Liverpool bought six players in the summer of 2008 for a total of roughly £39m. With the sale of Dossena to Napoli, two of those – the first and third most expensive – are no longer with the club. The other four – Riera, Cavalieri, Ngog, and Degen – have made a combined 64 league appearances (100 games in total) in a season and a half, with Riera accounting for 37 (58%) of those.
I’m far sadder to see Dossena leave than I was the back of Keane. In retrospect, neither proved good business, but Dossena kept his head down, worked hard, didn’t complain, and chipped in those two memorable goals against Madrid and the Mancs. Keane couldn’t hit a brick wall with a shotgun at six paces, missing chance after chance and unable to come to terms with anything Benitez asked. And then he whined about Rafa’s man-management to the press. Tomkins’ most recent piece is an incredibly thorough review of Keane’s tenure (and Benitez’s dealings, and the English media’s idiocy), while results demonstrated that Liverpool were far better after the Irishman’s exit even though Benitez wasn’t allowed to buy a replacement.
Liverpool lost somewhere in the region of £5.5m from the Keane and Dossena deals. Every manager does some unsuccessful business, but the summer of ‘08 couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not only was Liverpool arguably on the precipice of greatness – and still came in second despite the summer’s business – the club was also apparently on the precipice of financial collapse. Benitez would probably kill someone to add £5.5m to his coffers at the moment. Even after recouping £6m from the sales of Dossena and Voronin, rumor has it that Benitez will only be given £1.5m for Maxi Rodriguez at best.
This isn’t a condemnation of Rafa’s transfer dealings, like I’ve seen far too often of late. Again, Tomkins’ piece magnificently dispels the myths, but the majority of his buys have been successful – Reina, Torres, Mascherano, and Agger should form the spine of this team for years to come, while Liverpool made a profit on Alonso, Crouch, Bellamy, Sissoko, and Arbeloa, among many others. The ones that haven’t been hits were usually the budget signings. Of the “failures,” only Keane cost more than £10m (Cisse, bought by Houllier, doesn’t count). I’d willingly compare Benitez’s flops to Ferguson’s (Veron, Kleberson, Taibi, Forlan, Djemba-Djemba, Berbatov).
Unfortunately, Liverpool doesn’t have the means to accept failures the way United does, thanks to two owners who piled debt on the club prior to a worldwide recession, who finally gave Benitez full control last season only to seal the purse strings. And thanks to an egregiously disappointing first half of the season, I truly fear we’ll look back on the summer of 2008 as we do 2002 for Houllier.