What follows is an account of how and where that money could best be spent. Prospective values are based on a compilation of recent news reports and assessments made by transfermarkt.co.uk.
The hypothetical team is built around a 4-2-3-1 philosophy.
Whoever fills Damien Comolli’s recently vacated position will get a small boost from the sale of surplus players.
Goal.com reports that Fabio Aurelio is on his way out this summer. Beyond that, my only major sale would be Charlie Adam. He appears better suited to star for a Championship side than to be a role player for a major club.
If Fenway Sports Group (FSG) can recoup anything close to the £7 million paid in 2011, it should take it.
There are certainly depth concerns in the defense.
Assuming Jon Flanagan gets loaned out, as has been rightly suggested on this site, cover will be needed for Jose Enrique at left-back.
Further, Jamie Carragher is reaching the later stages of his career. There is also the possibility of Martin Skrtel leaving, so the centre-back position could become an issue.
However, the current unit allowed the third lowest goal tally in the Premier League this season. Thus, there are other areas of the pitch that are more pressing. Liverpool would be wise to simply bring in a quality reserve player while putting off more serious defensive rebuilding for the future.
Christian Chivu of Inter Milan is the ideal option.
At 31, he should still have a few good years left. He is available on a free transfer and recent reports claim that he may not renew his contract with the Nerrazzuri. Chivu would provide excellent cover while pushing both Glen Johnson and Enrique for minutes.
Much of Liverpool’s problems start in the center of the pitch.
There is no consistent source of creativity from the midfield. When Lucas Leiva went down, the group lost its spine as well. The pedestrian pairing of Spearing and Adam was simply not good enough.
FSG will need to purchase a dynamic creative midfielder to finally replace Xabi Alonso. Second, it must acquire a defensive midfielder as an alternative to Lucas, who is recovering from knee surgery.
To address the defensive post, I suggest acquiring either Seydou Keita of FC Barcelona or Jermaine Jones from Schalke 04. The latter is famously hot-tempered to the point that he was demoted to the club’s second team on one occasion.
Its loss is Anfield’s gain.Many would have described Javier Mascherano similarly, and look how he turned out.
Nigel De Jong also comes to mind. Every so often, having an enforcer at the middle of the pitch is effective. They intimidate the opposition and force bad decisions. Jones fits this mold. He represents a steal at £4.4 million, and he is worth the risk.
As to the creative side of the back two, one commonly rumored name is Gaston Ramirez of Bologna.
According to the Daily Mail he is already the subject of a £16 million bid. Ramirez is exactly the kind of playmaker that Anfield needs. I also like that he would form the third member of a growing Uruguayan contingency, perhaps further tying Suarez to England.
Perhaps the biggest need is out wide, where the Reds are woefully short on ideas and quality.
Right now the roster features three players over 30: Gerrard, Kuyt, Rodriguez. Sterling is under 18, and Downing is just underwhelming in general.
The management needs to find young talent that can cross effectively and make confident runs at the defense.
To that end, my first acquisition would be either Clint Dempsey of Fulham or Adam Johnson from Manchester City. According to The Mirror, Johnson is interested in leaving and would only cost $10 million.
He seems to make a lot of sense here.
With what little money remains, I suggest making a long-view investment in a young German prospect who could provide further depth.
Patrick Herrmann of Borussia Monchengladbach has shone on some pretty big stages in the Bundesliga. At just 21 years old he has gotten far less press than his counterpart Marco Reus, but still shows significant promise.
He would be a great value purchase at £4.8 million.
Liverpool is in desperate need of more goals.
However, I see the lack of quality midfield and wing play as the main culprit in that deficiency. Thus, I do not think the team should rush out to buy another striker.
This includes Luuk De Jong who Goal.com claims the team is closely monitoring. Andy Carroll’s form was excellent at the end of the year. And even if it was not, the investment made on him is simply too large to warrant giving up on him so soon.
I think Carroll deserves one more year to prove himself. As an alternative, I believe FSG should target forwards who can add depth without the cost. The best fit for that mold is a veteran poacher who is in between contracts.
The ideal option, in that case, is Alessandro Del Piero who, according to The Mirror, plans to leave Juventus in the summer. Del Piero has a tremendous scoring record, could function as a super sub and would mentor the younger Carroll.
In summary, Liverpool could add a world class defender, two midfielders, two wingers and one forward for £1.8 million less than the allotted budget.
In other terms, for just $200,000 more than they spent on Andy Carroll alone, it could rebuild its entire team in 2012.
With no Champions League football and relatively low wages to offer, Liverpool has to change its strategy. The big names will not always be interested in coming, and FSG does not appear to have sufficient funds, even if they did.
The club therefore must avoid the trendier prospects and instead seek out undervalued commodities. The advice laid out here represents progress in that direction.