Lazar Markovic had cost £10 million more, while Divock Origi recorded a goal and an assist at the World Cup in Brazil. However, the talent Liverpool were most enthused about securing in the summer of 2014 was Emre Can.
At the start of June of that year, the club revealed that a deal had been agreed in principle with Bayer Leverkusen for the young midfielder. Three days into the following month, the signing was made official and the space between both announcements was stocked with talk of what a coup it was.
Bayern Munich were aggrieved to lose their buy-back option on Can, which could have been triggered in 2015, and there was an overwhelming belief at Melwood that the German would develop into one of the most commanding figures in his position.
Players and coaching staff buzzed off the new introduction, who had already featured in the Champions League, and was described as “one of the biggest talents” in his country by Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Closing in on 1000 days since Can joined Liverpool, that early excitement has been replaced by exasperation as the 23-year-old stalls on agreeing a new contract. Juventus, meanwhile, are following the impasse with interest as they seek alternate options to their top target in the centre of the park, Lyon’s Corentin Tolisso.
Can’s camp believe he has the right to be among the top earners at Anfield, while the Reds want him to prove as much through consistent, assertive performances.
Currently understood to be on £55,000 a week and set to enter the final year of his deal this summer, the club’s Young Player of 2015-16 wants to be in the same wage bracket as captain Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana.
It is the former’s role as Liverpool’s metronome that Can most covets, but he is not as effective as the No.6 in their fluid approach. Neither has he managed to make as much impact as Lallana, who was recruited in the same window, and is now central to Jurgen Klopp’s blueprint.
Alongside the England pair, Gini Wijnaldum completes Liverpool’s preferred midfield three. Can’s strengths largely contrast with the trio’s and while that has been a source of irritation at times this season, it can also be an effective weapon, as seen in the 3-1 victory against Arsenal.
He is never going to be able to dictate the tempo of his side’s play or direct their attacks as well as Henderson. He won’t be able to operate in tight spaces as impeccably as Lallana and he can’t be as efficient in possession as Wijnaldum. But, conversely, none of them are as strong as Can in aerial duels, nor as as explosive carrying the ball through the middle.
Under Klopp’s ‘simple and fast’ rule, Liverpool look more rhythmic when he is not part of the midfield three. But faced with the threat of Olivier Giroud at Anfield last weekend, against the physicality of Chelsea at the end of January, and as the Reds looked to disrupt Kevin de Bruyne’s supply to Sergio Aguero for Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, Can’s qualities were valuable.
What the Germany international needs to master, though, is how to regularly merge and sharpen his skills to complement the club’s system. Given that he has functioned as a traditional right-back, on the same side of a three-man defence, as a centre-half in a flat back-four and across the midfield, Can has the aptitude to do it.
"Whatever role he's asked to play, he has this inbuilt brain for football that allows him to adjust and adapt,” Brendan Rodgers previously said of his signing.
Klopp, too, believes Can is far better than the sum of this season’s evidence. “Maybe if he didn’t know what I think, it would affect him, but he knows what I want,” the Reds boss commented on the contract stand-off last month.
It is not the 49-year-old’s job to push for what the player wants to earn, though; that needs to come from Can’s showings on the pitch.
Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s highest earner on the back of being the Player of the Season twice in succession, having a stellar start to the campaign prior to suffering ankle ligament damage and being heavily courted by both Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
Lallana nearly doubled his package by illustrating his influence both on and off the pitch since Klopp's arrival as boss. The Merseysiders are actively looking to fortify their midfield and enhance competition for places, with Goal revealing RB Leipzig dynamo Naby Keita is on their radar .
Can’s battle is not just against improved terms then, but still being in contention for one of those spots next season. He has 11 games to not only make a powerful case to the club, but provide Juventus with evidence that he shouldn’t merely be one of their back-up options.
It would be a shame if Can had to exit Liverpool in anticlimactic circumstances, given the celebratory way in which his signing was greeted.