Russell Wareing explains why people calling both Luis Alberto and Thiago Ilori ‘a waste of money’ are being premature.
It’s important we look to the future, he says, as it’s the best way to achieve sustainable success.
Quite often, football fans use hindsight to justify an argument or to point out the glaringly obvious. They point out and calculate money that could have been saved and used on players that could have provided more than the ones that their club brought in and did not work out.
Regarding Liverpool, £22million keeps getting thrown around. £22million. Where does this number come from? £6m for Iago Aspas, £6m for Luis Alberto and £7m for Tiago Ilori. Personally, I do not believe this is all wasted money because not all transfers are made for immediate impact, not all transfers are sure bets, not all transfer fees are based on the players current form.
In today’s world of inflated transfer fees, £6m for Iago Aspas is not much, especially when you look at his stats from his last season in La Liga: 34 games, 12 goals and 7 assists (WhoScored.com)
This was £6m for a guy who could back up multiple positions and who had ability and for a thin squad. Obviously we now know that Aspas hasn’t quite worked out but can Liverpool get £6m back for him? Possibly as he is only 26 years old and seems to be suited for La Liga rather than the more physical, faster paced style of the Premier League. I can understand some people thinking we wasted £6m, Aspas was a transfer for immediate impact and it was a risk and it didn’t pay off.
Two transfers that were not for immediate impact were the acquisitions of Luis Alberto and Tiago Ilori. When you have a limited budget, unlike Man City and Chelsea, you cannot always buy a player ready-made to be a stud in the first team, sometimes you have to take a chance on young talent and hope you can nurture and harness his talent. Let’s take a look at Tiago Ilori and why Liverpool did that deal:
How does paying £7m for a 6’3” right centre-back who is lightning fast, is great on the ball, has passing ability and is able to read the game sound? You would probably ask me what the catch is? Well the catch is he is young, a little bit lightweight, lacks big time experience and is perhaps two years away from being able to play at the level Liverpool need him to. That player sounds like the perfect complement for a left sided central defender like Mamadou Sakho, but that player when he hits his stride could cost you up to three times the price and by then he will be at a club playing regularly in the Champions League.
When Liverpool bought Ilori, Valencia, Lyon and PSG were all sniffing around him because he was clearly talented and anybody that watched him at Sporting Lisbon or for the U21s at Liverpool can see he has all the pieces to be a great player and The Reds’ centre-back for the next 10 years. The plan always seemed to have been to get Ilori in, have him around the club for six months and then loan him out in the January transfer window, which is exactly what happened. Liverpool knew he was not going to play much if at all this season, but took their chance whilst they could.
If you consider spending £7m on potential a “waste” of money then perhaps you are struggling to understand the nature of football. After this season, there is a next one and then a next one.
The same argument applies for Luis Alberto, a player that made some waves in Spain last year. When he has played, to me he looks like a tidy player who does the simple things well. He hasn’t lit a fire under everyone though. Perhaps they expect him to play like Philippe Coutinho due to them being the same age, but Coutinho had a lot more experience at the higher level and Alberto does not seem to be as settled as we would have liked. We do not know what Rodgers thinks of Alberto or how the Spaniard is on the training ground. What cannot be argued is that scouting him any more than we did would have found him to not be worth the risk. Any scout in the world worth their salt could see the potential he had, but no transfer is ever nailed on, whether a club pays £3.5m or £35m. Again, this is not wasted money, it is an investment.
We are using hindsight to judge these signings which is not the way to do it. At the start of the season we as fans just hoped that Liverpool could get 4th place and at the very least to make a legitimate push and not be out of that race by February. A potential title challenge was not really on the cards and “big name” (i.e. £20m+) players turned down the chance to come to Liverpool for that reason. We were not seriously in the market for those players, so we took the high risk/high reward option, even though you can argue they are not high risk, we could sell Ilori and Alberto tomorrow and probably make money on them.
This goes back to the point, not all transfers are made for now and you cannot use pure hindsight to judge them. Investing in the future is a key part to sustained success for a football club with a limited budget. It is easy to be blinkered and think that Liverpool could have invested the money spent on Alberto & Ilori on a first team player, but if they turn out to be world beaters, we’ll all be glad that The Reds got them at a cheaper price at the time they did.