and analytics tools around, decisions had to sometimes be taken on faith or necessity.

Unfortunately, Souness got a few of these wrong, as he focused on the dressing room unrest which was breaking out while he tried to regenerate the team.

The difficulty of removing club greats such as Bruce Grobbelaar meant he opted against signing a young Peter Schmeichel, while Souness also turned down Eric Cantona as he didn’t want to add to the problematic personalities in the dressing room.

Just after, Roy Evans wanted Teddy Sheringham to add experience to his youthful and exciting mid-90s team, but was told he was too old at 29. Sheringham went on to join United at 31 and was still playing for West Ham a decade later.

It’s a simple, and at times frustrating, truth of football life that sometimes the seemingly perfect additions will get away.

But if the processes are in place, sensible decisions are consistently made and the coaching staff can get the best out of the players who do join, the current iteration of Liverpool are proof that, eventually, great work can be done, on and off the pitch.