“Five European Cups and 18 leagues, that’s what we call history.”
Liverpool do indeed have a very successful past. Their dominance of English football in the 1970s and 1980s helped forge a legacy that has allowed them compete at a very good level for the last 35 years.
The 200s was a fruitful period for the club, also. The FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001 reminded supporters of the old days after a bitterly disappointing decade during the 1990s.
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Istanbul in 2005; a night of impossibility beyond belief that produced one of the greatest comebacks in football history and one year later Liverpool captured the FA Cup for the first time in five years.
All of the trophy wins have ensured Liverpool are one of the world’s largest clubs in terms of supporters. They have accumulated fans from all areas of the globe; Scandinavia has traditionally been pro-Anfield but we’ve seen the reception they got when on pre-season tours of Australia, the Far East and America in recent years.
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Things have changed for Liverpool
Fast forward to 2015 and things are quite different for the Reds. Since their 2006 FA Cup triumph, they’ve won just one piece of silverware which was the League Cup in 2012 when they had to beat Championship side Cardiff City on penalties. The “Mickey Mouse Cup” is how the League Cup has been described by both Kopites and Evertonians in the past, depending on their situation and is not the most inspiring of triumphs.
It was announced last week in a study by Football Observatory that Brendan Rodgers’ squad is the seventh most expensive in Europe, valued at £251.1 million. They are ahead of Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Juventus and Atletico Madrid in the list.
And Liverpool’s target this year; challenge for a top-four finish.
Liverpool have an immense amount of cash at their disposal, as we’ve witnessed in recent years. Owners Fenway Sports Group are wealthy beyond means and willing invest serious amounts of cash into the club.
We’ve observed some decent signings join the club in recent seasons; Nathaniel Clyne is a solid addition to fill the void at right-back and Emre Can certainly looks one for the future.
What's the appeal of a move to Liverpool?
However, what Liverpool have really missed out on is a world-class player who can add significant amount to the squad. The reason a top talent has not arrived at the Reds is simple; there no appeal to join Liverpool.
When Fernando Torres left Athletico Madrid for Anfield in 2007, he could have moved to any club in the world. The Spaniard proven himself to be one of the best strikers in La Liga and had snubbed a move Chelsea just one year previously.
Torres moved to the Reds because they were a club who were succeeding. Two years earlier they’d won the Champions League and were beaten in the final of the European Cup against AC Milan just months before he completed his move to Merseyside. It’s fair to say that Liverpool were one of the world’s top teams when he was signed by Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool were Champions League regulars every season, consistent performers in the league who had the potential to challenge for the title (which they did when finishing second in 2009). Torres was going to be playing alongside arguably the world’s best midfielder at the time, Steven Gerrard, along with joining a club who’s supporters were full of passion and become the 12th man during matches at Anfield.
Luis Suarez too moved to the Reds from Ajax in 2011 when they still had a decent reputation. Despite Liverpool not competing in the Champions League when Suarez completed his move but Gerrard was still as good as he ever was and Suarez was purchased to play alongside Torres, who soon left for Chelsea on January deadline day for £50 million.
Suarez is the last world-class player Liverpool signed. And by judging things, he could be the last for a decent period of time.
When Suarez left for Barcelona last summer, Rodgers had £75 million at his disposal. The Uruguayan, who scored 31 league goals during the 2013/14 season where Liverpool came within a whisker of winning the Premier League title, needed replacing with someone in the same calibre if another title challenge was on the cards.
Alexis Sanchez was the main target; however, he chose to move to Arsenal instead, despite Liverpool offering £5 million more than the Gunners. Rodgers had missed out on Diego Costa in the summer of 2013 and he moved to Chelsea one year later and his goals helped fire the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge. Antoine Griezmann opted to move to Athletico Madrid after netting 20 goals for Real Sociedad during the 2013/14 season and Mario Mandzukic joined him at the Vincent Calderon from Bayern Munich.
In the end, Liverpool ended up with Mario Balotelli for £16 million from AC Milan. No other club would touch the Italian with a barge poll but it was all who the Reds could attract. A “calculated risk” was how Rodgers described Balotelli. What the Northern Irishman desired was “a proven goalscorer who’s hungry to play and win trophies.”
Benteke was the best Liverpool could get
This summer, after Balotelli inevitably failed at Anfield, Rodgers purchased Christian Benteke for £32.5 million from Aston Villa. No doubt, Benteke has talent – but £32.5 million had many Kopites pulling curious faces.
Unfortunately, the reality is, is that Benteke was the best Liverpool could hope for.
There had been rumours of Karim Benzema being wanted by Liverpool both last summer and this. He would be an invaluable addition to Rodgers’ side; however, why would he want to leave Real Madrid for Liverpool?
There is no appeal to join the Reds anymore. There’s no Champions League on offer, no chance of challenging for the title - there’s not even the aspect of playing alongside Gerrard
Benzema would have been leaving the shining lights of the Santiago Bernabeu, saying his goodbyes to Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and other world-class players to play alongside Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Dejan Lovren in the Europa League on a boltic Thursday night in Eastern Europe