THERE’S an interesting vogue among a section of Liverpool supporters at the moment. They’ve decided that Fenway Sports Group are penny pinching stingebags who won’t spend any money this summer, in spite of reports from the likes of Paul Joyce that they are happy to do exactly that.
This is not a column about the merits or otherwise of the spend argument. All I will say on the matter is that the Reds could have ended last summer with a negative net spend really easily; all we needed to do was not sell Christian Benteke, Jordon Ibe and Martin Skrtel. That way we wouldn’t have got the £47.5 million in from their sales and finished the summer with a net spend of around -£25m.
The problem with that, of course, is that we’d also still have Christian Benteke, Jordon Ibe and Martin Skrtel in our squad and I’m not sure many could have handled that kind of stupidity. I’m perfectly fine with the argument that we should have re-invested the money from the sale of those players, but the notion that FSG don’t spend money is demonstrably false.
Why am I talking about player sales and net spend? Because the old argument about selling our ‘best player’ has reared its ugly head again, this time in the form of Philippe Coutinho. Rumours of the Brazilian moving to Barcelona in the summer have been swirling around for some months now, with Neymar telling the press this week that he can picture his Brazil team-mate playing at the Nou Camp in the near future. (That’s weird in itself, considering Neymar’s meant to be moving to Manchester United for £700m or some nonsense).
There are so many moving parts to that deal happening that it’s tricky for me to get my head around. Firstly, Luis Enrique is stepping down as Barca manager at the end of the season. Who is going to come in to replace him? The rumour mill thinks Sevilla’s Jorge Sampaoli will be high on the list. If that’s the case, is Coutinho the sort of player that fits with his style of play? If it’s not him then who will it be? Another name linked with the position is Juan Carlos Unzue, the current assistant manager. Does he like the look of Coutinho for his starting 11?
Neither the press nor the bookmakers seem to have a clear idea who it is that will be taking over the Nou Camp hot seat, which suggests that the Barcelona hierarchy isn’t 100 per cent decided on who they want to take over the job. Are they all that likely to have drawn up a list of transfer targets before they even know who will be in the dugout for the start of the 2017-18 La Liga season? Maybe, but no one can say that for certain. It’s just a bit of leaping in the dark and adding two and two together to get 14.
Next there’s the question of whether or not Coutinho would be happy to leave Anfield. Unlike many players, he’s already had his time at a ‘top’ club in Europe. He spent three years at Inter Milan and made less than 30 league appearances for them. He was never happy and spent his middle year on loan at Espanyol where he scored more goals in less appearances than during his entire time at the San Siro. Does he walk straight into the Barcelona team? I’m not convinced. Having spent time as part of a squad in Italy he may well feel he’s too good now to walk away from being a first-team regular.
Then there’s the elephant in the room: is he even our best player any more? Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than aware how good is he when he’s on song and I’m not even remotely advocating his sale. Yet I’m also not convinced that your best player should go missing for a couple of months just because he was out injured for a while. It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks whether we suffer more without Adam Lallana than we did without Coutinho or Sadio Mané earlier in the season. That’s to say nothing of how obvious the captain’s absence has been, even if those that dislike him refuse to admit it.
I was intrigued to see @BrazilStats tweeting in the wake of Brazil’s win over Paraguay that Coutinho has been ‘magical’ for his home nation over the last week or so of internationals. Will he come back to Liverpool in that same vein of form, or will we see the lesser version of the midfielder that we’ve had to watch over the last couple of months? When the Little Magician is on song he might well be our best player, but when he’s as out of sorts as he has been recently he’s as close to an empty shirt as it’s possible for a player to be.
Liverpool supporters might not want to admit it, but there’s a chance that he doesn’t actually fit Jürgen Klopp’s style of play. He isn’t the same close-down, harass and annoy style player as Roberto Firmino is, for example, and at times I think James Milner can be a bit exposed if the Brazilian doesn’t hustle back to help out his team-mate quickly enough. Fans will be quick to jump on FSG’s back if Coutinho is sold this summer, but what if Klopp sanctions the move because he has his eye on a player who better suits his system? Is there an argument that that would be the right move, rather than the wrong one?
Transfers happen for all sorts of reasons. Not long ago we witnessed Raheem Sterling’s agent essentially tell the club his player would not be returning to Anfield come hell or high water, so the club was left little choice but to sell him. Luis Suarez wanted to move to Arsenal but was persuaded to stay for one more season by Steven Gerrard. Like it or not, there would have been no forcing him to stay for yet another year after that. Christian Benteke might well have been happy to stay on Merseyside and prove his worth, but Klopp decided he wasn’t right and moved him on. Very few were crying over that one.
If Coutinho moves to Barcelona this summer I’m very aware that it sends a bad signal about the manner in which the club allows its best talent to leave. Yet I also realise that the reason for his move might not be cut and dry. Was it his choice? Was it the manager’s? Is he playing poorly for us at the moment because he doesn’t fit Klopp’s playing style or because his head’s been turned by rumours of a move to Spain? Of all the possible variables I find it hard to believe that it will be because FSG forced him out of the club.
Instead of losing our shit over something that hasn’t happened yet. I’m inclined to believe we should wait and see what happens. If he goes, why did he go? Who comes in to replace him? How do they fit into the team? No one expected Gini Wijnaldum to play where he’s played or to be the player he’s become, yet he might be our player of the season. Mané was looked down upon for being from Southampton and for not being Mario Götze. How did that one work out?
The Coutinho question is an interesting one, but let’s leave the hand-wringing until we know what’s actually happened.
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Not just Countinho – we need to keep our shit together on all transfers this summer. Whether Paul Joyce is correct or miles off the mark (and his articles seemed to suggest some kind of briefing which I think Rob Guttman alluded to), whether Klopp sees new blood in certain positions that we hadn’t considered – we simply don’t have an idea what’s likely to happen. So lets try and keep it together and assess what’s what come mid/end August.
All the players Liverpool have lost has been for 1 reason – they wanted to go and we couldn’t stop them. It’s that simple. We heard how Alonso wanted to go but perhaps there’s a grey area there the previous season. Any other conclusion shows the mentality of a lot of our fans – clueless, bitter and a bit thick. That’s fact.
The Barca manager won’t make that much difference I’d guess. Listening to Damian Hughes it seems the board there have the vision. Not necessarily on transfers but I’m sure they will identify the targets for the new manager due to the time constraints after being appointed.
I’m aware people don’t like speculation about players leaving or on their personality but it’s tough. It’s what I do. I’ll never forget the interview of Coutinho sitting in the park saying how cold England is. I know Brazil was Portuguese but it’s the same culture as Spain. Certainly much closer than the Uk. It will appeal to him. On the flip side, like Melissa has pointed out he’s settled for the first time in a long time.
I expected him to go last summer but I don’t think Barca were sure about him. I think there was a feeling he goes missing a bit or isn’t consistent enough. I think that’s changed now (in their eyes, not ours). I was suspicious of Suarez’s visit to Liverpool last year too. Plus the visit he made to Manchester to see his Barca friends. All quite normal stuff but conversely, I think if you can’t read between the lines there you’re naive.
When he signed the new contract I fell for it. I thought he’s settled, believes in Klopp’s vision and had put the move off for a few years. It was only when I started looking at the details of the Suarez new contract and Coutinho’s the penny dropped or at least it made me worried. Coutinho’s 200k a week doesn’t start till 1st July and it was the same for Suarez, his 200k a week also started on 1st July. Obviously, he was gone by then. The statements put out by them both are similar. At the time, I don’t recall Suarez pledging years to Liverpool in the way he did. He made out his future was with us. His was in the December before the summer he left, Coutinho’s was in january. Too many similarities for me, plus the rumours of agents meeting the Barca officials. There’s rarely smoke without fire. Truth is, I’m concerned and I’m not impressed with his attitude lately.
Like you say though, it won’t be the end of the world. We could cope with the loss. I think we need some mentally stronger players. Ok, that’s bitterness at what I feel is going to happen but true too. I’d love him to stay too. If he does i’ll have absolute respect for him, if he doesn’t I’ll look at this run post injury and be extremely disappointed with him. The bottom line though is, he’ll do what he wants to do. It’s out of our hands.
Didn’t Suarez say he wanted to go to Barcelona if they came calling on his first day with us? He had family ties with the place and it was to move there that drove him coming to Europe in the first place. We were always a stepping stone on that path for him and he made no secret of it.
Mascherano wanted out because of Hodgson.
Torres was lied to.
on it goes…..
Yeah, I’d agree with all that. It doesn’t change the fact that it was all their own choice and not the club selling them. As far as I’m aware, we haven’t sold any players for money in as far as we’ve lost a top player because we saw it as a chance to get a good fee. They’ve all wanted to leave. I say that because I don’t like this pathetic line that FSG sell all our top assets for profit. It’s stupid and short sighted. We’ll hear it again in the summer if PC does go. If he does it will be his own choice and nothing more. When a player wants to go there’s little one can do.
FSG and Klopp made it very clear that they do not need to sell any of the players (if Klopp didn’t want to sell or if players don’t ask to leave). And I believe that fact.
Great Comment. Spot on. Agree with every word. The similarities between this and what happened with Suarez are scary. If we lose him it just says so many bad things about LFC and we’re we’re headed to everyone, especially big players we are trying to sign who may have bigger/better offers to consider.
if we lost players to Spurs or Atletico Madrid, for example, then I’d worry. Losing players to Barcelona, especially players from Latin American countries, is completely different.
Hi Robin, I just saw this comment on Flipboard (not the main TAW article) so I thought you have started contributing to TAW :)
I don’t want to lose Phil. He still has ten excellent years ahead. When Klopp came in, I thought Phil won’t survive in the Klopp style team. But I was wrong of course. And second part of last season and first half of this season prove us that Phil can be a world beater when the whole team are fit and flying. We need him.
The fact remains that without Mane providing width (and pull the attention of opposition defenders at the far end of the field from Phil, and without overlapping runs from the left back, phil’s options ahead of him are quite limited. And in the whole team, he (along with Mane) are tasked with forward looking passes and creating something out of nothing. And it’s in their nature of play to seek out opportunities to get the goals.
He has not been the same since he came back from injury. But he is getting back slowly to his best, no doubt.
Haha, how odd. Had the shock of my life seeing my name up in lights like that.
I got to see a picture of you too, haha. Quite impressive bio – Ethical entrepreneur; Corporate leadership & finance strategist. Anytime you want to give me some strategic financial advice about how I can use my £100 a month disposable income feel free, haha.
Invest in oil stocks and hold for next five years :) or even better — bet on Liverpool winning the league AND champions league next season!!!
Robin. I think you are seeing parallels with Suarez that aren’t really there. Suarez had already tried to force a move and his new contract differed in that it was an immediate increase but then a further increase at the end of the season. It also had an exit clause that was clearly there in anticipation of the Barca offer. Most reports of Coutinho’s contract suggest 150k+ a week with no exit clause.
I can see Coutinho ending up at Barca, but I would be very surprised if it happened this summer. I think Barca a playing a long game on this and we might see their advances getting more serious through next year. If he gets his head turned and he get’s back to his best form, Barca are going to end up paying a lot of money for him.
I hope you’re right, Graeme. Coutinho will be 25 in the summer. How long is this long game you think they are playing? I’m sure Iniesta has a few good seasons in him but I also think they’re looking for his successor now. Don’t get me wrong, as stated, I thought when Coutinho signed it was all genuine and still might be. Why all these rumours now though? Why is that bell Neymar getting his message out any time he can? If everything was as perfect as you insinuate then surely, people would think he’s signed a new deal, there’s no clause so forget it now and move on. Yet, actually, there’s rumours that his agent has met Barca. I’d guess there’s some truth in that.
Some people dismiss the ‘city to live in playing a part in the club you choose’ as ridiculous. I think that attitude is ridiculous. I dream about living in the sun every day. I’d go tomorrow if my kids had left home. I did it for the years prior to having kids and will again when they leave. It’s important to me and like it or not it’s important to South Americans. He stated a few months ago he’s desperate to win things. Much as I think LFC will win things under Klopp it’s a much safer bet at Barca.
We’ll just have to wait until the summer and see. It’d be great if this was all nonsense. If it’s not then we will have to discuss LFC’s wage structure because anyone being offered £200k a week by us is going to put the fear of god into us that they’re leaving. Top sides should be paying a few players that wage.
I think if Barca make their move it will be summer 2018. I hope their interest has moved elsewhere by then.
Hard to tell if the Neymar stuff is anything more that a friend and international team mate saying he would like to play with Coutinho, or something more calculated. Whichever it is, it doesn’t yet feel like the sort of full blown campaign that Real and Barca have rolled out for their targets in the past.
Hopefully you’re right mate. I’ve gone from thinking he was staying to convincing myself he’s going. Like you say, I may be looking at things that aren’t there.
I love watching Coutinho. Feet like a paintbrush sweeping across the field. flicks and spins and passes stroked this way and that. Bur while he’s probably our BEST player, he’s not necessarily our most IMPORTANT player. I could probably name four or five players ahead of him in terms of my anxiety if they’re unavailable.
Mind you, I’m saying that while he’s going through a run of bad form. Ask me after he blams in two against the ev and then goes on a devastating run and i’ll give my left leg to keep him here.
Not sure what my point is, but I guess – if we do end up selling (and i really hope we don’t), It’s not the end of the world. The squad isn’t built around him.
Excellent point, Alex. Well said about the Best player vs most Important player. I agree with you. But we really need him (or some kind of unpredictable player) in the team so that we won’t be too much of one dimensional and predictable team to play against. Mane provides speed at the right side of the pitch whole Phil provides tricks and unpredictability from the left side. A perfect combination actually.
Vogue. Vogue my arse.
Many knew FSG purchase was the end of elite competition and the beginning of profit chasing mediocrity the day fucking John Henry scuttled off with that utter gobshite Broughton after buying club for a paltry £300m (including £85m Saurez and £49m Stirling). There was in depth analysis of the business case and all concluded, 7 years ago, we would be out of competing for Champions league honours and be a global Everton.
And so it has come to pass.
Not as fashion, but LFC under FSG, Then, now and until FSG get thier ROI.
As far as Coutinho is concerned, i am utterly indifferent. Like his performances this year.
Except that Suarez joined after FSG took over.
I have been watching Klopp long before he became popular on German TV and there is one pattern:
Klopp wants to save for the club. He never had owners before, so being a puppet of FSG is a new type of criticism to him. As well, he comes from an area in Germany, where people are well known for keeping their money tight. That being said, Klopp has spent last summer more than he ever did before in his entire career.
But Germans need time to adopt in that respect. We don’t count seasons in “transfer windows” and if rumours don’t materialise, we don’t call it “having missed out on a transfer”. In fact, big spenders are despised and talent developers are heroes over there.
I am sure Klopp will come up with an unknown Indonesian talent or some Bulgarian youngster, where people will start shaking their heads. Just like they did with some big Lewandowski dude and this friendly Japanese chap. – That doesn’t mean, he’d never go big though. He just isn’t into buying over-priced stuff.