Last month marked twenty-five years since the ground-breaking and incredibly influential Bosman ruling was declared. This hereby allowed free movement for footballers at the end of their club contracts. Liverpool have been involved in many such transfers over the past couple of decades. Some were brilliant, others exasperating. With the seemingly inevitable summer departure of Klopp regular, Georginio Wijnaldum, we take a look at the signings that gainfully shaped the club’s recent history and the departures which demonstrated the frustration of hindsight.
Possibly one of Gerard Houllier’s finest pieces of business as Liverpool manager. The thirty-five year old was signed from Coventry City - a deal that brought initial disparagement but eventual enthusiasm from fans. The Scot's experience was hugely valuable and proved crucial at decisive moments, particularly during the club’s historic 2000/01 treble-winning season. Such instances included last-minute magic at Goodison Park plus scoring in the Charity Shield, UEFA Cup semi-final and final.
The German international was another shrewd addition by Houllier, arriving in 2000 following a decorated career in Bavaria. The right-back’s defensive solidity and willingness to go forward were also key in that renowned 2000/01 season; in which he played sixty matches for the Reds and scored the opener in their UEFA Cup victory. Although illness devastated his career, Babbel's time on Merseyside will always be remembered fondly, albeit maybe not across Stanley Park.
In 2010, Rafael Benitez signed the Argentine from Atletico Madrid to provide robust competition for Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun. Hard-working, tactically versatile and naturally gifted, it was a shame the forward did not join earlier.
“If he was a bit younger, we would have someone in our squad who would be top drawer” Dalglish, 2011
In a capricious spell on Merseyside, Rodriguez often revived glimpses of his dazzling 2006 World Cup form. He even netted hattricks against Birmingham City and Fulham across an extraordinary three consecutive matches.
Rodgers signed the accomplished league veteran from rivals Manchester City in what proved to be his final summer in charge. His experience, versatility, professionalism and winning mentality have emphatically impacted Klopp’s Liverpool resurgence. Nowadays, Milner is Klopp's reliable resource off the bench, applied to secure matches. All in all, a manager's dream - ultimately one of the most astute Bosman transfers of all time.
Already an experienced Bundesliga regular and Champions League semi-finalist with Schalke, Matip was one of Klopp’s first Liverpool acquisitions. His highly anticipated arrival in 2016 sought to mend the defensive woes that had so often thwarted the Reds from success. The alert and evidently talented Cameroonian has played an integral part in the club's recent success. Although hampered with injuries, he has proved an exemplary back up or partner to Virgil van Dijk.
The mercurial winger’s 1999 departure for giants Real Madrid was a numbing kick in the teeth for the Anfield faithful. The breeding of auspicious academy talent was in full flow, namely Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard; so, losing such a gifted scouser deepened the feeling of betrayal. On top of this, unequivocal success at the Bernabeu aroused further bitterness; winning two La Liga titles, the Super Cup and two Champions Leagues, including an elegant volley in the 2000 final. McManaman is regarded as a symbol of the Bosman ruling at its best– just not for Liverpool.
Arguably one of Liverpool’s most unpropitious transfer decisions in the Premier League era. Frustratingly, Friedel's Anfield career was pretty unconvincing, racking up only twenty-five appearances over a five-year spell at the club. However, the American went on to play 425 league games at Blackburn, Aston Villa and Birmingham; containing 132 clean sheets and the record for most consecutive appearances with 310. A dearth of consistency and reliability between the sticks has often been a customary issue for the Reds; the staunch American would have catered that accordingly. No doubt a sale the club still regrets to this day.
Dubbed ‘the next Patrick Viera’, Diarra was signed by Houllier in 2002 from Bayern Munich. However, frustrated by a stint packed with loans spells at Le Havre, Bastia and Lens; he made a permanent move to the latter after no league appearances for the Merseyside outfit. Liverpool would rue this, as the Frenchman embarked upon a pretty impressive career, predominantly spent in his home country. After domestic success with Lyon, he became a formidable midfield anchor for Bordeaux and briefly captained his national team. His strength, athleticism and combative edge would have been useful for the club, considering the physicality and intensity of the Premier league.
Another player who slipped under the radar during his six peripheral years at Liverpool. With no league appearances, the Hungarian was ultimately sold to Red Bull Salzburg in 2013; followed by their sister club RB Leipzig two years later. Gulácsi has since provided core stability in goal for the German side, playing a key role in their Bundesliga and Champions League title pushes. How valued his presence would have been for the Reds, prior to Alisson's arrival in 2018.
Signed by Rodgers in the post-Suarez haul of new arrivals, Can spent four years at Anfield, where he played over 160 games. His versatility, strength and eye for goal made him a pivotal cog in the red machine and unfortunately left just before Liverpool’s purple patch. He signed for Juventus on a free transfer in 2018 but
is now an esteemed player in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. The frustration here lies not with a lack of evident ability in England, rather what could have been had he remained on Merseyside under his compatriot, Klopp.
Written by: Will Morley