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Transfer Rater: Nkunku to Liverpool

Football Whispers
 By Steven Kelly

Liverpool's transfer tactics in focus amid Mario Gotze interest

Plenty of Liverpool fans are pleased about their club being linked with a move for Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze.

Others are wary this is yet another example of interest in a player being publicised way too early. This can then be used by the selling club as a starting pistol for an unseemly transfer saga.

Jurgen Klopp benefited from Liverpool's troubles in closing out such deals when he and Borussia Dortmund won the battle for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in 2013.

Liverpool also lost out on the purchase of Willian that same summer. At first it seemed like Tottenham would be his destination but the Brazilian moved to Chelsea. It appeared the Reds weren't even his second choice.

Those two players are only the tip of the iceberg as far as failed transfers are concerned, so some fans will be reluctant to join in the euphoria until the t's are crossed and the umlauts dotted.

Excitement is understandable. It's not often your club is linked with somebody who scored the winner in a World Cup final and is still part of German coach Joachim Low's plans, but the player has not enjoyed his time at Bayern so far.

Liverpool have benefited from acquiring players who were considered surplus to requirements by big clubs. Chelsea did not think Daniel Sturridge would ever become a star and Inter Milan could not find a place for Philippe Coutinho. Both have enhanced Liverpool's first team greatly.

The biggest and richest clubs tend to stockpile players, then either send them on loan or dump them on the bench. This always leads to a player's disenchantment. A few may decide to count their blessings -- and wages -- then suffer in silence but most will want to spread their wings and fly.

It's deciding where to land next that causes problems for both player and selling club. Bayern would not want Gotze to join any team that threatens them, making Liverpool an ideal destination in the short term despite the Bundesliga giants knowing what Klopp was capable of.

The player wants regular first team football, but not just anywhere given his talent and promise. That said, by joining another superpower, he'd run the risk of being shelved again.

It's a narrow window of opportunity. Liverpool are one of the clubs standing prominently, but they are by no means alone. A return to Dortmund isn't even out of the question, though Bayern might frown upon that and ESPN FC's Raphael Honigstein believes the move is a non-starter.

But the fact that interest has been expressed so early sees imminent danger of a bidding battle; the kind Liverpool have been extremely reluctant to get involved with in the past.

Part of the initial clamour for signing the young German, 23, was the one year left on his Bayern contract. It meant he could be acquired for what in modern football constitutes a knockdown price of around £20 million. Other clubs showing an interest would negate such an advantage, before Liverpool start worrying about whether they'd even win the subsequent bidding.

They know from personal, bitter experience that players are highly impatient, no matter how young they are. Short-term interests are currently so short they're in danger of disappearing altogether.

Raheem Sterling's ambition was used for comedic effect, to imagine the 20-year-old claiming he wasn't getting any younger and the clock was ticking. He still left Liverpool for Manchester City and got Champions League football immediately, plus a League Cup winner's medal at Liverpool's expense.

It's hoped with Gotze that the Klopp effect comes into play. The German international's early days at Dortmund may be a factor in his decision, provided he won't be told by incoming Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti he can expect more game time than he's had under Pep Guardiola.

Outsiders have initially been cynical about Liverpool's interest. It can be cited as more proof they don't have a grasp of their place in the modern game. That doesn't explain why Klopp, one of the most acclaimed coaches in Europe, decided to make Anfield his new home.

The club is regularly in the top 10 of the Deloitte rich list. That advantage has often been diluted by poor choices in the transfer market and the fact there are four other English clubs above them on that list. That means Champions League qualification, the football status symbol of choice, is getting harder to obtain.

When clubs like Tottenham also want to climb the ladder and when the likes of West Ham and Everton are increasing their fiscal power, Liverpool's trading on their history becomes less potent as each unsuccessful year passes.

What do they tell Gotze and others in the meantime? They can certainly point to the manager, who has followed the same career path as that of Rafa Benitez 12 years ago. The Spaniard could have stayed at Valencia and remained a success, but he thought that if he got it right at a club like Liverpool, the sky's the limit.

Even during what many consider to have been a troubled century for the club so far, they can still point to 20 quarterfinals, 15 semifinals, 11 finals and seven trophies.

In England that puts them joint third in terms of 21st Century success -- way behind Chelsea, who are on 16 trophies. However, for a club that has got things so wrong in recent years, it's nothing to be sneezed at.

It's the ultimate paradox. Opposition fans would look at the above stats and claim that wasn't nearly enough success for a club like Liverpool, yet when the Reds express greater ambitions, they'll be asked: "Who do you think you are?"

Liverpool are either a hugely underachieving big club or an overachieving middle-sized club. It doesn't really seem possible to be both, but when supporters indulge in banter any stick will do, no matter how illogical.

It's been that way for a while but if Klopp can pull off the deal for Gotze at least it will partially silence any talk that Liverpool lack ambition. Failure to do so now would confirm suspicions this early statement of intent was a mere smokescreen for a lack of said ambition.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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