Grading Liverpool's Transfer Window Activity

Rob Lancaster@RobLancs79Featured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2017

Mohamed Salah (far right) has made an impressive start to his Liverpool career.
Mohamed Salah (far right) has made an impressive start to his Liverpool career.ANTHONY DEVLIN/Getty Images

It's finally over. The summer transfer window is closed, leaving everyone to survey the landscape and get back to just focusing on actual football games.

Liverpool were linked with a lot of players in recent months. They signed a few, missed out on some others and stalked a couple with mixed results. Through it all, manager Jurgen Klopp remained on an even keel.

Now the German knows exactly what he will be working with for the rest of the year. As the Reds prepare for a return to the UEFA Champions League, the first-team squad is locked in place until January 2018.

So, as the dust settles after deadline day, we've graded the major deals (and some that never came to fruition) involving the Reds.

          

Getting Mohamed Salah

Grade: A

Mohamed Salah provides an extra dimension to Liverpool's forward line.
Mohamed Salah provides an extra dimension to Liverpool's forward line.OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Liverpool's pursuit of Mohamed Salah was a precursor for the summer ahead. Negotiations with his former club, AS Roma, were far from straightforward, dragging out the deal for nearly a month.

Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement. Per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo, the Reds paid an initial £35 million with a further £4 million promised in additional payments if certain criteria were met.

On one hand, the transfer looked a gamble; Salah had failed to make the grade during his time at Chelsea, scoring just two goals in 19 appearances before rejuvenating his career in Serie A.

The Egyptian's numbers in Italy—43 goals in 109 combined appearances for Fiorentina and Roma—were impressive. Like Maverick in Top Gun, Klopp felt the need for speed, and Salah ticked all the boxes.

The early signs have been encouraging for Liverpool.

Playing from the right-hand side of a front three that also includes Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, Salah has three goals and two assists in five games for his new employers. The good news for the Reds is it feels like there's still plenty more to come from him, too.

Where once the team were overly reliant on Mane to stretch the field, they now have two forwards blessed with blistering speed.

Considering the premium you have to pay for goals these days, Liverpool look to have bagged a bargain in Salah.

           

Securing Naby Keita

Grade: A

Liverpool's pursuit of RB Leipzig's Naby Keita appeared set to end in failure.

His Red Bull-backed German club weren't willing to do business as they prepared to make their bow in the Champions League. Red Bull may give you wings, but the deal never appeared likely to get off the ground.

Then, less than a day after the crushing 4-0 win over Arsenal, it emerged Keita was set to join...albeit not until next summer.

By paying a premium above the player's £48 million release clause (which couldn't be activated until July 2018), Liverpool secured one of Klopp's key targets. They did so without getting involved in a bidding war with other suitors, catching their competition cold by agreeing to wait for the player to arrive at Anfield.

Keita, like his current team, took the Bundesliga by storm last season. He scored eight goals and provided the same number of assists. By the time he arrives on Merseyside, the Guinea international will be 23.

"Having my future resolved means I can now focus on helping RBL achieve great things this season. Until I join my new club, next summer, I will remain an interested supporter from a distance," Keita said, per Joe Rimmer of the Liverpool Echo.

That's exactly how Liverpool fans feel now too, Naby.

Leipzig's games suddenly became a lot more appealing to watch over the next few months.

            

Signing Dominic Solanke

Grade: C

Dominic Solanke will hope to get more first-team opportunities under Jurgen Klopp.
Dominic Solanke will hope to get more first-team opportunities under Jurgen Klopp.Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Grading transfers becomes tricky when you don't quite know what a club has to pay for a player.

A tribunal will decide how much Liverpool will hand over to Chelsea for Dominic Solanke. Per Tom Hopkinson of the Mirror, the Blues want more than three times the £3 million offered by their Premier League rivals.

Whatever they end up paying, the Reds believe they are in a win-win situation. Solanke—who scored four goals to help England win the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the summer—is an exciting prospect for the future, yet he is also technically refined, not to mention physically capable, and can contribute immediately.

Impressive in pre-season action, the forward quickly moved ahead of Divock Origi—who was loaned out to VfL Wolfsburg—in the pecking order. The fans have been as impressed as Klopp, quickly coming up with a catchy chant for the new recruit:

Look, Solanke has played 25 minutes of first-team football in his Liverpool career.

This C grade is based on his likely contributions over the coming season. However, there appear to be few drawbacks in signing a 19-year-old with such high potential. Even if he doesn't quite make the grade on Merseyside, the Reds should at least make their money back if they sell him on, if not turn a tidy profit.

             

Buying Andy Robertson

Grade: B-

Andrew Robertson has swapped a relegation battle for a top-four fight.
Andrew Robertson has swapped a relegation battle for a top-four fight.Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Left-back was a position that required some attention. James Milner did an admirable job in the role last season, but a 31-year-old converted from midfield was never the long-term answer to a problematic position.

Few expected Alberto Moreno to enjoy a Lazarus-style comeback during pre-season, leading to the social media-loving Spaniard ending August as the apparent first choice in the position.

Considering Klopp reportedly had money to burn—the Liverpool Echo's Pearce suggested a record outlay was possible back in May—it is perhaps surprising Liverpool settled for signing Andrew Robertson from Hull City.

Bringing in a defender who played regularly in a team recently relegated from the Premier League hardly smacked of making a major upgrade. No top-flight side conceded more than Hull's total of 80 goals against last season.

“The Premier League is definitely his level. I'm sceptical on whether Liverpool is his level. I don't think he's the type of signing Liverpool fans want. He's a good player, but I'm not sure he's Champions League standard. He is more a mid-table Premier League player," Will Jackson of the Hull Daily Mail told Alistair Kleebauer of the Liverpool Echo.

Yet Robertson—a Scotland international with a penchant for swinging in crosses—suggested in his full debut, against Crystal Palace at Anfield, that he could make the step up.

An initial outlay of £8.1 million for a player who, at 23, potentially has his best years ahead of him is hardly a huge gamble. It's now up to Robertson to prove he belongs at Liverpool.

                     

Adding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Grade: C+

This is a deal that divides opinion. What is clear, however, is that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wanted out of Arsenal.

Per Evan Bartlett of The Independent, the England international turned down a new £180,000-a-week contract extension from the Gunners to join Liverpool for considerably less (£60,000 less, apparently).

But is "The Ox" really a central midfielder, as he believes? He rejected Chelsea to avoid being stuck playing out on the wing again, but is he good enough to force his way into Liverpool's engine room?

Liverpool have taken a leap of faith. As Liam Twomey of ESPN.co.uk wrote, they've paid £34.2 million for the promise of the player Oxlade-Chamberlain can become, rather than the one he has been in the past:

"There is something uniquely intriguing about untapped potential. At 24, you still see tantalising flashes of the pace, power and skill that led Robin van Persie to compare Oxlade-Chamberlain, at 18, to Wayne Rooney. Capped 27 times by England, he has never started more than 17 Premier League matches in a season. And he still doesn't have a clearly defined position."

While the 24-year-old adds much-needed depth to the squad, he's not swapped the Emirates for Anfield to sit on the bench and make the occasional cameo appearance in the Carabao Cup.

For Oxlade-Chamberlain, this is a career-defining move. Working with Klopp could be the making of him. Alternatively, he could stagnate for another two or three years before being sold to Stoke City.

             

Missing Out on Virgil van Dijk/Thomas Lemar

Grade: F

Virgil van Dijk failed to force his way out of Southampton this summer.
Virgil van Dijk failed to force his way out of Southampton this summer.OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Liverpool needed a commanding centre-back. Klopp duly identified the chosen one—and then refused to allow his eyes to wander anywhere else. 

Virgil van Dijk waited. And waited. Now he'll have to wait until January next year.

Southampton refused to do business with a club who've consistently raided their cupboards in the past. Once the Saints reported their Premier League rivals for an illegal approach, the deal looked a non-starter.

Having tried to force his way out, the Dutchman now has to decide whether to down tools until the next transfer window or kiss and make up with his current employers so he can play again in the Premier League.

Klopp didn't want to contemplate buying an alternative option. Now he must hope Dejan Lovren doesn't do too many Dejan Lovren things, plus Joel Matip's occasionally brittle body holds up under the strain of a busy fixture list. If not, there's always Ragnar Klavan waiting in the wings...

The situation with Thomas Lemar wasn't quite so clear-cut. Depending on who you believe on social media, Liverpool either weren't interested at all, made polite enquiries about the player or, alternatively, placed at least two offers that were knocked back by his employers, AS Monaco.

Arsenal showed late interest. However, according to Standard Sport, the France international turned down the Gunners due to a lack of Champions League football.

Lemar showed both English clubs what might have been on deadline day, scoring two goals for Les Bleus in their 4-0 thrashing of the Netherlands in Paris. If he continues that form for Monaco for the rest of 2017, the price may rise beyond the astonishing £92 million Arsenal briefly offered on Thursday.

While Liverpool seem unlikely to drop their interest in Van Dijk just because they couldn't get him this summer, it will be fascinating to see if they go after Lemar early next year.

         

Keeping Philippe Coutinho

Grade: C

Philippe Coutinho marked his first game of the season by scoring for Brazil.
Philippe Coutinho marked his first game of the season by scoring for Brazil.Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

Despite Barcelona's best efforts, Philippe Coutinho remains a Liverpool player.

The English club's owners, Fenway Sports Group, made their position clear in one short statement. Once they went public, it was tough to see how they could give in to Coutinho's desire to leave and still save face.

"Fenway have been determined to change Liverpool's reputation, and by not relenting to Coutinho's wishes, for the time being at least, it sends a message to their own players as well as rivals that this is not a selling club," Simon Hughes explained in The Independent.

Now we wait to see how the Brazilian reacts after not getting his way. He has yet to feature for his club this season due to injury/illness, yet he played—and scored—for his country in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Thursday:

Should Liverpool have cashed in, though? With Barcelona becoming increasingly desperate to appease a fanbase still smarting from Neymar's departure, and with Klopp's squad coping just fine in Coutinho's absence, Liverpool could've driven a hard bargain before plunging the profits into funding further additions.

What the window demonstrated, however, is that while money still talks in football, English clubs no longer have to listen. Thanks to the vast sums they earn from television revenue, the Premier League's filthy rich can stand firm in the face of any offer, even one from a club the size of Barcelona.

Coutinho has bridges to build if he wants to be loved at Liverpool again. Still, it will only take one moment of magic, one long-range stunner or perfectly placed free-kick, for many to forget his disloyalty.

If he knuckles down and commits to the cause, Liverpool will look a frightening prospect going forward.

         

(Finally) Selling Mamadou Sakho

Grade: C

The Mamadou Sakho era is officially over on Merseyside.

While Liverpool still look fragile at the heart of their defence, Klopp refused to let bygones be bygones and bring Sakho back into the fold. It appears hell hath no fury like a German coach scorned.

The French centre-back had been sitting in the departures lounge all summer. Eventually, Crystal Palace—the club where Sakho spent the second half of last season on loan—struck a deal.

Now £25.38 million for an unwanted player may seem like a good bit of business. Liverpool have made a profit on the £17.1 million they paid to Paris Saint-Germain in September 2013 for starters, despite the player not making a first-team appearance since a 4-0 derby win over Everton on April 20, 2016.

Yet for all his showmanship, and despite having the turning circle of the QE II when in possession of the ball, Sakho could have helped this current Liverpool squad.

"I am really excited about playing for the Palace fans again, but in football, the past is the past and you need to think about today and tomorrow," he told Crystal Palace's official website.

Sakho's past (he was sent home from a summer tour of the United States in 2016 for disciplinary reasons) cost him his future at Liverpool. Klopp will now hope his hardline stance doesn't come back to haunt him.

         

Overall Grade: B

Your verdict on Liverpool's summer transfer activity may depend on your general outlook on life.

If you're a glass-half-full type, Klopp has added quality and quantity. Salah has started like a house on fire, Oxlade-Chamberlain looks a huge upgrade on the departed Lucas Leiva and there is now an actual positional battle at left-back, rather than picking the option that looks less bad than the others.

However, the less optimistic will poke holes in the Reds' summer business.

The defence doesn't look any stronger and, after all the talk of a spending spree, the club failed to make a huge splash. Signing one of Van Dijk or Lemar would've made a serious statement. Adding both could, potentially, have pushed Liverpool into a title challenge lasting beyond Christmas.

Klopp, though, isn't concerned about the opinions of others. Like Baldrick from Blackadder, he has a cunning plan.

Daniel Storey hit the nail on the head in his winners and losers feature for Football365: "He [Klopp] is a project manager more than any other in elite European football, intent on creating his perfect squad over a number of seasons, not one."

          

Rob Lancaster is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All fees used in the article are from Transfermarkt unless otherwise stated.

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