THE news came in overnight that Liverpool cannot agree a contract with Emre Can meaning he can go in the summer for nothing.
I am not Can’s biggest fan.
I am very annoyed indeed by the fact that Liverpool look likely to let him leave for nothing.
These two things are inexorably linked.
We ask our footballers to grow up, personally and professionally in public. We literally watch them become better at their jobs before our very eyes. This is something rare. Most of us develop the skillset needed to do our job behind closed doors. We have colleagues or superiors who cover our failings if they are good and kind. We are surrounded by safety nets.
We are often asked to do roles that don’t suit us or roles that we just don’t like and we learn that quietly. And however much our colleagues or superiors may feel those roles do suit us we get to say we don’t like them or want to do them and make changes accordingly.
Footballers have none of these luxuries.
They are repeatedly plunged, steeled in the cold water of 50,000 plus and a worldwide audience watching, often revelling in their learning curve. We all say we love seeing a young lad develop. We often forget that development is happening when we are emotionally invested in 22 men kicking a ball about, with the aim being Liverpool are widely acknowledged as being by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. Then that young man might all of a sudden be a bit of a prick who has just given it away cheaply or been caught in possession or knocked off. Fuck’s sake, Reds. Switch on.
That journey of being steeled is exactly that, a journey. Footballers never stop learning but their development does slow. We accept that part of the job football clubs have is in that development. There must be footballers for tomorrow even if we need to win games today.
We have lived this journey with Can. The very reason why I am not Can’s biggest fan is that I have had to watch this process with my own eyes and it hasn’t always been good. I have seen the mistakes made. I haven’t watched the finished product. I still don’t quite think I am watching the finished product. But he is clearly, demonstrably, a very good player. He is good enough to be in the Liverpool squad even if I struggle to find a place in the first 11 for him.
What I mean by that is that if Liverpool were in a Champions League final tomorrow and Can was in the first 11 because of injury or a tactical call by the manager, I wouldn’t think it was wild. I may not even remark upon it. He is a Liverpool player.
He doesn’t have to be my favourite for me to be comfortable with him being one of my 11 favourites. My favourite player is Daniel Sturridge until Liverpool kick off. Then my favourites are the 11 on the pitch. I love them all equally. I love them all x amount. (Unless one of them is Sturridge, then I love him x plus one.)
Next season, if Liverpool retain Phil Coutinho (unlikely) and/or when they add Naby Keita they may well find it harder to get a place for Can on the pitch. Still some part of me would like to see him at centre back against the poorest sides at home. But no matter. Because Can won’t be a Liverpool player and Liverpool will receive no money for that loss.
That this situation has occurred is frankly ridiculous. What was the point of the whole enterprise of growing and developing Can if he is to neither stay at Liverpool to become our finished article or to be sold on? While Can has added (and will continue to add) a load of value to Liverpool since his signing, a massive part of this process was to sign a very good young prospect and, come the end of that, reap some degree of the rewards.
Football clubs of course want to win trophies and that should be the overriding aim. But to do that you need to be relatively well run, especially when you cannot throw endless money at the process. Part of the logic around spending £12million on Can was obviously to help Liverpool win games but also to have Liverpool end up with either the asset on the pitch at his peak to do that but also to have someone to sell on if not.
The same summer we signed Can, Borussia Dortmund bought Gonzalo Castro for £8m and Sami Khedira when to Juventus on a free transfer. Both of these lads are now 30, the latter could well be replaced by Can. Both could well — though nothing is inevitable in football — have been of more use in general to Liverpool since 2014. Neither would be much of an asset for Liverpool in the market now but both were developed as footballers four years ago. While Khedira has probably earned more that can be offset by the fact we paid £12m for Can.
Carlos Bacca is now 31 and he moved the same summer as Can for £21m. While he plays a different position and was £9m more I think we can agree that four years ago we could have done with a mature centre forward. Meanwhile I am watching Can (among others) learn his trade. I’d rather watch really good players kick it in the goal.
The point is that I accept Liverpool’s policy and understand it. I really do. It may not be how I would go about things but I accept Liverpool need to have their own ideas.
But then don’t make a mess of it. I reckon Can is probably worth between £30-40m in a normal market situation. I reckon he is good enough to start a solid number of games for Liverpool, right now good enough to do that for a Liverpool that wants to be by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.
Had I spent the last four years thrilling at every Can touch I may counter intuitively be more sanguine about these developments but the truth of the matter is that not only is this is a cock up, it’s a cock up on Liverpool’s own terms and therefore I am most definitely annoyed.
Fuck’s sake, Reds. Switch on.
Emre Can’s contract was discussed in great detail on our West Ham preview show “The Team Talk”, which you can listen to if you SUBSCRIBE to TAW Player for just a fiver a month. A subscription also gives you access to our podcast archive – here are some of the highlights so far…
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As long as we pursue with this policy of buying young players who have some developing to go we will find ourselves in this position.
I’m not against buying promising youth.
I’m against buying MOSTLY promising youth.
They arrive full of promise and enthusiasm but are also very inconsistent, some with maturity issues, some with developmental issues. We then develop them playing them regularly and they make their mistakes on the pitch in a red shirt, ironing out those problems week in week out while playing for us and then when they start showing a level of consistency and quality, they move on.
Because while they’ve spent their time developing with us, making their mistakes in a red shirt and learning from them our team as a whole has suffered. As a team we have been inconsistent and had our on pitch issues therefore not winning any trophies or even consistently competing in Europe’s top competitions so there’s no attraction to stay.
Think Coutinho. Arrived young, full of promise but very inconsistent. Now he’s hitting a level of consistency he’s leaving.
Similar with Sterling, Can etc.
Lallana lovren winjaldum Clyne sturridge firmino Milner matip Klavan oxlade Chamberlain salah mane.. and that’s just the ones we have now.
Wouldn’t say we sign mostly youth at all.
Adding 2+2 here without more background, but I suspect the Can situation is related to us getting him via his buyout clause, and I suspect we were not his first club of choice. By not renewing or renegotiating his contract, he would have seen that as a means of taking his future in his own hands. No club can force a player to sign a 2nd contract, he is exercising his prerogative. Luckily for us, we have Keita coming and seven other players more important than him. We will then find ourselves in that predatorial marketplace in January and the summer once more, and we will behave in that predatorial manner ourselves; As Chubby Checker used to say – Like We Did Last Summer.
It happens though. You give someone a fixed term deal then don’t moan that they are happy to see that term out and move on. It’s a risk every club runs.
Jeez, Messi Ozil and Sanchez are in the same boat and I’m pretty sure that’s a bigger financial issue to their clubs than Can is to us. But they’re willing to run that risk.
FSG don’t sign youngsters to elevate the club to elite status, they clearly buy players to develop and move on at a good profit. Liverpool has become a stepping stone not a final destination. I find that very difficult to comprehend but it’s a sad reality of modern football and owners who do not share the same vision as supporters. The club is fast losing its identity. Profit profit profit!
Sterling. Who else have we moved on for profit that we’ve regretted in how good they became?
Profit for selling average lads like Ibe or brad smith is not the same thing at all.
On the verge of moving Coutinho on after developing him.
Someone else will get his best years.
To be fair we haven’t developed anybody good enough to move on for big profit since Sterling, but the intention is definitely there. Coutinho will be next followed by Mane if he can prove he’s not injury prone. And you’d have to question why a player would want to leave a club as storied as Liverpool.
Top players will stay at clubs if they are challenging and winning top honours or they’re being paid monsterous wages.
We do neither.
Inevitably the best players will want away or will be cherry picked by Real, Barca etc.
We are in danger of becoming a feeder club.
Over the last 5 or 6 transfer windows, FSG has failed miserably. When we needed to kick on and do some proper business after a good season, time and again, they’ve failed. We just don’t buy proven world class players. Without at least one true world class player, we won’t win the league. Coutinho and Mane are not world class yet. Sadly Coutinho will likely leave next summer…..just another frustrating trait of FSG!
I should have waited and posted my other comment over here:
German Kicker had a small piece about Jupp Heynckes reply to Emre Can’s availability. Basically, “Not good enough” and lacking the game intelligence. Comments on the Kicker went in the same direction. – Though admittedly, he improved a lot compared to his time in Germany.
Look hes pretty ordinary and hes quite limited. Unfortunately for Liverpool ordinary and limited players are now going for huge money and we’re going to lose him for nothing. Put aside the financial bearing and it’s easy to see that he wont be that big a loss. What exactly does he do as a central midfielder? He doesn’t really score goals, not enough anyway. He’s not a playmaking midfielder so doesn’t make many assists. He doesn’t win many tackles and he doesn’t adequately protect the defence.
1 – he has asked for a ridiculous sum of money to renew the contract when negotiations started. it was in excess of 120k a week, so approaching Phils salary. He isn’t that good
2- when the salary element was agreed they suddenly asked for a buy out clause.
In itself that can be resolved but the issue is much more than Emre now. Liverpool will soon renegotiate the contracts Mané, Firmino and lallana. They can’t and won’t set a dangerous precedent.
Yea it’s disapointing and likely to cost the club a player and perhaps 40 mil but the clause could cost us a lot more.
This is about a lot more then Emre and I understand the clubs policy’s
I think Can is a peculiar case and letting him leave on a free actually ok given the context.
He wasn’t bought as an unexperienced young player. Much rather he was experienced despite his young age and had 100+ games under his belt already.
And now, slowly but surely, Liverpool is outgrowing Can as an outright first XI player. Had Keita arrived, the midfield in many matches would have been formed by Henderson, Keita and one more offensive midfielder (Coutinho, Lallana, Wijnaldum). Can doesn’t get before Hendo in the No. 6 role nor would he have benched Keita.
Can apparently thinks his role is bigger, though. And he wants this bigger role rewarded financially by Liverpool’s new contract offer. However, they can’t put him in the bracket of the 5-6 best earners (mid term) because that simply doesn’t reflect his rank in (future) hierarchy.
Therefore there’s is nothing the club can do but wait if Can’s accepts this reality. They could have pushed for it and pushed for a transfer this summer, as many people seem to think the worst is to let him leave on a free. Since Keita didn’t arrive, they decided to keep Can to not weaken the squad this year. Normally FSG get criticized for not spending – here they relinquised a fee for Can but get unjustly criticized for not making a profit.
You win some and you loose some. Can’t really blame him for moving, although he has developed generally he has not developed a specific role and that is not his fault. If he’d served this contract in Germany or Italy I guess you would be looking at a player who was a DM or CB even and started to really learn a trade.
Good luck to him. Never let us down.
I like Emre, though it’s frustrating knowing that he could be a supreme player but still isn’t because of a level of inconsistency that isn’t even maddening, it’s just mildly annoying.
I agree with everything Neil is saying here but the actual direct comparison wasn’t made in the piece. It has been reported that signing Emre was cited as the reason why we didn’t sign Dele Ali. In retrospect that looks a bad decision, no matter how good Emre might become. No one has a crystal ball, although the noise around Ali and his prospects was well known. But to make that call, and then to finish up with neither player nor a decent fee, is bonkers.
I’m not really bothered if he stays or goes,and not at all arsed if he goes for free.Its not as if the money received would necessarily get spent on a better alternative to him,it would likely go on ‘potential’.FSG getting burned over it wouldn’t be much of a shame.
Good article Neil. The “what was the point” is spot on, especially when the club could have signed better players at a similar cost at the time.
I can’t help but feel though that the club will win this game of chicken, based solely on a feeling that Emre does want to stay at Liverpool. It looks like that’s what the club is banking on. Will be interesting to see what happens in the end.
I’m remember my annoyance that Emre Can was repeatedly starting last year over Joe Allen, who was enjoying fine form at a time when Can looked absolutely knackered. It made little sense to me except perhaps that Klopp earmarked one for the future and one for the exit door. I disagreed, but there was a logic to it.
I was annoyed at all the supporters on social media calling for Can to be made captain, not because he was rubbish but because it seemed that people spoke as if he had already realized his potential when he clearly had some chickenheaded-ness to sort out (and arguably still does).
I won’t be devastated if he leaves, but I will be annoyed (yet again) in the manner of the departure. I’d like to see him play his best days here, or at least put some money in our coffers for someone else to play their best days here.
And, whatever his own preferences, I still wouldn’t mind seeing him in a back three when we need it.