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Nov 3, 2011

Counting the cost at Liverpool

Roy Hodgson 0-9 Kenny Dalglish: not the score at The Hawthorns on Saturday, comfortable as Liverpool's win was, but the number of men recruited by the Merseysiders' last two managers who were named in the visitors' matchday squad of 18. Six started, showing 2011 has been a year of rapid transformation as well as heavy investment at Anfield. But, while Dalglish invariably insists players are signed for the long term and snap judgments can be deceptive, how are the signings shaping up? And are they delivering value for money?

Luis Suarez

Cost: £22.8 million.
Possible resale value: £40 million.
Mark: 10/10

First and best of the newcomers, an arrival to ensure the departed Fernando Torres is not mourned as much as mocked, Suarez can be scintillating. His electric evisceration of Manchester United in March showed that Anfield has a new superstar. The one valid footballing criticism of the Uruguayan is that sometimes dominant displays are not turned into goals. It is perhaps the only reason the Ballon d'Or nominee might not be worth the £50 million Torres commanded.

Andy Carroll

Cost: £35 million.
Possible resale value: £18 million.
Mark: 4/10

Much as Liverpool may try to console themselves with the thought that Ryan Babel and Torres paid for Suarez and Carroll, it is hard to ignore the reality that the target man is the most expensive Englishman of all time, or the sense that, on a surreal transfer deadline day, the Geordie was dramatically overvalued. Much of his time on Merseyside would suggest as much. But while recent displays against Everton and West Bromwich Albion have been encouraging, it is telling that Carroll was an unused substitute when United visited Anfield last month.

Charlie Adam

Cost: £7.5 million.
Possible resale value: £7.5 million.
Mark: 6/10

The fee was low for a PFA Player of the Year nominee seemingly at the peak of his powers, not least because a few months earlier Sir Alex Ferguson had suggested Adam's corners alone were worth £10 million. The Scot's Liverpool career has been mixed - there have been glimpses of the long-range passing that brought him to the fore at Blackpool, as well as a well-taken goal against Bolton and some unexpectedly driving runs against Manchester United. On the other side, his poor tackling resulted in a red card against Tottenham and, given his limited contribution without the ball, there are legitimate doubts over whether he can excel as one of two central midfielders.

Stewart Downing

Cost: £20 million.
Possible resale value: £12 million.
Mark: 6/10

Given that the lack of a quality out-and-out left winger has been an issue at Anfield for years, it is a little surprising that Downing has played some of his football for Liverpool on the right. If his signing was a product of statistical analysis suggesting he is one of the most reliable supply lines in English football, it is underwhelming to note that he is yet to record a league assist for Liverpool (or, for that matter, a goal). His price always appeared excessive, but his performances have been reasonable and he merits a place in the team.

Jordan Henderson

Cost: £16 million, rising to £20 million.
Possible resale value: £10 million.
Mark: 5/10

It was a deal that bemused many, partly for the fee and partly because it was hard to see where Henderson could feature in the side. There is certainly a case that the sold Raul Meireles and the exiled Alberto Aquilani are superior players and, at times, his selection has seemed a case of hoping for vindication. But there have been causes for optimism of late, including the cameo against Manchester United and the goal fashioned for Suarez at Stoke. While Liverpool were paying for potential in a futuristic piece of business, it is still hard to argue that he should figure in Dalglish's strongest side.

Jose Enrique

Cost: £5.5 million.
Possible resale value: £12 million.
Mark: 9/10

A bargain. Along with his rival on the other side of Stanley Park, Leighton Baines, Enrique is arguably the Premier League's outstanding left-back and has settled in immediately at Anfield. So far this season, he has been the most impressive defender at the club and, by setting up goals against Everton and Wolves, has also illustrated his ability going forward. After Suarez, he ranks as Dalglish's most astute acquisition.

Alexander Doni

Cost: Free.
Resale value: £500,000.
Mark: N/A

Jose Reina's deputy is yet to take the field in a first-team game so it is unfair to grade him. Indeed, given the Spaniard's fitness record, it is possible the Brazilian will never appear. But having been signed on a free transfer, it is probable Liverpool could turn in a small profit should they choose to sell him.

Sebastian Coates

Cost: £7.5 million.
Resale value: £10 million.
Mark: 6/10

The mark is generous on the basis of his brief Liverpool career - a torrid baptism as one of the nine men in the thrashing at Tottenham, before a mistake contributed to Stoke scoring in the Carling Cup - but the other evidence is that Coates could prove one of Dalglish's better bits of business. His Copa America displays for Uruguay indicated the 21-year-old is one of the most promising central defenders in world football. So, once acclimatised to English football, he should be able to serve Liverpool well or make them money. Potentially, depending on how well he does, quite a lot.

Craig Bellamy

Cost: free.
Resale value: £2 million.
Mark: 8/10

If some of the costlier signings seem to be granted too many opportunities, the cheaper Bellamy has arguably had too few. His scorching pace has added penetration on the left flank, particularly in a Merseyside derby cameo, while plenty would like to see him paired with Suarez in an attacking alliance of speedy irritants. But for the state of his knees, he would be worth rather more. As it is, he probably should play more.

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