It’s a picture to send a shudder down the spine of any Liverpool supporter who hasn't yet managed to banish it fully from memory.

The summer of 2010 was one of - if not the - bleakest of the modern era for Reds fans.

Just twelve months earlier Rafa Benitez's side had racked up 86 points while losing just two Premier League games but it had still not proved enough to rip the title out of Manchester United's grip as Alex Ferguson's side secured a second hat-trick of championships within barely a decade.

Hopes were high that a team boasting the talents of Gerrard, Carragher, Torres, Alonso and Mascherano could be bolstered in the transfer market and go one step further but poor recruitment in the summer of 2009 led to a desperately disappointing 09/10 campaign, failure to qualify for the Champions League and ultimately the departure of the manager.

As if things weren't bad enough on the pitch, the alarm bells which had been ringing since the end of American owners' Tom Hicks and George Gillett's honeymoon period were turning into clanging chimes of doom with the very existence of the club now under threat.

 

The leveraged buy-out the owners had denied they'd undertaken in early 2007 when purchasing the club from David Moores was finally but inexorably unravelling with the banks getting increasingly unhappy about missed interest payments.

The prospect of the club going into administration was rapidly becoming a genuine possibility.

Football, of course, still rumbled on remorselessly and Liverpool moved to appoint Roy Hodgson, who just led Fulham to the Europa League final, as manager in July and a few week later he presented his first, and as it would turn out last, batch of signings as Reds manager.

Liverpool's new signings Milan Jovanovic (L), Danny Wilson (2L), and Joe Cole (R) pose for photographs with manager Roy Hodgson (2R) at Anfield in 2010

Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and Danny Wilson proved to be as underwhelming a trio in reality as they were in expectation, although in fairness it's hard to see who else Liverpool could have brought in at the time such was the financial and footballing mire the club found itself in.

As we now know, Hicks and Gillett's execrable reign finally came to an end a few months later with the New England Sports Ventures (later known as Fenway Sports Group) takeover saving the club from financial meltdown and ushering in a potentially bright new era.

 

Principle owner John Henry did not make any wild promises about spending when taking over the reins but indicated an awareness that the necessary financial backing would be put in place to help Liverpool get back to the top.

"It's too early to say what we're going to do," he said, "but obviously we're here to win and we'll do whatever is necessary."

And by the end of the following January, Roy Hodgson had gone, club icon Kenny Dalglish had been installed as caretaker manager and Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez had been brought in for £35m and £22.8m respectively.

January 2011 saw Kenny Dalglish bring Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll to Anfield

Fernando Torres had departed at the same time as the two new strikers' arrival, at the Spanish forward's instigation it should be noted, but a further spending spree in FSG's first summer in charge, with Dalglish now installed as the club's permanent manager, showed these 'new' Americans were beginning to live up to their pledge to 'under-promise and over-deliver'.

The relative failure of that initial FSG splurge however arguably had an impact for a significant part of the decade that followed. Only European Cup-winning captain Jordan Henderson (£16m) of that summer 2011 intake could realistically be declared a success, with Sebastian Coates (£5m), Jose Enrique (£6m), Charlie Adam (£9m) and particularly Stewart Downing (£20m) all failing to live up to expectations.

Manager Kenny Dalglish presents new signings (L-R) Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Alexander Doni, August 2011

Despite a first trophy in six years - the League Cup win over Cardiff City on penalties - and a run to the FA Cup final which ended in narrow defeat to a Chelsea side a fortnight away from winning the Champions League, Kenny Dalglish was sacked that summer.

And, while the general perception was that a poor Premier League performance that season (the Reds finished behind Everton in 8th) was the primary reason for the LFC icon's exit as manager, it's hard not to feel another factor was the owners' reluctance to trust Dalglish with more money to continue the squad reconstruction that was clearly needed.

 

You can also make a case to say FSG were scarred by this 'perceived' wasted summer of 2011 and it further cemented their belief in the 'Moneyball' philosophy, in essence the idea of buying younger, more inexpensive players who would grow and improve together and potentially have a significant resale value.

Sure, they still spent some money if the right deals were available, the January 2013 window which saw the acquisitions of Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan for £8.5m and Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea for £12m stands out as arguably Liverpool's best in terms of value for money of the decade.

More smiles at Melwood

But, 18 months later, the summer after Liverpool had come so desperately close to ending that near two and half decade-long wait for the holy grail of a league title, we saw a hesitancy in recruitment that may have been a residue from that 2011 summer and which meant things would get worse before they got better again.

The loss of a world-class talent like Luis Suarez was always going to be difficult, nigh on impossible, to truly replace and getting £65m for a player who cost £22.8m having got three and half years worth of goals, flicks, world-class performances and, yes, off-the-field headaches from him has to represent good business in virtually anyone's book.

But, after thrilling Reds and neutrals alike with swashbuckling football that took Liverpool to within one slip of a football boot of a league title, how could the club then be starting the following campaign with the erratic Mario Balotelli and the willing but limited Rickie Lambert as Suarez's replacements?

 

An argument can also be made that the failure to bolster a thin squad (admittedly one not troubled by the demands of European football that season) in January 2014, after a sparse summer 2013 recruitment when only Mamadou Sakho made any kind of impact, stymied that title challenge which ultimately fell just two points short of nirvana.

We'll never know but it tied into the theory that FSG weren't really prepared now to speculate to accumulate having got their fingers burned in 2011.

Critics of such a theory might point to the spending of £32.5m on Christian Benteke in the summer of 2015, by all accounts the choice of manager Brendan Rodgers who many feel FSG had already decided to replace once their preferred candidate become available, which of course was to happen within months.

If anything it smacked of a lack of clear direction and strategy in recruitment as that same summer £29m was also spent on Roberto Firmino, who was thought to be the preference of the club's 'transfer committee'.

Christian Benteke of Liverpool trains on his first day with the club alongside Roberto Firmino at Melwood Training Ground on July 23, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

The arrival of Jurgen Klopp as manager in October 2015 was a seismic moment in the history of the club and ultimately it did signal a shift in willingness to pay top dollar for the top players, a realisation that if an elite club wants to perform at elite level for the elite players it has to pay elite prices.

It didn't happen immediately though.

Although £34m was handed to Southampton for the services of Sadio Mane in Klopp's first summer in charge, the rest of that batch of recruitment was relatively cheap, with defensive reinforcements in particular being at the budget end of the range: centre half Joel Matip on a free transfer, defender Ragnar Klavan for £4.2m and goalkeeper Loris Karius for £4.75m.

18 months later, as 2017 turned into 2018, the arrival of Mohamed Salah for £37.8m meant Liverpool now had an attacking triumvirate that was as good as anything on the planet - but still had a defence that looked authority and a true spine.

 

And finally, it seemed, the penny dropped. If Liverpool were truly to fulfil the exciting potential the early years of Klopp's reign had promised, they had to bring in the best at the back. And they did.

After an embarrassingly botched attempt the previous summer, Virgil Van Dijk arrived from Southampton for £75m, a world record fee for a defender, and from the first time he pulled on a Red shirt - even before he headed in that late debut winner in an FA Cup Merseyside derby - it was clear what Liverpool had bought.

Virgil van Dijk celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 5, 2018 in Liverpool, England.
Virgil van Dijk celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 5, 2018 in Liverpool, England.

A leader, a class act and a player who would lift and inspire those around him to greater things.

The proof of the pudding, as they say, was in the eating. Liverpool's attackers were now able to go about their work with even greater gusto in the knowledge that there was greater insurance behind them and defied expectations to reach the Champions League final in Kiev.

A combination of factors meant temporary heartbreak ensued in the Ukraine but, whereas the last time Liverpool lost a European Cup final Rafa Benitez found himself wandering the streets of Athens raging about the transfer dithering of club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, this time swift, firm and decisive action was taken.

 

Less than 48 hours after the final whistle in Kiev, the club had announced the signing of Fabinho for an initial £39.3m, who has proved to be the best defensive midfielder the club has had since the likes of Javier Mascherano and Dietmar Hamann.

And when the first pre-season friendlies illustrated goalkeeper Loris Karius was going to be unlikely to shake off the trauma of his Kiev nightmare, a world-record fee of £65m was paid to AS Roma for Alisson Becker.

Alisson and Fabinho of Liverpool celebrate

The following June, Liverpool completed one of the finest seasons in their decorated 127-year history by claiming a sixth European Cup in Madrid and came desperately close to winning the Premier League, missing out by just one point to petro-dollar funded Manchester City despite racking up a record tally of 97 points.

It has proved to be no flash in the pan.

Whereas the previous four title tilts since the last Liverpool championship in 1990 had all seen the Reds fall off a cliff the following season, Liverpool have carried on where they left off in 2019/20, currently holding an eight point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in football but it seems clear the foundations of this Liverpool era are on far firmer footings than before and the club looks poised for a sustained period of competing regularly for the game's top prizes.

It is inarguable that a key component of that, married to Jurgen Klopp's belief in squad unity and development of young players, has been a willingness to buy the best players when available and where necessary.

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The revitalised commercial performance of the club, coupled with continued success on it, means that hopefully the resources will continue to be available to maintain those principles as the realisation takes hold that in the modern game, there are very rarely any financial shortcuts to success.