When Liverpool refused to splash out on Timo Werner during the summer, Chelsea swooped and landed the Germany striker.
Werner, red hot for RB Leipzig last season, had seemed like an ideal fit for the Premier League champions.
At 24, he has his best years ahead of him, is liked by Jurgen Klopp, has Champions League experience and last term added a more solid all-round game to his undoubted goalscoring ability under the guidance of Julian Nagelsmann.
Able to play from the left or through the middle, he looked a suitable arrival to help enhance the club’s much-vaunted current front trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
But with suitors needing to pay his £53million buyout clause up front, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and with its potential financial implications, Liverpool stepped back.
Chelsea, no longer under a transfer embargo, moved in swiftly, splashed the cash and have since gone on to add over £150million worth of other talent, including Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell, in a big-spending summer.
The Reds meanwhile, have largely kept their powder dry.
Kostas Tsimikas arrived from Olympiacos to rival Andy Robertson at left-back, but with Jurgen Klopp declaring Liverpool are “not owned by countries or an oligarch”, they have been unable to spend.
Until, on Friday, it all changed.
Firstly, Liverpool confirmed the signing of Thiago Alcantara, the Bayern Munich playmaker – a Champions League winner with seven successive Bundesliga titles in his back pocket – in a potential £26million deal, with £20m guaranteed.
Then, as the fanfare over the Spaniard’s arrival began to subside slightly, sporting director Michael Edwards promptly put in place a deal with Wolves for Portugal international Diogo Jota – worth a potential £45million, with £41m guaranteed.
From nowhere, amid suggestions they couldn’t spend, suddenly the champions were splashing out, spending at least £65million with another £10m in add-ons.
Except, not quite. Well, not yet.
Edwards, who doesn’t court publicity as some sporting directors are prone to do, has developed a reputation for being one of football’s toughest negotiators.
It’s a far cry from when he was once upon a time derided as being a “laptop guru who did a number on Brendan Rodgers.”
Now, at a time of financial uncertainty in football, when Klopp has wanted to strengthen but Liverpool’s owners have not wanted to over-commit funds, he has produced for all.
Firstly, Thiago, who all summer has had his heart set on a new challenge at Anfield, but whom Liverpool had consistently briefed they weren’t in for.
Until Thursday, when they confirmed a fee had been agreed after Edwards negotiated Bayern down from their £27million asking price.
Knowing Thiago only wanted to move to Anfield, and with the 29-year-old’s contract expiring next summer, Edwards held fire before striking a deal with counterpart Hasan Salihamidzic which sees Liverpool spread their guaranteed £20million initial fee over his four-year contract.
Thus, they’re paying just £5million now.
With Jota, it is a similar story.
Unlike Werner and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr – in whom they also held an interest – Wolves have been amiable to staggering the payment for the Portuguese, who recently scored his first goal for the Seleccao.
It is something Wolves are happy to do, if it means slightly more income long-term – they’ve done similar with Leeds in regards Helder Costa and Fulham with Ivan Cavaleiro.
Valued by Wolves at £35million, Edwards and Liverpool have cut a deal where, yes they will pay a little more long-term, but they get their man and commit just over £4million now. “Liverpool are going to have a great player,” says Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
Combined, that means Liverpool have added a genuinely world-class midfield metronome who will add greater variety to the side’s attacks and a talented, diligent, hard-working forward with tremendous upside for around £9million in the here and now.
And it doesn’t end there.
They’re getting that back immediately, after negotiating a deal to sell teenage defender Ki-Jana Hoever to Wolves for £9million – up to £13.5million with add-ons.
The Dutchman was highly-rated at Anfield, but in need of games and with five centre-back options ahead of him in the pecking order, plus both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Neco Williams at right-back, they have cashed in.
Liverpool are keen to repeat last season’s success – and you don’t want to miss a thing, surely?
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Liverpool got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds.
In terms of transfers the Reds have completed the signing of Thiago Alcantara and Wolves’ Diogo Jota is arriving too.
Youngster Ki-Jana Hoever is set to head to Wolves in a £10million deal, while Gini Wijnaldum continues to be linked with Barcelona. There’s a lot to keep track of.
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Two first-team players in, one youngster out. Books balanced.
It not only gives Klopp what he wants, but also gives the club time, both to see how things continue amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and to sell fringe players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic without any need to slash prices.
From Liverpool’s perspective, what he has done in the last few days has been a masterstroke.
In 2017, an online petition was set up to get Edwards sacked from his position.
“Michael Edwards is incompetent” reads the opening. “He’s useless, just useless” declares the first comment.
It has not aged well.
And what Edwards has pulled off in recent days, is simply further proof.
Will Diogo Jota be a success at Anfield? Have your say below.
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