Agree to Disagree – where the argument you had at the pub last Thursday becomes a well mannered discussion.
These days Brendan Rodgers can be found in the dugout at Celtic Park. He is tasked with taking Celtic to new heights whilst holding off a resurgent Rangers. However, the Northern Irishman arrives with plenty of baggage from his final season at Liverpool. Would you trust him to spend money at your club?
Sam Simmons argues…
No – Brendan Rodgers remains a football enigma – the man who took Liverpool to within two points of a long awaited Premier League title has never really been understood. To some he is a tactical genius, to others a Brent-like caricature.His managerial career has certainly declined since those days when Liverpool blew away opposing teams with their formidable SAS (Sturridge and Suarez) strike-force.There are many who believe that Rodgers was carried through his reign by the mercurial talents of Suarez, a player of such class that nearly all of Rodgers’ fallibilities were hidden from plain sight. Certainly Rodgers managed to get the best out of Suarez and Sturridge by allowing them to have the freedom to attack and play as they so wished without any tactical burdens. However since those highs Rodgers has seen his stock fall to a level where instead of being seen as the mastermind of a near footballing fairy-tale, he is now perceived (and the source of constant memes) as a caricature of David Brent. His insistence on his teams possessing “great character” have been widely mocked and merely reinforced the opinions of many that his near-success at Liverpool was not of his own doing.
Many do have sympathy with Rodgers; he lost Suarez during that summer of 2014 and was unable to find someone of the same calibre to replace him. That task was always going to be difficult, but Rodgers did not help himself with his transfer dealings. During the same summer he spent over £100 million on new players. When talking about Tottenham the previous season Rodgers had said that “if you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league.” The reality was Liverpool did spend that amount and did not come close to the league; in fact they finished a disappointing 6th.
The following summer Liverpool spent nearly £80 million more, and by the time Rodgers was sacked in October, Liverpool were 10th in the league and seemingly destined for another season of mid-table mediocrity. The owners had seemingly grown tired of his pretentious press conference jargon. They were after more than vacant words.People will still defend Rodgers however. They will argue that his transfer expenditure is outweighed by the enormous sales of Suarez and Sterling (the sales of those two players alone accumulated nearly £125 million).
Yet Rodgers proved during his 3 and a bit year tenure at Liverpool that he could not be trusted with money.Rodgers spent over £10 million on no less than twelve players. Of those, four were bought for £20 million or more. This list reads: Fabio Borini (£10.4 million), Joe Allen (£15 million), Daniel Sturridge (£12 million), Mamadou Sakho (£15 million), Adam Lallana (£25 million), Lazar Markovic (£19.8 million), Dejan Lovren (£20 million), Alberto Moreno (£12 million), Mario Balotelli (£16 million), Nathaniel Clyne (£12.5 million), Roberto Firmino (£29 million) and Christian Benteke (£32.5 million).
How many of those players can constitute a success? Two have left the club (Borini and Allen), and three more seem destined to leave (Balotelli, Benteke and Markovic). Another cannot seem to defend (Moreno), two more have been inconsistent at best (Lovren and Sakho). Lallana still cannot seem to find his best position, and with only 13 goals in 90 Liverpool games has been somewhat underwhelming. Then there is Sturridge. No doubt a wonderful player but also extremely injury prone (he has missed nearly 50% of all Liverpool matches since signing in January 2013).
If that wasn’t enough to demonstrate Rodgers failures in the transfer market then further analysis is even more damming. The £13.5 million spent on Spanish duo Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas was money wasted (both returned on loan to Spain within a year). Oussama Assaidi was bought in but also sold (albeit at a profit). Then there was the truly baffling signing of Tiago Ilori for £7 million from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2013 (yet to play a league game for the club). The £4 million signing of Liverpool born Southampton striker, Rickie Lambert, was heralded at the time; three goals in 36 games saw him shipped out a year later.
Despite all of the negativity there has been the odd success story. Philippe Coutinho, the prodigiously talented Brazilian playmaker was bought for a meagre £8.5 million (a fraction of his true value), and Emre Can, the German midfielder, was signed for £9.5 million. Both are integral to the future of Liverpool Football Club and are seen by many as examples of Rodgers’ legacy.
Nevertheless, Rodgers is rarely remembered for those occasional success stories. The reality is that his stock fell considerably during the last year of his reign. How many owners would trust Rodgers with a large budget now? How many would consider him to be too high risk?
The answer is one that we’ll likely never know.
Mike Franchetti argues…
Yes – Did Brendan Rodgers deserve to get sacked by Liverpool? Probably. Is he a tactical genius? Probably not. Is he responsible for some of Liverpool’s biggest transfer flops? Absolutely not.
People slate Rodgers in a variety of creative ways. He isn’t helped by the lousy TV show Liverpool commissioned which did absolutely nothing for his image as the ‘Brentmeister General’ of the Premier League. He is often deemed ‘lucky’ to have stood on the touchline watching Luis Suarez evolve into the greatest goalscorer in world football. There’s also his interviews which can be hard to follow and sprinkled with baffling defenses of his players’ performances.
But none of these factors explain why his stock has plummeted so far that he now leads a team who struggled past Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps. Rafa Benitez left a fallen Liverpool side before spells with Inter and Real Madrid, whilst Roy Hodgson left behind a sinking ship and eventually landed the England job. By contrast, Rodgers left a broken man and with his reputation in tatters. Above all, the recurring criticism – and one with a reasonable amount of evidence – is that he had an abysmal transfer record. But I disagree.
For starters, Liverpool have previous. Gerrard Houllier’s tenure started well in regards to signings but ended with El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao costing £15 million collectively, plus a further £15 million on Djibril Cissé – large sums of money back in the early 2000s. Houllier looked to have control over transfers as did his successor Benitez. The Champions League winning manager overlooked some corkers (Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres) but also plugged through a long list of mediocre squad players (Josemi, Antonio Nunez, Jan Kromkamp). It got much stormier at the end of his spell with high profile fallouts over the incoming signing of Robbie Keane and one that never happened in Gareth Barry. The details are murky, but it was clear Liverpool’s American owners were having an effect.
Hodgson came next and whilst he had noticeably less to spend than his predecessors he pulled some pretty dire players to the club – Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen come to mind. The second coming of Kenny Dalglish followed and, fresh from the Torres sale, there was money to be splurged. Stewart Downing for nearly £19 million constitutes disastrous business in my book, as does the £35 million punt he made on Andy Carroll.
Against this background of transfer hit and miss, there’s nothing exceptional about Rodgers’ spell in charge. But were his signings even that bad? And how much say did he have in spending the money generated by the Suarez sale?
Two signings from Rodgers’ first year were real successes with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho quickly becoming key figures in the Liverpool side. Arriving from Swansea, Joe Allen (£15 million) was a true Rodgers signing and it was surprising how few chances he was given to justify his price tag. Nevertheless, the Welshman’s transfer hardly stands out among the great Premier League flops and Liverpool have recouped £13 million in the recent sale to Stoke City.
Getting to the heart of the matter, Liverpool’s unhealthy obsession with Southampton has come at quite a cost. The club stumped up £20 million for Dejan Lovren and a further £25 million for Adam Lallana. Whilst this duo struggled to make an instant impact, both are still at the club and have started to show form. There’s no doubt in my mind that they (along with Rickie Lambert) were poor signings, but why does the buck stop at Rodgers? Liverpool, now under Jurgen Klopp, have just launched another £35 million at Southampton’s Saido Mane.
Towards the end of Rodgers’ spell Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli but I continue to believe this transfer bypassed the manager. The Italian’s name will always sell shirts but nothing Rodgers said indicated a desire to bring the ex-Manchester City striker in as a replacement for Suarez. Finally, at the start of last season, Liverpool signed Christian Benteke for a whopping 32.5 million – a man known for heading goals and holding up play. Rodgers likes to break quick and work the ball centrally, often avoiding traditional wing play. None of it made sense; Rodgers left soon after and ‘Big Ben’ struggled.
There’s no doubt that his final full season was defined by a very obvious struggle to replace Suarez and recapture the club’s 2013-2014 form. However, I’d argue that Liverpool signed the same mixture of gems, disappointments and big money flops as any side from the same era. There are plenty of bad signings that had nothing to do with Brendan Rodgers; Gervinho & Gabriel (Arsenal), Stevan Jovetic, Stefan Savic & Jesus Navas (Man City), Angel Di Maria & Radamal Falcao (Man United), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Paulo Osvaldo (Southampton), Ideye Brown (West Brom), Roberto Soldado (Tottenham), Konstantinos Mitroglou (Fulham) and everybody Aston Villa signed last year.
Carry on making fun of his interviews, but leave ‘his’ transfer record alone.