I’VE been intrigued by the reaction of many to the signing of Sadio Mane. It’s made me ask: “What do Liverpool supporters actually want in a signing?” And: “Do some need to readjust their expectations?”
The response from many Reds since the announcement of Mane’s capture seems to be a resounding “Meh”.
I’m not suggesting we should be taking to the streets or anything, but bloody hell. He’s an extraordinarily talented footballer who, at 24 years old, still has plenty of room to develop – something Jürgen Klopp has built a reputation for successfully aiding and abetting. So why then the lack of enthusiasm?
For those that gripe about the new signing, I wonder what would be on their list of qualities that they would like to see from a new signing? I’d go with something like this:
- Experienced but young enough to develop
- Proven quality
There are probably a couple more tick boxes than those, but they feel like the main points that people would be bothered by.
The last few transfer windows have seen an influx of young players. So young in fact that they could easily be called inexperienced and raw. Emre Can, for example, came full of promise but he obviously still had so much to learn. Lazar Markovic could perhaps have had the same criticisms levelled at him, as would Joe Gomez if he’d not got injured so soon into the season.
Desire should be, to some extent, a given. But I suppose it’s in reference to a desire to play for Liverpool. We’ve no doubt all seen people say things like, “If Sanchez doesn’t want to play for us then screw him. The club’s bigger than one player.” We, quite rightly, want players that see Liverpool as a destination rather than a stepping stone. But will any player other than a local lad or a lifelong supporter every really do that any more?
I’m on record as being all about a positive mental attitude. There’s no point in Liverpool trying to do anything other than win the league next season. We should be looking at everyone else around us and thinking that we can batter them all. And if we don’t do that, what’s the point? That’s what the manager and the players should be thinking. It’s what the owners should be thinking and all of the backroom staff. It’s sure as hell what the supporters should be thinking.
But is it what other players are going to be thinking?
For all of the talk about Mario Götze and his decision to sit on the Bayern Munich bench rather than come to Anfield, what reason is there to swap Germany for Merseyside other than Klopp? We’re in a really great position right now and I’m more excited about the future than I have been for a long time. But is that enough to persuade a player who wants to play at the very top to head to us?
Let’s be honest, things haven’t been right at our place for some time now. Since the 2009-2010 season our league positions have been 7th, 6th, 8th, 7th, 2nd, 6th and 8th. Can you spot the outlier in there? When you strip the emotion and love you have for the club out of it, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for a player who wants to challenge, is it?
Of course we’ve had cup finals in there, too, but does the FA Cup mean all that much any more? To say nothing of the League Cup. I can’t exactly see the likes of Gundogan and Hummels saying to their mates, “I’d love to get involved in Liverpool’s League Cup campaign, you know.”
We’re still one of the biggest clubs in the world in a lot of senses. Despite not winning the league for 26 years we’re *still* more successful than Manchester United across the board. We’ve got fans across the globe and, according to the Deloitte Football Money League for 2016, Liverpool are the ninth richest club in the world.
And yet what does any of that matter to a 20-year-old in Spain who thinks he’s got the world at his feet and wants to challenge consistently for the Premier League and Champions League trophies? Even if we did want to sign him and he wanted to come, we haven’t got the financial clout to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea for the top players’ signatures.
Sorry to go on. But all of that is linked into the Mane thing. He’s a player who wanted to come to Liverpool. He’s a player who wants to play under Klopp. He’s a player who Manchester United and Bayern were reportedly interested in, but we’ve signed him. Yet the response of our support is to scoff because we’ve signed him from Southampton?
He has, to all intents and purposes, got a goal-scoring ratio of one in three. Yes he’s streaky, but that’s what comes from inconsistent players. Klopp is renowned for working with players to get the very best out of them, so we really should be celebrating his signing like we would have done if Götze had come.
Yet choose not to.
People talk about the need to sign “proven quality”, but how much more proven does a player need to be? Mane has played in the Premier League so we’ve been able to watch him first hand. And if you have done then you’ll have seen a player with power, pace and a shed load of ability. He’s easily in the top 10 of players for shots, goals and assists, but some fans are acting as though we’ve re-signed Stewart Downing.
Divock Origi was not a proven player before he came to Liverpool. Neither was Mamadou Sakho or, if you want to go back that far, Sami Hyypia. There’s a clamour for “proven quality” when most of the club’s best ever signings didn’t have it.
When all of the emotion is stripped away from everything and we’re completely honest with ourselves, when we’re not trying to puff out our chests and act like the Big I Am, when we’re not afraid to admit weaknesses in case United or Everton fans jump on us, there are some home truths we all have to accept. Proven talent will, right now, almost certainly sign for loads of other clubs before they come to us. We’re not the sporting powerhouse we once were. We aren’t shopping in the designer stores right now.
But we’re still Liverpool Football Club. We’ve got Klopp as our manager. We’ve got the Kop. We’ve got a team that might not yet be proven, but that definitely has something to prove.
So up the unproven Reds.
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