By Ray Hamill
The new year has been anything but quiet for Liverpool fans, with the club already involved in a pair of record-breaking deals.
And we’re not even a week into the transfer window yet.
No sooner had the club dished out a world-record $100 million for a defender – with the arrival of highly-coveted and long-term target Virgil Van Dijk at the beginning of the week – than we saw the team’s most influential star Philippe Coutinho finally seal his dream move to Barcelona for a cool $200 million, give or take the odd penny.
Even considering the escalating economics of the present-day EPL, that’s a busy week for the team’s accountants.
And a rollercoaster one for the team’s fans.
In fairness though, it didn’t take a psychic to see either move coming, just perhaps the timing of both.
Each deal was made a half a season later than either player would have liked, but a half a season too soon for either set of fans.
The timing of Coutinho’s exit is particularly surprising, considering Barcelona don’t need him to a win a league they’re already running away with, and being cup-tied he’s of no use to them in the Champions League.
Liverpool, on the other hand, seemed to desperately need him in what is shaping up to be one of the tightest races ever for the top four in the EPL, and the knockout stages of the CL.
So on that level, it was surprising to see the club allow him leave in January.
Apparently he was either desperate enough to force the team’s hand, or manager Jurgen Klopp decided he could no longer live with a player who simply didn’t want to be there any longer.
Make no mistake. It was the manager’s decision to make the deal, not the owners.
Liverpool fans should take some comfort in this. The team isn’t necessarily the so-called selling club many pundits seem to claim.
And you can’t blame Coutinho for wanting to leave. Like Luis Suarez and many others before him, he grew up dreaming of playing for the Spanish giants, not the English ones.
The question is what will Liverpool do now?
The worried fans will want the team to act before the end of the transfer window and will not savor the idea of heading into the stretch run of the season down one major talent.
Neither will Klopp, no matter what he says publicly about having all the confidence in the world in his current squad of players.
The reality is this. Liverpool’s squad depth will be tested in the coming months, with injuries, a possible hectic Champions League run, and a race for the top four that is likely to go all the way to the wire.
But Klopp is a patient man, another thing Reds fans should be grateful for. He’s in this for the long haul and refuses to allow short term distractions derail that plan.
He was criticized for not having a better plan B when the Van Dijk deal fell through last summer, but his patience paid off and the Reds didn’t have to settle for a backup plan, like they have in the past (see Mario Balotelli).
Thomas Lemar also has been linked with a move to Liverpool as a possible replacement for Coutinho, which would delight Reds fans, and while it would no doubt improve the squad, it might not necessarily be a like-for-like replacement.
Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez is another name in the mix – with a deal reportedly already made – and the former Player of the Year would no doubt shore up the creative loss with Coutinho’s exit, even if he lacks the latter’s overall quality.
Either way, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks for Liverpool fans.
2018 is just getting started.