Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre insists he has no regrets over the Clint Dempsey saga, which left the club short of strikers over the first half of the season, and that the Reds' have the "best balance" among their playing staff in the Premier League.
Owners Fenway Sports Group refused to sanction a £6 million deal to sign Dempsey, 29, from Fulham last August, and the United States international ended up joining Tottenham instead. FSG’s policy is to focus on signing players under the age of 24, and it was felt that Dempsey offered little resale value.
However, with Andy Carroll having left to join West Ham on a season’s loan and new signing Fabio Borini soon to be out for three months with a foot injury, manager Brendan Rodgers was left with Luis Suarez as his only fit senior striker.
But Ayre, who is responsible for conducting transfer negotiations at Anfield and recently brought in Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea for £12 million, insists that Liverpool acted correctly over Dempsey.
“The issue then came down to a particular deal and a particular price or structure to that deal. It wasn’t right to do it,” he told the Liverpool Echo “Likewise the interest in certain other players wasn’t right. Sometimes you have to be stronger for the greater good.
“People may feel they want to criticise the fact we didn’t have an additional striker. But at what price would you sacrifice spending for something that is not in the long-term interests of the club versus what we just did, which was getting a great price on a great player in Daniel Sturridge?
“If we had spent that money in the summer then we wouldn’t have done that trade recently. It may have left us short, but the pieces just did not come together. We’ve come through that period now. I still feel it was the right decision.”
Liverpool’s six signings since Rodgers’ arrival last June have all been at the younger end of the market.
Borini is 21, midfielder Joe Allen 22, forward Samed Yesil 18 and Sturridge 23, while Nuri Sahin - whose loan stint from Real Madrid was cut short last week - turned 24 just after his arrival, and Oussama Assaidi celebrated his 24th birthday shortly before joining Liverpool from Heerenveen in August.
Ayre, though, insists that the transfer policy is not set in stone, and that principal owner John W Henry and chairman Tom Werner will allow Rodgers to bring in experienced players if the deal is right.
“If you remember back to the sale of the club, John Henry said we want to win but we don’t just want to win once, we want to build something which keeps winning,” he said. “If we’re going to do that, then we need to do it from the ground up with young players, so that when you start winning you have still got the majority of that group to keep contributing over a period of time.
“It's not a policy which is set in stone but it’s an aspiration. If we feel there’s a particular position or player who can contribute to the group and is over that sort of age limit, it doesn’t mean we won’t consider that player.
“As everyone saw in the summer, we renewed deals with many of our senior players. So experience is vital and we will consider more experienced players where it makes sense. But where a player is younger and talented with the right level of ability, we will always go for the younger option because it’s a better long term investment for the club to have someone who we hope will be here for a long time.”
Ayre was also insistent that, in spite of the fact the Reds have been so short on forwards for much of season, the club has one of the 'best balanced' squads in the country.
“Of course we have to progress to be able to hang on to our world class talent,” he added. “But we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think we would progress.
“You need to have a mix in your squad and we have probably got the best balance in terms of any team in the league.