Transfers are a funny old thing. There are so many variables that go into deciding whether a club has made an astute purchase or an almighty mistake. If a club buys a player for £5 million, for example, and sells him for £30 million then you’d be well within your rights to say they’d done some good business. If the club that bought him moves him on for £70 million a year later, however, then the original selling club doesn’t look that clever after all.
The other problem with transfers is the fees that are attached to them. Paul Tomkins and others have done some absolutely fantastic work on the true price of football, noting that the rate of inflation within the bubble of the world’s favourite game is an entirely different beast when compared to inflation in normal life. It might be fun to refer to Christian Benteke as Liverpool’s second most expensive signing, but is it actually true?
Tomkins and his colleagues developed a complicated method of working out the inflation involved in football by taking into account things such as the money from TV deals and so on. It’s worth reading about in more detail than I can provide here, so make sure you check it out. The point is, though, that the players you think might be the priciest we’ve ever bought actually might not be that expensive in the grand scheme of things.
For that reason, here I’m going to have a look at the ten most expensive signings Liverpool have made in the Premier League eta. There are a couple of caveats that I need to mention first. To begin with I need to point out that these figures are taken from July 2015 and, as is the nature of inflation and the transfer market, they might be different by the time you get around to reading this. Also, we must all accept that the money involved in football is preposterous and ludicrous and not allow ourselves to get upset by it, for that way madness lies.
The Top Ten
10 – Xabi Alonso
In at ten, then, is the Spaniard who acted like the metronome in the middle of the ‘Best Midfield In The World’. With an incredible passing range and the ability to break up play simply by being in the right place at the right time, Alonso was an instrumental part of the reason that Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool team won the Champions League so dramatically in 2005.
The very nature of football and transfers means that there will always be a difference between the amount a player is actually worth and how much supporters would be willing to pay to have him back at the club in his prime and right now many Reds fans would almost certainly pay big bucks for Xabi in his pomp, strolling around the Anfield turf. It wasn’t always so, however, with Benitez so unimpressed with his 2007-2008 display that he tried to flog him in order to bring in Gareth Barry. Sacré bleu, as the French would (not really) say.
Signed from Real Sociedad for £10.7 million in August of 2004, Alonso is valued at £32,020,872 according to Mr. Tomkins’ inflation adjusted chart. Almost certainly worth every penny, though, for that penalty at the Ataturk Stadium alone…
9 – Christian Benteke
The other discrepancy that crops up when it comes to transfers is the difference in value between what a player is worth to the club that buys and him and what he’s worth to the club that sells him. Aston Villa drove a hard bargain over the sale of Christian Benteke, perhaps aware that Liverpool had recently given about six billion quid to Southampton for various bang average players. They held out for the full £32,500,000 before the sold him to the Reds, probably feeling like they’d got a deal.
The club’s subsequent relegation from the Premier League might well suggest that £32.5 million wasn’t even close to enough for a player who had virtually single-handedly kept them in the top-flight for the previous couple of seasons. Equally from a Liverpool point of view his inability to settle and be part of the system that Jurgen Klopp wanted to employ might well mean that everyone feels a little bit cheated. As the sums were done in the summer we signed Benteke the amount Liverpool paid for him hasn’t been adjusted for inflation. We really did pay that much.
8 – Luis Suarez
If Benteke wasn’t worth £32.5 million then Luis Suarez is the complete and utter opposite. The sort of player who could turn a game on its head all on his own, El Pistolero’s more interesting issues such as biting and stuff pale in comparison to his mercurial talent. When Liverpool sold him to Barcelona the only people that thought the Reds got a good deal were based in Spain, with everyone on Merseyside lamenting his departure almost universally. Apart from the Bluenoses, obviously.
Bought from Ajax for £22.8 million in 2011, the inflation index puts his real value at £32,870,023. Not many people would argue that he isn’t worth more than Christian Benteke, especially as the Uruguayan has gone on to prove himself as one of the best players in the world. If we could bring him back to the club nowadays most fans would give their own soul to see him ripping apart teams like he did on such a regular basis in the 2013-2014 season.
7 – Stewart Downing
Hmm. A tricky one to discuss with any real sense of objectivity really, is old Stewpot. Everyone knows that Liverpool have given loads of money to Saints over the past few years, but the amount of dosh the club has sent Aston Villa’s way is also remarkably disconcerting. £18.5 million is how much the Reds ostensibly paid for Villa back in 2011, though it turns out as more like £34,524,942 when you adjust it for inflation.
Downing wasn’t terrible for Liverpool, though seven goals in 91 games in all competitions is a pretty appalling return for a player in the attacking third of the pitch. He never really got to play much with Andy Carroll, the player he was bought to supply for, and looked his best when Brendan Rodgers played him at left-back. Did that say more about him or José Enrique?
6 – Alberto Aquilani
The Italian arrived injured, stayed injured and probably even left injured. He notched up 28 games under Rafa Benitez, having been bought as a sort of replacement to Xabi Alonso after he disappeared off to Real Madrid.
He scored two goals, but they definitely didn’t justify the £17.1 million paid for him, especially when you learn that that translates to £34,862,036 when you make the necessary adjustments. A sad note on an otherwise reasonably good transfer record when you come to discuss Rafa Benitez’s time on Merseyside.
5 – Stan Collymore
Stan Collymore may nowadays be little more than a radio motormouth with questionable sexual habits and a penchant for being mean to his girlfriends, allegedly, but back in the day he was quite a talented football who might have been able to offer even more if he’d been willing to knuckle down and work harder at Anfield. 35 goals in 81 games is an impressive return by anyone’s standards.
Collymore is one of the examples when inflation really does matter. At £8.5 million, his purchase from Nottingham Forest would never be mentioned as one of the club’s most expensive when talking of the fee paid in terms of its worth at the time. Nowadays, however, that becomes £37,345,606. If he’d moved to Liverpool and got on better with his teammates that could have been a steal.
4 – Fernando Torres
Like Luis Suarez, ‘Nando was worth every penny Liverpool paid for him. It’s easy now to think of him as the ‘Judas’ that left Liverpool for the riches of Roman’s Roubles at Stamford Bridge, but you’ve got to remember that he was a world class striker being asked to deal with Roy Hodgson. Who in their right mind wants that? He was world-class during his time at Anfield, as he and Steven Gerrard developed a partnership to rival any in football. 81 goals in 141 games says as much.
Bought from Atletico Madrid for £20.2 million in 2007, nowadays that works out as £38,794,538. How much would Liverpool pay for a striker that could score a goal every 1.7 games now? Probably an awful lot more than that.
3 – Emile Heskey
It’s easy to look back at Emile Husky’s career and believe the words of the boo boys who suggest that he was something of a joke footballer. The truth is remarkably different, as anyone who watched the former Leicester striker in his prime would testify to. On his day Heskey was absolutely unplayable, matching strength and pace with a great finish.
He was bought from the Foxes for £11 million in 2000, so that equates to £41,624,695 according to Tomkins’ price inflation index. Perhaps he wasn’t quite worth over £40 million of today’s money, given that 60 goals in 223 games isn’t the best return of all-time for a striker. He was always more of a foil for others, though, and he still left Anfield with winners’ medals from the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble of 2001 as well as another League Cup win in 2003.
2 – Djibril Cisse
The Frenchman was 22-years-old when Liverpool paid Auxerre £14.5 million for him in 2004, though for a while it was suspected that Rafa Benitez might cancel the signing of him when he came in to replace Gerrard Houllier that summer. Instead he played 79 games for the club and scored 24 goals, returning from a truly horrendous leg break, suffered at the end of October in 2004, in order to help Liverpool win the Champions League in spectacular fashion the following May.
His adjusted price works out as £43,304,417, which is another enormous price when you think about it. Houllier had long been an admirer of him, however, and it’s easy to understand why when you learn that he scored 26 goals in 38 games in his final season in Ligue 1. Oh what might have been if he hadn’t broken his leg so early in his Liverpool career.
1 – Andy Carroll
And so on to the top of the chart and a player who is the most expensive we’ve signed whether you adjust others for inflation or not. Rumours swirled around Merseyside that Liverpool agreed with Chelsea that we’d sell Torres for £15 million more than Mike Ashley’s Newcastle wanted for Andy Carroll. Ashley may well have discovered that so he held out for as much as he could get, eventually letting him come to Merseyside for £35 million in 2011.
It’s almost certainly fair to say that Carroll’s Liverpool career never really took off, with the troublesome striker only ever really hitting the heights his price tag suggested he should be capable of when he plays against us. Thank goodness, then, that he never learned his real price, adjusted for inflation, works out as £50,458 369. 11 goals in 58 appearances suggests he really, really wasn’t worth that.
The only good thing from Liverpool’s point of view is that Carroll may be our most expensive signing of the Premier League era but he wasn’t the most expensive signing ever during that same time period. That honour falls to Andriy Shevchenko, with the Ukrainian forward costing Chelsea £82,897,317 when you take inflation into account. Yikes.