The Ones Who Got Away
Cautionary tales from “Can’t Miss” Past
On April 11, Paul Joyce broke the hearts of many Liverpool fans by announcing that Liverpool ended their pursuit of widely sought-after Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham. This isn’t surprising as the teenager’s price has soared into the stratosphere. FSG’s style is to buy three 50m pound midfielders rather than one at the total sum. But what really strikes me is that it continues Liverpool’s pattern of not signing the “must-sign player.” That one player everyone wants and must be signed or everything will be awful seemingly never arrives. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at the ones who got away.
READ MORE: Coping With An Empty May by Adam Beattie
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THE GOT AWAY GANG
TIMO WERNER: The German striker was the can’t miss target of the summer of 2020. His 78 goals in 127 games for Red Bull Leipzig made him one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe. When it became known he wanted away from the upstart Leipzig, it was widely believed Klopp would utilize him perfectly. Our fanbase was convinced it was essential to add him to the Salah/Mane/Firmino front. When he instead got away to Chelsea, the #FSGOUT crowd was in full throat. Sometimes I think certain Reds fans forget a roster has only so many slots. However, the point man never settled in at Stamford Bridge. He scored 10 goals in 56 appearances with those strikes dwarfed by his “How did he miss that?” moments. Chelsea sold him back to Leipzig at a steep discount.
NOT THE ONLY DORTMUND MISS
CHRISTIAN PULISIC: The veracity of the rumors surrounding the Pride of Hershey is varied. There is obviously more hype for American fans than for English ones. But when it comes to want-away Dortmund players, a Klopp reunion is an easy story to write. I love Pulisic and as an American, I hope he becomes the American soccer GOAT. Nevertheless, like Werner, his time at Chelsea has been a struggle. Injuries and constant managerial turnover has grayed his wonderful moments including lifting the Champions League trophy. His 20 goals in 94 games make his 58m pound outlay look rough. Passing was the right move for LFC then, but the door isn’t necessarily closed on our “Great American Superstar.”
JULIAN BRANDT: By many accounts, Brandt was much higher on Jurgen Klopp’s wish list than Mo Salah in 2017. He’s a German international and a solid Bundesliga player. But injuries have kept suitors away since then as the winger has scored only 23 goals in 120 games since 2019-20. 23 goals is a slow season for Mo. The Egyptian King was one hell of a Plan D for our club as the front office imposed their will over Klopp in this instance, ultimately for the best.
DON’T MAKE IT BAD
In all of these cases, we don’t know how different things would have played out had this trio made it to Merseyside. I also don’t think Jude Bellingham will be a flop wherever he lands. But these stories are cautionary tales, reminders that the can’t-miss signings can indeed miss. Plan B (or C or D) can bring spectacular success. So, while it is disappointing to see the young English midfielder get away- I’d love to have had “Hey Jude” in his honor- the sky is hardly falling on this front. There are still plenty of midfielders to be had who can return us to glory in the Premier League and beyond.