After Luis Suarez's move to Barcelona the club faced a challenging summer but an unprecedented summer's spend highlighted Brendan Rodgers' commitment to attacking footbalSPECIAL REPORT
By Jamie Dunn
After coming agonisingly close to winning the Premier League title, Liverpool faced one of the most significant summers in the club’s history, ultimately defined by the sale of Luis Suarez and the arrival of Mario Balotelli.
After scoring 31 goals and providing 12 assists in the club’s run to a second-place finish in the Premier League, was always destined to leave Anfield and there was an expectation at the club, even prior to the World Cup, that there would be a significant offer for Suarez – one that would be too good to resist.
As such, plans were put in place ahead of the summer to fill the void left by Suarez, who made a £70 million move to Barcelona in July.
Suarez's fourth-month ban, incurred after he bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, did not deter Barca, though. After talks between a delegation from the Catalan club and Anfield chief executive Ian Ayre early in July, the Camp Nou outfit agreed to meet the £70m release clause in Suarez’s contract and the deal was completed a week later.
Liverpool had identified Wilfried Bony as their No.1 striker target, but were quoted a £20m fee by Swansea – a long way away from their own valuation of the Ivory Coast international, which stood closer to £14m.
As a result, the Merseyside club turned their attention to Rickie Lambert, who left Southampton to join Liverpool – the club he supported as a boy - in a move worth around £9m.
Balotelli was made available by Milan earlier in the summer and the Serie A side were quoting clubs – including Arsenal - £30m to sign the striker.
The Gunners were put off and did not follow up with a bid for the forward, while Liverpool instead lined up a deal for Loic Remy, the now Chelsea forward who had spent last season on loan at Newcastle.
Remy looked set to move to Anfield, but the deal was collapsed amid reports a failed medical and, allied with Fabio Borini’s reluctance to move to Sunderland, Liverpool were unable to complete the deal. The France international eventually moved to Chelsea.
Liverpool were again made aware of Balotelli’s availability during the club’s tour of the USA in which Milan were also participating. Rodgers publicly ruled out a move for Balotelli, but when Milan made him available for £16m with time running out before deadline day, the Merseyside club’s transfer committee decided the controversial striker was a risk worth taking.
Liverpool were also among the clubs offered Falcao but, unlike rivals Manchester United, the Anfield club declined to pay a loan fee in excess of £10m and a significant portion of the striker’s £300,000-a-week wages at Monaco.
In the end, all roads led to Balotelli. After an encouraging debut against Tottenham, Rodgers will be confident the striker will prove to be a worthy investment.
Much of the club’s business was done long before the Italian arrived at Anfield. Lambert was followed from Southampton by Adam Lallana, who cost £25m, and £20m defender Dejan Lovren. So impressed was Rodgers with the south-coast club last season that he also maintains a watching brief over Morgan Schneiderlin, James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez.
Emre Can, a 20-year-old midfielder, joined from Bayer Leverkusen in a £10m deal, and Liverpool also beat off competition from Tottenham to sign Divock Origi, who impressed for Belgium at the World Cup. The forward has been loaned back to Lille for the coming season.
Winger Lazar Markovic, also 20, was brought in after impressing with Benfica last season, while the club invested significantly in strengthening at full-back.
Liverpool are yet to reach an agreement with Glen Johnson over the length of a potential new contract, with the England international having 12 months remaining on his current deal and understood to be earning £120,000-a-week.
But they have made a shrewd move to cover at right-back should Johnson leave next summer by signing Atletico Madrid defender Javi Manquillo on a two-year loan. There is an option to make the deal permanent in 2016, but Atleti can also pay to take the 20-year-old back to Spain next summer.
The club’s most protracted transfer negotiations were perhaps involved in their attempts to sign Alberto Moreno. Jon Flanagan deputised ably at left-back last season, but the Reds eventually paid Sevilla £12m to prise the Spaniard away.
The outgoings have been on a minor scale, too. Pepe Reina, on loan at Napoli last season, has made a permanent switch to Bayern Munich, while the arrival of Lovren saw another experienced Anfield campaigner in Daniel Agger move back to Denmark with Brondby and Martin Kelly joined Crystal Palace.
Kolo Toure was expected to leave Liverpool for Trabzonspor but opted to stay and youth products Conor Coady and Jack Robinson have departed, while the likes of Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Jordon Ibe, Sebastian Coates, Oussama Assaidi and Andre Wisdom having gone out on loan.
Back in the Champions League and with one eye on complying with Financial Fair Play regulations in the coming years, Liverpool have invested in the future, signing eight players aged 26 or under. And with Anfield stadium expansion plans ongoing, the club will hope not to have to stage such a significant overhaul again at the end of the season.
Much will depend on the club’s ability to adapt to life after Suarez, but the early signs are positive.