Liverpool have been linked with summer transfer moves for a whole range of players already, whose perceived market values range from the free transfer to the eight-figure bracket.
Alex Pearce on a Bosman (via Metro) and Victor Wanyama for £10 million (via Mirror Football) are just two such recent examples of how the amounts of money that Liverpool might be expected to splash out can change from week to week. What does appear clear from club statements and previous activity is that there will not be any kind of massive, carefree facelift of the playing squad.
Signings will need to be well-thought out, provide excellent value on the pitch relative to their initial and ongoing costs and, be able to contribute to improving the quality of the squad.
With that in mind, here are five players that the Reds could move for in the summer without having to spend a single penny in transfer fees, and who would add to either the ability of the first team or the depth and balance in the squad in the process. It's not likely that all will join, of course, but it is an indication of the value that can be drawn from the transfer market without needing to spend tens of millions in each position.
We'll start with a player who has indeed been linked with a Liverpool move, and a very good central defender in Twente's Dutch national, Douglas.
The Brazilian-born centre-back has been at the club since 2007 and has dual nationality, making a work permit unnecessary. He is likely to leave Twente this summer with his contract expiring and Liverpool reportedly want to add him to their squad (via Daily Mail).
Quick and strong in the air, brave in the tackle and able to pass the ball out of defence, Douglas seems to make a lot of sense as a Reds target. He might not be the man that Brendan Rodgers wants as his first pick alongside Daniel Agger, but at 25 years of age he has plenty of experience, still has time to improve further as a defender and played more than 40 times across the two main European competitions.
On a free, he is an appealing signing and would at the very least make a good "third option" for the centre of defence at Liverpool.
Not the first name you might think of if Liverpool were to target someone playing for West Brom this season, but Chris Brunt has proven himself a very capable Premier League player over the past five seasons and brings a few attributes in his locker which the Reds have been somewhat lacking in.
At age 28 he is older than most rumoured targets, but not prohibitively so given the lack of transfer fee, as he will be out of contract at the Hawthorns this summer.
Experience, a good mentality, set-piece prowess and a left foot in midfield would all be welcome additions to the squad. He can be thought of along the same lines as the likes of Bolo Zenden when he joined Liverpool from Middlesbrough some time ago; of course he doesn't have the same flowing locks on his head, but brings an element of control and composure to West Brom's middle third play and is no slouch in the final third either.
Brunt has claimed two goals and seven assists this season as West Brom lie eighth in the Premier League, just one place behind Liverpool.
He would be a fair addition to the squad, as a cover and cups player, and can play in central midfield or in a more advanced role to the left or through the middle.
Despite the additions of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, and the return from injury of Fabio Borini, there is a sneaking suspicion that Liverpool still lack slightly in the attacking department—and that's presuming Luis Suarez remains at the club, of course.
With a number of promising young prospects at the club who play in attacking roles—Jordan Ibe, Jerome Sinclair, Samed Yesil, Michael Ngoo to name but a few—what the Reds really need is a more experienced head.
Ideally, they need that man to lend some wisdom, take a place as a sub for most of the time, start the odd match and above all, be a reliable option off the bench to help create and finish off chances late in matches.
All that comes at a price—unless you box clever, and can find such a player on a free transfer.
Step forward Malaga striker Javier Saviola, who will be out of contract at the end of this season.
Saviola, now 31 years of age, has played for the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Benfica in his time, and during his one-year stay at Malaga has so far scored seven times in La Liga and once in the Champions League. It is fair to assume that he could add around seven to 10 goals a season as a backup option in the Premier League too, and can play in a number of roles around the front line.
Best employed as an off-the-shoulder striker, his mobility and anticipation mean he can get himself in the right places constantly, and his finishing is as good as it ever was. Saviola won't be the man to play 90 minutes at full-pelt regularly, but alongside Luis Suarez for perhaps 20 minutes at a time, it's a fair bet he'll be there or thereabouts to grab a chance to help draw or win a match late on.
Despite the new contract handed by the club to Lucas Leiva, it is increasingly apparent that Liverpool need to look at brining in another holding central midfielder to challenge and cover for the Brazilian.
While Brendan Rodgers clearly retains admirable faith in Lucas, the Reds can't afford for him to be below his best for another entire season in such a key role in the team, and still hope to land a top-four place.
One option for them would of course be to bring in a player who can fill the same role in the team on a free transfer, and perhaps in this instance and older player would be preferable as they would have plenty of experience in such an important position, and also it would signal to Lucas that he was still the long-term priority for the role as long as he could regain a regular acceptable level.
AC Milan's Mathieu Flamini, aged 29, is available on a free transfer after the expiration of his contract this summer, and having previously played for Arsenal of course is extremely familiar with the Premier League.
Milan are third in Serie A at present so will probably qualify for the Champions League, which could present a problem, but if they have no intention of renewing Flamini's deal then he could still be on his way. Having not been in the Milan team too much for the first half a season, Flamini has worked his way back into the side since late January, and has been a regular in both a deep midfield and traditional central midfield role.
His wages might be higher than the other names on this list, but then so is the extent of his experience and the quality he has portrayed in the highest level competitions over the past decade or so.
A younger defender to finish things off now—24-year-old Daniel Schwaab, who currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany.
Schwaab is a very versatile player who can pretty much feature anywhere across the back line, and has also operated in midfield for Leverkusen this season. He has been at the club since 2009 and is out of contract this summer. At 24, he would also be a free transfer signing for the Reds should they target him.
He has never played for the full national team, but was capped at Under-21 level for Germany on more than 20 occasions. Ankle ligament injuries have restricted his appearances this season, but his versatility and reliability mean that he remains an important part of the squad, playing 14 league games this season, mainly on the right or in the centre of defence.
Schwaab would offer Liverpool good depth in their squad as cover for a number of positions, and with no European football forthcoming next season he would perhaps fill two squad spaces, letting the likes of Andre Wisdom go out on loan to get regular game time, with the Reds only likely to play around 42 to 46 matches next term.
With time on his side for growing as a player, but an already solid history of service behind him, Schwaab would improve the quality and depth of the squad without costing Liverpool a fortune to bring in.