If only spending money wisely was as easy as simply spending it. It is a lesson learned by plenty of people over time and constantly by football clubs.
When you have money—as Liverpool will soon have following the now widely expected sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, a deal reported by the BBC's Ben Smith, the Liverpool Echo's James Pearce and numerous others—it can be easy to throw it around, to overspend on players and leave yourself short-changed. The Reds should know, they have been guilty of plenty of examples of it.
The not entirely secret nature of the negotiations with Barca have meant that the football world—at least the club part of it—have now got their eyes trained on Anfield, waiting for Liverpool to make their move with their Catalan cash. The Reds, however, seem to be more interested in once again dialling their direct line to St. Mary’s.
The links with Lovren—who turned 25 on Saturday—are nothing new, and indeed were in place before he was part of the Croatia side which contested the opening game of the World Cup against Brazil in Sao Paulo, as per Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail.
What has changed in those three weeks? Well Southampton will have banked around £60 million from player sales, half of that coming from Liverpool for Lambert and Lallana and the other half from Manchester United for full-back Luke Shaw. Saints don’t need to sell and, quite frankly, they must be sick of it.
New boss Ronald Koeman hasn’t signed on the dotted line at St Mary’s to watch all of his best players leave, and so quite rightly Southampton should be digging their heels in over Lovren. If he’s going to go to Liverpool, they are going to have to pay top dollar for him.
The Press Association (h/t The Guardian) report that a Liverpool bid has been rejected for the centre-back, although they claim that it is less than the £20 million which has been reported elsewhere. Now that figure is out there, though, the Reds are probably going to have to go north of it if they want to get their man.
Is he worth that money? It is arguably impossible to tell. Different clubs place different valuations on players in accordance with just how much they need them.
Crucially, though, “selling” clubs now know that they can up those valuations if Liverpool come sniffing around their players. It isn’t just the Suarez cash they will be taking into consideration, as there’s Champions League money, too.
Clearly the centre of defence was a key problem for the Reds last season. Despite the free-scoring form at one end of the pitch—or perhaps even because of it—they still conceded 50 Premier League goals at the other. Had that number been even slightly lowered, they would have won the league.
So, what price do you put on winning the league? Whatever it is, it’s certainly more than the £20 million or so it will apparently cost Liverpool to buy a new defender this summer.
That may be a simplistic take on it, and a player such as Lovren won’t immediately solve all the issues at the back—indeed, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are all good enough defenders on their own, just perhaps in need of a little fine-tuning on how to play in such an expansive side—but it underlines just what the attitude of clubs will be if the Reds come calling for their defenders.
Southampton are entirely right to hold out for more money for Lovren, and they would be even if the Lambert, Lallana and Shaw transfers had never happened.
If Liverpool don’t want to pay what Saints are asking—for once this summer—then they’ll move on to another target, but if they do they can expect the same stern treatment from other clubs.
Everyone knows the Reds have money, and they are about to have some more.
And they will be trying to get them to spend it unwisely, so much so that they could come to regret what they end up with.