Liverpool’s record with major transfers has been the envy of just about every club around in recent years.
Diogo Jota is just the latest Anfield success story, having already scored nine goals in red despite only making eight starts for the club.
His record is bringing to mind Mohamed Salah’s fabulous debut season with Liverpool, in which he scored 44 goals, yet Jota is finding the net even more than the Egyptian did in 2017/18.
In between signing that pair of lethal forwards, the Reds have also acquired arguably the best goalkeeper and centre-back in the world, while other less heralded transfers such as Andy Robertson and Fabinho have added yet more world-class ability to Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI.
But even a team as shrewd as Liverpool are in the transfer market have made their mistakes. It can often be due to reasons beyond their control – with injuries chief among them – but it can also prove difficult to give new signings the minutes they need to acclimatise to footballing life in England.
As an example, the club waited 12 months to ensure they could sign Naby Keita, yet the Guinean has rarely been able to sustain an extended run in the team. He has shown flashes of what he has been capable of, and while not a transfer flop, it would also be wrong to describe him as an unqualified success at this point either.
From the point of view of assessing Michael Edwards time in the hot seat, it’s perhaps more interesting to look at those players who both failed at Anfield and also failed to show their abilities too.
Take Iago Aspas, who is viewed more as a meme than a former Red in England these days. If anyone takes a spectacularly bad corner, you can be certain that the Spaniard’s name will be trending on Twitter before you know it, thanks to one he took in the infamous 2-0 loss to Chelsea in 2014.
Yet he has proven time and again in his homeland that he is far more than the butt of any lame jokes about corners. As OptaJose noted, Aspas created nine chances against Granada in Celta Vigo’s 3-1 victory on Sunday, the most he has ever done in a La Liga match, and the most by any player in the competition this season.
And he has scored goals consistently while with the team he has represented for most of his career. Aspas scored 12 times in La Liga in the season before he joined Liverpool, and has bagged between 14 and 22 in every campaign since he re-joined Celta Vigo (per WhoScored).
Maybe if he had been given more opportunities in the Premier League, he might have eventually been a successful signing for the Reds?
It was a similar story for Luis Alberto, who was also with Liverpool in 2013/14 yet didn’t make a single league start for the club. He only turned 21 that season so it would’ve been remarkable had he forced his way into Brendan Rodgers’ midfield, but he has undoubtedly shown his worth since.
Alberto topped the Serie A assist rankings in 2017/18, with 14, and was then second last season despite actually setting up one more goal than he had two years earlier (per FBRef). It was no fluke either, as he generated the most expected assists in Italy in those two campaigns.
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These players show the brilliance of Liverpool’s data-led approach to scouting. The players may not have succeeded at Anfield, but their abilities were correctly identified in advance of their moves to England. The circumstances were not right for them to prosper at the time, but that doesn’t make them bad players.
And in a period when Takumi Minamino is struggling for the Reds, having had to relocate to England only to be put into a pandemic-enforced lockdown almost immediately, the Japan international would do well to look at Aspas and Alberto.
They’ve proven to be good players, and as Liverpool identified him, the same will be true of Minamino.