To put it simply: the Reds seemed incapable of signing footballers of such world-renowned class. It was no longer in their DNA.
This was a 23-year-old superstar linked with far richer, more successful clubs, including Barcelona and Man United, who was being tipped to be one of the greatest players of his generation.
Rafa Benitez managed to entice Torres to Anfield , though, and Liverpool snapped him up in an audacious £20.2million move.
Having had to make do with good but ultimately limited strikers such as Milan Baros, Djibril Cisse, Fernando Morientes, Craig Bellamy and Peter Crouch, the Reds suddenly had a game-changer in their ranks.
For the next couple of years, Torres was arguably the world’s greatest striker – Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and David Villa were the only real pretenders to his throne – and he more than justified the expectations that had weighed heavily on his young shoulders.
He was quite something, regardless of the injuries that occurred latterly, and the sour taste that his switch to Chelsea left.
Fast forward 11 years and Liverpool are on the verge of unveiling Naby Keita, with the Guinean officially becoming a Reds player on 1st July.
Liverpool to win the Premier League 2018/19 is 11/2 with RedsBet.
Like Torres all those years ago, he is both 23 and one of the most exciting prospects in world football. He could have joined any club on the planet and not looked out of place.
This is colossus of a midfielder – somebody who possesses the fitness levels and defensive nous of N’Golo Kante, but also the creativity and attacking flare of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to a far higher standard.
If Virgil van Dijk felt like the man to transform the Reds’ defensive woes, Keita will turn their midfield from functional to devastating, along with fellow new arrival Fabinho.
That is no disrespect to Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner, who all remain key members of the squad, but Keita is on the verge of being genuinely world-class.
RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick called the diminutive midfielder, “one of the best I’ve worked with in 20 years of professional football”, which speaks volumes.
So is Keita the most exciting buy since Torres? It may sound hyperbolic, but who else comes close?
Someone who will no doubt immediately spring to mind is Luis Suarez, with the Uruguayan one of Liverpool’s most talented players of all time.
El Pistolero was not the finished article when he joined in January 2011, however, despite being a top class international.
It took him 18 months or so to become of the world’s best players, however – we weren’t leaping around celebrating when it was announced he was joining from Ajax.
Christian Pulisic to join Liverpool this summer is 17/4.
Both Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have proven to be sensational purchases, particularly the latter, but it is so easy to forget the lukewarm reaction that met the initial reports linking them with Liverpool.
Mane was “just another Southampton player”, and Salah was “a Chelsea reject who couldn’t cut it in the Premier League”. There wasn’t universal joy like there is surrounding Keita.
Van Dijk is in the mix, considering what a special centre-back he is, but the £75million price tag was still sniffed at by some.
Plus, we all care more about additions in midfield and attack, deep down.
Javier Mascherano was a wonderful servant, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were talented gambles and Roberto Firmino was not yet the masterful footballer he has become.
Their respective arrivals paled into insignificance in comparison to the furore surrounding Keita, especially from those who watch him regularly.
Does anybody else even warrant a mention?
Keita is a sensational piece of business, and someone who will take Liverpool up a significant gear and into Premier League title-challenging mode.
He has the ability to boss a midfield battle almost single-handedly, and at 23, there is so much left to come from him.
To have the Keita working his magic behind that unplayable front-three of Mane, Salah and Firmino is something worth getting giddy about, and there is every chance he could become more important than all of them.
He is going to be a joy to watch, just like Torres was.