$650m down the drain

PHOTO: Reuters

His support base erodes by the week and, after Liverpool's insipid display in a 3-1 loss to Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time), it has reached its nadir.

When invention and flair were desperately needed at Old Trafford, his first instinct was to take off a man he specifically bought to solve Liverpool's creative woes.

It said a lot that attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino was the one to make way.

All game, dumped on the right of a three-man Liverpool attack, the 23-year-old Brazilian bore the look of a toddler lost in a shopping mall.

The pre-season capture did little to justify a £29-million ($63.2m) price tag, that's for sure.

But that's somewhat small change, considering the fortune Rodgers has shelled out in the Anfield hot seat.

His quest to return Liverpool to the top four has cost the club close to £300m ($650m) over three seasons.

And the Reds still look nowhere near to being the finished article. What looks finished, however, is the Northern Irishman's acumen in the transfer market, and probably his Anfield future.

Unlike Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool's American owners emphasise on youth and potential in their transfer policy.

Rodgers is on the same page as his employers but his biggest failing is his inability to spot the promise.

The jury's still out on Firmino, who usually adopts a more central position on the pitch.


But he would do well to heed the cautionary tales of those who arrived in Merseyside before him.

For every Philippe Coutinho, there are a dozen Iago Aspas.

Fans were delighted to see the backs of Mario Balotelli (on loan at AC Milan) and Fabio Borini who, for a combined fee of £26.4m, gave the club nothing but despair. In the stands, the patience with former Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana (£25m) is wearing thin.

Centre back Dejan Lovren (£20m) will find himself lucky to see his name still on the first 11 after this appalling outing.

Exasperatingly, there seems to be no consistency or logic to Rodgers' methods. If loyalty is a manager's way of getting his troubled charges to up their game, there is simply no way of telling in his case.

Young Alberto Moreno, 23, deemed an investment worth paying £12m for a year ago, has made way for an even younger and unproven Joe Gomez, 18.

Lovren is allowed to continue to make a mess of things, while Mamadou Sakho, the £15m defender who impressed last term after a difficult first campaign, sits on the bench.

Likewise, Lazar Markovic, whom Rodgers convinced the club to fork out £20m for, only to be regularly played out of position, has been shipped out to Fenerbahce on loan.

And the glaring weaknesses that run through the team continue to be left untouched, even when the financial support was readily available.

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet hardly inspires confidence at the back.

Martin Skrtel appears in need of a new challenge elsewhere, and one suspects he will come to the same conclusion himself anyway, after an extended partnership with Lovren in the heart of defence.

With a foundation as brittle as this, where exactly does Rodgers hope he can go with this team? At the moment, absolutely nowhere.

The fans will be hoping that Rodgers, like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, ditches the go-youth policy and go for proven talent.

But it is unlikely that the Mesut Oezils and Kevin de Bruynes in the football world would choose Anfield over London and Manchester, certainly not with the Reds nowhere close to Champions League calibre and Rodgers in charge.


This article was first published on September 14, 2015.
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