Liverpool's failed transfers: The starting XI Brendan Rodgers wanted at Anfield

Brendan Rodgers

Spare a thought for Brendan Rodgers. It’s never great bumping into your ex, and it’s even worse when they’re clearly doing so much better without you.

Since Liverpool sacked the Northern Irishman in October 2015, Jurgen Klopp has lead them to a Champions League title and their first top flight title in three decades. He’s a lot more charismatic, cool and handsome than Rodgers too.

That will make Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at Anfield all the bit tougher to take for the now-Leicester City boss, having witnessed his current employers surrender their position at the top of the Premier League table to his former ones.

But could things have worked out more fortuitously for Rodgers on Merseyside? It’s no secret that he spent much of his reign at loggerheads with Liverpool’s transfer committee that ultimately dictated signings and departures, and few would dispute that some very underwhelming transfer windows following Liverpool’s 2013/14 runner-up season played a very big hand in Rodgers’ eventual dismissal.

So, what would Liverpool’s starting XI have looked like going into the 2015/16 season had the Reds snapped up some of Rodgers’ top transfer targets during the previous few years, and would that have made any difference to how that campaign panned out?

GIVEMESPORT take a look below…

The Defence

Last year, Rodgers made a not-so-subtle dig at his former employers, questioning whether they allowed him to sign the quality of defender needed to truly challenge for top honours. 

In fairness to the Reds, 12 defenders and goalkeepers were brought into the club during Rodgers’ era but the best of an incredibly underwhelming bunch was probably Dejan Lovren, if only for the sheer fact he lasted six full seasons on Merseyside and eventually won the Premier League and Champions League titles.

In the BBC's documentary Liverpool: The 30-Year Wait, Rodgers alleged that he wanted to sign Virgil van Dijk way back in 2013, when he was still a rough diamond at Groningen. Obviously, there’s no guarantee the Dutchman would’ve developed into the world-class player he is today without passing through Celtic and Southampton, but on paper at least it’s an addition that would’ve drastically improved the quality of Rodgers’ backline.

Rodgers was also reportedly keen to bring Ryan Bertrand to Anfield back in summer 2014, but he instead signed for Southampton where he remains to this day, and Liverpool would snap up Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno - a left-back who endured a difficult Reds career.

The former Anfield gaffer wanted to sign Michel Vorm as competition for Simon Mignolet that same summer and while the Dutchman will by no means be remembered as one of the Premier League’s best, that near miss in the transfer market is a significant one.

After a fine debut season, mistakes started creeping into Mignolet’s game but viable alternatives were non-existent at Anfield. A year later, the club would sign Adam Bogdan as Mignolet’s backup.

Nathaniel Clyne, meanwhile, was signed in 2015 and helps us complete a backline that is basically a who’s who of Southampton’s defence during the two seasons in which they finished in the Premier League’s top seven.

Dele Alli celebrates

The Midfield

Rodgers lost the inevitably waning influence of Steven Gerrard in January 2015 and Liverpool fans might be surprised to learn that according to The Independent, he was never hugely sold on Emre Can, while he actively wanted to sell current club captain Jordan Henderson. He did get one transfer wish though in landing James Milner on a free transfer from Manchester City.

At this time, Rodgers also had the benefit of a certain Philippe Coutinho, who was just about coming of age - in his last 29 Premier League appearances under the now-Foxes boss, the Brazilian had notched up eleven goal involvements. 

But the most curious aspect of this engine room is how Dele Alli would’ve fared had he joined Liverpool instead of Tottenham. Rodgers declared in January 2016 that he “thought we had him”, only for the future England star to move to north London instead.

There, Alli’s gone on to accumulate 63 goals and 55 assists in 228 games, which is a pretty fantastic return for a midfielder who’s still only 24 years of age. No doubt though, the last few seasons for Alli have been a bit of a disaster.

Diego Costa

The Strike Force

It’s no secret that back in 2013 Liverpool were hot on the heels of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa. They even triggered the striker’s release clause but he ultimately stayed on with the Mattress Makers, helping them win the La Liga title and reach the Champions League final in the following season.

And alas, the footballing world would have to wait until 2020/21 to finally see two of the nastiest elite forwards of their generation - Costa and Luis Suarez - play alongside each other.

Speaking of the chomping Uruguayan, Rodgers revealed in 2016 that the club were working to sign Alexis Sanchez as his immediate replacement. But while the Arsenal star would grab 16 goals and eight assists in the following Premier League campaign, Rodgers was instead lumped with Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli.

Back in 2015, meanwhile, Rodgers still enjoyed the luxury of Raheem Sterling, although the 2015/16 season would prove to be his last one at Anfield before a big-money move to Manchester City, where he’s gone on to lift two Premier League titles.

Liverpool XI under Rodgers

Would it have ended differently for Rodgers?

This starting XI is a lot more convincing than the one selected for Rodgers’ final game in charge - a 1-1 draw to Everton which featured Moreno and Clyne as wing-backs, Lucas Leiva in midfield and Danny Ings playing off Daniel Sturridge up front - and it includes a number of players who have gone on to achieve greatness elsewhere, so it’s certainly plausible that Rodgers would’ve lasted longer in the Anfield hot seat.

But two themes amongst the cabal of prime Rodgers targets does stand out. First and foremost, with the exception of van Dijk, who would’ve been just 22 when the Northern Irishman wanted to sign him from Groningen, the backline and the goalkeeper don’t inspire huge confidence or particularly improve upon what he had at the time.

Conceding goals was Liverpool’s biggest shortcoming throughout Rodgers’ entire reign, so even after additions like Alli, Sanchez and Costa, the then-Reds gaffer would likely have still been left battling the same fundamental flaw that partly cost him the job.

Secondly, while a number of these players were reaching prominence at the time of Rodgers’ interest, their time at the top has since come to very abrupt ends. Costa has scored just eleven league goals since leaving Chelsea in 2017, Alli hasn’t been a guaranteed starter for Spurs since 2017/18 and Sanchez’s stint at Manchester United was so disastrous that he was allowed to join Inter Milan on a free transfer.

Maybe in the short-term these signings would’ve served Rodgers well. But looking further down the line, even by summer 2017 a few of them would have already started to enter their declines.

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