Liverpool and transfers. It’s gone pretty well recently.
While this summer looks like a quieter one, since Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield, he and sporting director Michael Edwards haven’t been afraid to splash the cash.
Per Transfermarkt, Liverpool have spent £400.38 million ($501m USD today) and received £310.66m ($389m) since the German was appointed. Looking at the latter, Transfermarkt now estimates the total worth of players Liverpool sold at £289.90m ($362m), so the club generally seemed to get fair values for these players and then a touch extra.
As for those brought in, if we exclude the players who have already been sold on, this group cost £390.32m ($487m) and have an estimated value today of £695.0m, so it certainly seems like good business has been done. But while that’s the macro story, what about the micro? Let’s take a look.
If you want to talk successes, there’s nowhere to start other than Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian was purchased for £37.8m ($47m) and now has a value of £135m ($168m). It’s not hard to see why. Salah has notched 71 goals and 29 assists in 104 games at Liverpool, along with a significant marketing punch. Liverpool found a superstar for a moderate fee.
Sadio Mane has had a similar, if not quite as drastic, increase, costing the club £37.08m ($46m) and now getting valued at £108m ($135m).
Winning the Champions League tends to look good on one’s resume. In terms of value buys, Andy Robertson currently looks like a miracle, being valued at £54m ($67m) when he cost just £8.1m ($10m) two summers ago. Michael Edwards’ recruitment team have often looked at undervalued players towards the bottom end of the Premier League table, and Robertson stands as the greatest achievement in that regard.
The club has also shown an admirable lack of fear when it comes to making big moves, and it has been paying off. Liverpool smashed the transfer record for a goalkeeper last summer, paying Roma £56.25m ($70m) for Alisson after the position had been a persistent problem. The results speak for themselves, with the Brazil number one winning the Golden Glove award for most Premier League clean sheets along with a number of important saves on the way to the Champions League trophy. That his value now sits at £72m ($90m) should not surprise anyone.
Virgil van Dijk was a similar huge outlay, breaking the record fee for a defender and paying Southampton £76.19m ($95m) for his services. Transfermarkt felt this was a significant overpay at the time, putting his worth at just £27m ($34m), but things have come around, and his value now stands at £81m ($101m). Van Dijk is the current bookmakers’ favourite to win the Ballon d’Or, and even just making the podium would likely see another uptick in his value, so value has certainly been found with this purchase.
Fabinho looks less spectacular, but still feels like a solid purchase. £40.5m ($51m) was paid for the midfielder, hitting his market value exactly. Things were rather slow to get going. It took until late October for him to start his first league game, but he then firmly established himself in the side, proving a useful cog across the season. His current market value is £45m ($56m), and another season as a regular for Liverpool could easily see this increase further.
As for less successful moves, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has seen a slight dip to £31.5m ($39m) when £34.2m ($43m) was paid, but its hard to ignore his injury in this. If he can maintain full fitness across the 2019/20 season, one would expect his value to shoot up.
While they didn’t prove quite as disruptive to the season, Naby Keita was also someone who suffered from several knocks over the year, and as such failed to increase his value from the £54m ($67m) paid. It’s obvious that Klopp really likes him, and if he can stay fit then he has every chance at becoming an integral part of the side, but these injury concerns pose a genuine risk of preventing this purchase from ever fully paying off.
It’s all but an inevitability that teams will make some costly errors, and it’s hard to describe the Emre Can saga as anything but.
After contract negotiations broke down, the German midfielder moved to Juventus on a free transfer, and Can currently has a value of £36m ($45m). Yikes.
Just as damning is the case of Luis Alberto. After failing to settle at Anfield, the Spanish attacking midfielder had a few mixed loan spells and then was sold to Lazio for £3.6m ($4.5m), an almost negligible figure for a club like Liverpool. Since then, however, Alberto has shone. The 2017/18 campaign, where he managed 11 goals and 14 assists in Serie A, but in every year he’s been a great creative force with solid defensive work, increasing his worth to £25.2m ($31m). Perhaps his supposedly difficult personality didn’t fit with Klopp, but one more year on loan and Liverpool could have flipped him for a much higher fee.
Otherwise, the outward business done has largely been good, with the highest priced sale, Philippe Coutinho for £130.5m ($163m), looking like great work as his value has fallen to £81m ($101m).
Mamadou Sakho looks like another shrewd move, with the defender now worth just £13.5m ($17m) after selling him for £25.38m ($32m), though his increasing age (now 29) plays a factor here.
Elsewhere, with a few exceptional circumstances such as Mario Balotelli’s free transfer, players have generally been sold for around their market value or slightly above it.
It’s somewhat unfortunate that both Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge have left on free transfers, though not exactly a shock with their lack of action recently.
In an ideal world, Liverpool might have been able to recoup fees for one or both, with Moreno valued at £8.1m ($10m) and Sturridge at £13.5m ($17m). But the market did not work this way and, with other clubs unwilling to meet their wage demands in previous summers, the two sat out their contracts and left for nothing.
Sturridge in particular shows the perils of long term contracts, with the Englishman becoming one of the club’s highest earners at a time when he was a key part of the side, but found himself quickly declining after injuries bit.
There is always risk attached to the transfer market.
Factors such as future injuries and how a player will mentally adapt to a new environment are notoriously hard to predict. Furthermore, buying and selling players cannot simply be understood as a project in maximising value.
Someone like Balotelli, for example, certainly had a financial value, but the player was a poor fit for Liverpool and Klopp, so the club took a monetary hit on him.
It is therefore even more impressive that good business has been done in this difficult environment, and speaks highly of Liverpool and Fenway Sports Group in building a sustainably run, successful team.