In December 2012, Liverpool FC owners Fenway Sports Group — then known as New England Sports Ventures — were forced to issue a grovelling apology to Fulham after a deadline day transfer faux-pas.
The Reds had announced the signing of the Cottagers’ American forward Clint Dempsey on their official website, without having actually agreed a deal to purchase the player. Despite Brendan Rodgers’ squad containing only two genuine strikers in Luis Suárez and Fabio Borini, the club baulked at Fulham’s £6m asking price, offered just £3m, and he eventually moved to Tottenham Hotspur instead.
Owner John Henry wrote an apologetic, and frankly embarrassing, statement to supporters in the aftermath of the disappointing window, while just a few months later chairman Tom Werner was forced to publicly apologise to counterpart Mohamed Al-Fayed in order to deter Fulham from reporting Liverpool to the Premier League for tapping-up the player.
Fast forward six years from that particular shambles to the transfer of AS Roma goalkeeper Alisson this summer, and Liverpool are now aggressively securing the signatures of some of the most sought-after players in world football.
The Brazilian stopper’s move follows those of compatriot Fabinho, who was regularly linked with a switch to the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United during his final two seasons at AS Monaco, and midfielder Naby Keita, who was the subject of well-documented interest from Barcelona before affirming his desire to put pen-to-paper on a contract with the Reds.
It’s all a far cry from the summers spent unsuccessfully chasing the likes of Dempsey, Willian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Whereas previously Liverpool penny-pinched, took risks on unknowns, and lost out to rivals on a regular basis, they now spend serious money to solve first-team issues by picking up players coveted by the biggest and richest clubs in Europe.
But it is not merely through desire that Liverpool are now able to attract a better quality of footballer. The club’s image nowadays is appealing to top-tier players for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, it is clear that footballers want to work with Jürgen Klopp. In each of their post-signing interviews, Alisson, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri have all referenced the German’s influence as one of the key reasons they chose to join Liverpool.
Klopp’s reputation for remaining loyal to his squad members, demonstrated at Liverpool in his persistence with the likes of Dejan Lovren, his track record of competing at the highest level with a unique playing style, and his warm personality are all strong selling points in negotiations.
Supporters often forget that footballers are human beings. They don’t necessarily just follow the money. They want to enjoy their careers as much as possible, and at the moment Liverpool is arguably the club which can offer the most fun proposition in the whole of Europe.
The Reds’ Champions League run may have ended in defeat in Kyiv, but its impact was witnessed by fans and footballers across the continent. They will all have seen the devasting attacking displays. They will all have seen the videos of the atmosphere at Anfield, the Etihad and the Stadio Olympico. They will all have seen how much fun Liverpool’s players were having throughout that journey.
The combination of the playing style, the manager’s colossal reputation, and the reinvigorated passion of the supporter base is a tantalising proposition for any player discussing potential destinations with his agent.
There most likely remains a truly elite level of player Liverpool would be unable to compete for. If Paris Saint Germain declared that Kylian Mbappé were available to buy in August, for example, the club could still not afford the sort of transfer fee and wages which would be offered by the likes of Real Madrid, nor could it guarantee the same kind of on-pitch results.
But, following the arrivals of both Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, it is now eminently clear that the Reds are willing to pay previously incomprehensible amounts for players they consider to be among the best in the world.
Most importantly, though, some of the best players in the world simply cannot wait to play for Liverpool.