Liverpool transfer rebuild - but they missed a big £30m opportunity


Liverpool look like they finally cured their midfield problems this summer.

Better late than never, as they say, and with £150m splashed on four new signings in the heart of Jurgen Klopp's side, Liverpool's midfield looks refreshed and reloaded after four wins in five Premier League games to start the campaign. The lack of a new centre-back signing aside, it's hard to argue with the Reds' summer transfer window.

Yes, it would have been the dream to see Jude Bellingham playing for Liverpool, but the decision to step away from that transfer and bring in Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo could pay dividends for Klopp's future midfield.

But there was one deal that Liverpool might have benefitted from this summer.

James Ward-Prowse may not be the exciting, young midfielder that many Liverpool fans craved, but he's certainly effective.

And it's hard not to think he could have been a huge asset in this squad.

Leaving Southampton for West Ham in a deal worth around £30m, the England international has made an immediate impact on a side recovering from their loss of talismanic captain Declan Rice. Indeed, netting twice and recording five assists, Ward-Prowse is already central to David Moyes' team with a goal involvement in every game he's played thus far.

With numbers like that, it's a surprise that the Premier League's leading lights didn't take an interest in recruiting him.

Perhaps it was the fee that put them off? But then £30m isn't exactly huge money in today's market. Perhaps it's his age? But then, Liverpool did spend £16m on a player two years Ward-Prowse's senior in Wataru Endo.

Clubs such as Liverpool often prefer to sign younger players with larger upsides or resale value, and any move for Ward-Prowse wouldn't have been for the long-term. But short-term signings should always be considered if they improve a team's immediate chances of success.

Besides, Liverpool have done it before.

Xherdan Shaqiri was 26 when he moved to Anfield from relegated Stoke in 2018, and his short, stocky frame didn't exactly lend itself to Liverpool's high energy, pressing style. But three years later, after 63 appearances and eight goals, the Swiss left Anfield a Champions League and Premier League winner. He more than played his part.

Ward-Prowse will no doubt be a threat at Anfield on Sunday with his ability from free-kicks and corners. No player in the Premier League is more deadly from set-pieces and it gives West Ham a unique weapon that, so far this season, every team they've faced has struggled with.

You won't need reminding of Ward-Prowse's ability from dead balls, but we'll do it anyway. With 17 goals from direct free-kicks, he is the second leading scorer in Premier League history, behind David Beckham. And with a success rate of 14.3%, he leads the way for free-kick goals in Europe's top five leagues since 2013.

How Liverpool could have utilised that very particular set of skills this season.

But labelling Ward-Prowse as merely a set-piece specialist is a slightly lazy analysis of somebody who was central to Southampton during Ralph Hasenhuttl's time in charge.

The Austrian favoured a high-pressing style and Ward-Prowse often led the way in terms of pressures, winning the back high up the pitch to launch attacks. He was also a progressive passer who could use the ball well in tight areas of the pitch.

He could also operate in deeper positions, and while he wasn't a total expert in that area, he was versatile enough to feature wherever needed for Southampton and West Ham.

And having captained his boyhood club for long, he's also used to the responsibility of leading a dressing room - the more the merrier at Liverpool after a turnover of experienced players this summer.

He would, of course, have also ticked a homegrown slot in Liverpool's squad.

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