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Transfer Rater: Nkunku to Liverpool

Football Whispers

Coutinho and Sturridge among the hits in Liverpool's frugal transfer approach

Since taking control of Liverpool in October 2010, owners Fenway Sports Group (then NESV) have spoken of the need to be clever in the transfer market.

"We have to be smart," principal Liverpool owner John W. Henry said in 2010. "We have to be more efficient. When we spend a dollar it has to be wisely."

Under various transfer approaches, Liverpool have scoured the transfer market for undervalued players in an attempt to compete with Premier League and European rivals, who have greater financial resources.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to be linked with a move to Liverpool in summer, and about to enter the final 12 months of his Arsenal contract. So, the Reds could move to sign an established England international for a cut-price fee.

Liverpool's approach to transfers has changed in recent years, especially under manager Jurgen Klopp, but Oxlade-Chamberlain is a player who the fits the profile of what FSG first desired.

ESPN FC looks back on how a number of FSG's "value" signings from top clubs around Europe have fared at Anfield.

Craig Bellamy
Joined: August 2011
Fee: Free

Bellamy rejoined Liverpool on a free transfer from Manchester City at 32. Despite Liverpool's emphasis on signing young, upcoming talent at the time, Bellamy brought much-needed experience to Kenny Dalglish's side, and can be considered a success in his second stint at Anfield. The Welshman only stayed for the 2011-12 season but played an integral role in their League Cup victory, finishing the campaign with nine goals in 37 appearances.

Daniel Sturridge
Joined: January 2013
Fee: £12m

Sturridge was growing frustrated on the fringes and being shifted out wide at Chelsea before Liverpool snapped him up. Then Reds boss Brendan Rodgers said the move was probably the striker's "last chance" to prove himself at the highest level. Despite numerous injuries that have limited his time on the pitch, Sturridge is the fourth-quickest post-war Liverpool player to reach 50 goals for the club.

Daniel Sturridge has suffered with injuries but still managed to score plenty of goals at Liverpool.

Philippe Coutinho
Joined: January 2013
Fee: £8.5m

Liverpool took advantage of Coutinho's struggles in adapting to life at Inter Milan, signing the promising 20-year-old Brazilian for what can now be considered a bargain. At 20, Coutinho had made 47 appearances in Serie A but failed to live up to the high expectations many had for him. Inter's sporting director told ESPN FC in January that selling Coutinho was "perhaps one of my greatest regrets in over 20 years."

Kolo Toure
Joined: July 2013
Fee: Free

The signing of Toure certainly raised eyebrows, but Rodgers used the Premier League veteran to plug the experience vacated by the retirement of Jamie Carragher. The Ivorian proved to be adequate back up at centre-half, making 71 appearances before leaving in July 2016.

Mario Balotelli turned out to be a huge disappointment for the Reds.

Mario Balotelli
August 2014
Fee: £16m

"This transfer represents outstanding value for the club," Rodgers said after Liverpool confirmed Balotelli's transfer from AC Milan. Liverpool believed they could harness world class talent out of the controversial figure, but ultimately, they could not. In 16 Premier League appearances, Balotelli scored one goal. After just one season, he was sent back out on loan to AC Milan before joining French side Nice on a free transfer in August.

James Milner
July 2015
Fee: Free

The capture of Milner on a free transfer was another outlier to FSG's usual transfer policy. The 29-year-old grew frustrated at becoming a utility man at Manchester City, with Liverpool offering a central-midfield role. Milner has proved to be a shrewd bit of business and now operates as a makeshift left-back for Klopp.

Joel Matip
July 2016
Fee: Free

Klopp believes Matip's free transfer from Schalke saved the club millions. "You can just pick a number," the Reds boss said of the centre-back's value. Matip has impressed in his first season on Merseyside, although reliability concerns have Klopp targeting another central defender in the summer.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been linked with a move to Liverpool.

Oxlade-Chamberlain finds himself in a similar situation that of Coutinho and Sturridge prior to their moves to Liverpool. Since joining Arsenal from Southampton as a 17-year-old, Oxlade-Chamberlain has failed to fulfil his huge potential and justify a £15m price tag.

He is reportedly weighing up his options, growing frustrated at the lack of opportunities in central midfield under Arsene Wenger. For Liverpool, it could be an interesting proposition at the right price. Like Coutinho and Sturridge, the Merseysiders could give the 23-year-old the platform to succeed after a testing few seasons.

Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.


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