If reports are to be believed, and Liverpool really do have to sell before they buy this summer, then the likelihood is that Rafa Benitez will only be able to afford to bring in one or two signings before the domestic season kicks off again in mid-August.
This means there is no time for messing around in the transfer market, no time for bringing in players for the future or players that will sit on the bench as cover for the stars out on the pitch. It would be a waste of time and money for Liverpool to bring in a squad player.
Once the players Benitez deems to be sellable have been bought by other clubs and money is on the table, there will only be enough for maybe one big signing, possibly two if Benitez is lucky. Liverpool’s manager will therefore have been repeatedly asking himself the same question over the last few weeks: Which positions need strengthening most?
Last season’s Premier League table shows that Liverpool scored more goals than any other team, but conceded more than both Manchester United and Chelsea. They say the table never lies but in this case it clearly does.
Nobody doubts the capabilities of Liverpool’s defence, marshaled by the consistently excellent Jamie Carragher and protected by the hustling and hassling Javier Mascherano, who never stops running.
The backline wobbled at times during the Champions League clash with Chelsea and the thrilling 4-4 home draw with Arsenal, but Benitez’s defenders had proved themselves previously.
Liverpool do not need a new signing in this area. Liverpool do not need Glen Johnson, the forward-flying Portsmouth right-back who established himself in the England side last season.
Of course Liverpool would benefit immensely from Johnson’s services, from his assured defending and his whipped crosses from the wing, but Alvaro Arbeloa is not so bad that Liverpool need to spend £18m replacing him.
Liverpool’s strikeforce does require a big money signing to bolster it though. Liverpool may have scored the most goals in English football’s top flight last season but many of those came during big victories such as the 5-1 hammering of Newcastle and the 5-0 destroying of Aston Villa.
Once Liverpool are in front they rarely fail to win, often embarking on rampaging routs. That’s largely why the goals tally is so big.
The problem that often arises, however, is getting in front in the first place. Stoke, Hull, Fulham, Man City and West Ham all came to Anfield last season and frustrated Liverpool, getting men behind the ball and, bar Hull, making defending their priority, all managing to secure draws.
Liverpool seriously struggled against resilient teams like that and that ultimately cost them the title.
That is why if Liverpool only have enough money for one big signing this summer, it must be spent on an attacking player, someone who has the ability to unlock the opposition defence with a piece of magic when the going gets tough. That is why it must not be Glen Johnson who all the cash is blown on. The need is greater up front.
Liverpool have Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and, on his good days, Yossi Benayoun who can produce a piece of brilliance on the edge of the box, but Manchester United have more. Ferguson can rely upon Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Giggs and even still Paul Scholes for a stroke of genius.
That gap in match-winners needs to be bridged. The small sum of money Benitez has cannot be blown on right-back when the need for improvement is so much greater further upfield.
£18m for Glen Johnson when there is lots of cash available? Yes, a good buy. But in Liverpool’s current financial situation? It would be mad.