As Liverpool prepare to face Real Madrid in the Champions League final, they will be well aware that their run to Paris would not have been possible without the help of some bargains.
For all the importance of big money stars like Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, the Reds’ success goes beyond that. And not only the current squad has benefited from the services of cheaply picked up players.
Some 17 years after the Merseyside club’s sensational comeback against AC Milan in 2005, mirror football looks at 10 of the players who have been signed for under £15m and have served Liverpool well over the years. Not just those likely to be present in Paris this weekend, but also some who helped the Reds take the reins long before manager Jurgen Klopp.
Pepe Reina – £8.81million
A number of Liverpool’s signings before 2010 come close to this list. Maxi Rodriguez, Martin Skrtel and Yossi Benayoun are all just missing, for example, but Reina, who signed in 2005, manages.
Despite Jerzy Dudek’s exploits in the Champions League final, manager Rafa Benitez dived into the transfer market. Reina had failed to establish himself at Barcelona, with colleague Victor Valdes stealing a march, but Benitez saw something those at the Camp Nou didn’t
The Spain international hardly missed a game in his eight years at Anfield and has featured in all 38 games of four consecutive Premier League seasons. There may have been some weak moments – a beach ball incident springs to mind – but its durability and quality is hard to beat.
Daniel Agger – £7.88million
Liverpool have been busy in the transfer market after the Istanbul win, including Reina. However, January’s move for Daniel Agger would prove far more important than many of those summer recruits.
The Dane, who was signed from Brondby for less than £8million (all figures come from transfermarkt), arrived after a long search that Benitez described as “around the world”. And despite some injury troubles during his time at Anfield, the left-footed player proved a fan favourite.
“When you’re 21 and you can train and work with Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, you can learn a lot,” said the manager when the signing was confirmed. “It will be fantastic to have these great players to help him progress.” Eight years and more than 200 games later, many were sad to see him return to Scandinavia.
Lucas Leiva – £9million
When you’re not fighting for titles, like Liverpool did in 2007, it can be important to sign players with the quality you have where you are and where you want to be. Enter Lucas, a £9million purchase from Gremio in 2007.
Prior to the Brazilian’s arrival, the Reds had reached the Champions League final – lost to Milan – but ended up falling 21 points behind Premier League champions Manchester United. While Fernando Torres might have been the celebrity arrival this summer, Lucas was the one who stuck around longer.
When he joined Lazio in 2017, the midfielder thanked Liverpool and the club’s supporters, revealing he would have liked to have ended his career there and only left for regular first-team football. “While I am sad that my days at Anfield are coming to an end, I can at least take comfort in knowing that my relationship with Liverpool and the fans is stronger than ever,” he wrote.
Daniel Sturridge – £13.5million
When Liverpool look back at their most important transfer windows, January 2013 will be at the top. It was Brendan Rodgers’ second successor after taking the reins and the former Swansea manager brought in two of the men who would help the team fight for the Premier League title the following season.
Sturridge had the best goalscoring season of his career for Chelsea last season. However, following the arrival of Eden Hazard and Torres’ revival at Stamford Bridge, his involvement was limited to the point where he was ready to move on.
The England international played the best football of his career at Anfield. Not only in 2013/14, when he scored 21 league goals for the runners-up, but also between the injury breaks in the following years. If not for those setbacks, he could have done even better in a red shirt.
Philippe Coutinho – £11.7million
Signing for the second time this January window, Coutinho’s price tag was quickly looking like a bargain. As with Sturridge, the Brazilian had struggled for minutes at his previous club – in this case Inter Milan – but found a home in Merseyside.
Coutinho was a regular in 2013/14 when Rodgers’ side fell just short of Premier League glory but continued to gain momentum under Klopp. A 13-goal season in 2016-17 helped the Reds qualify for the Champions League for the first time under the German and he left Anfield as one of the best players in the world.
While this nine-figure move to Barcelona reflected his quality, Coutinho couldn’t be as successful at the Camp Nou as he was at Liverpool. Still, we cannot fail to see how much the fee helped Klopp build the side he wanted and paved the way to glory at home and on the continent.
Simon Mignolet – £9.54million
A player’s impact isn’t just dependent on what he does on the pitch and Mignolet has been a huge figure for Liverpool in many ways. The Belgian joined in the summer of 2013 and helped the Reds finish runners-up in his debut season and had a string of other big moments before departing after winning the 2019 Champions League final.
Even as he lost his regular spot – first to Loris Karius and then to Alisson – the Belgium international remained a popular fixture in the squad. In fact, Klopp was particularly sad to have to leave, but title wins in Belgium for Club Brugge are a testament to his enduring quality.
“If you were to ask me to write a list of the most outstanding professionals I have worked with in football – in a career spanning well over 30 years – Simon Mignolet would be fighting for first place,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc. com in 2019. “The service he has rendered to this club during his time here means I cannot ignore an opportunity for him that will be so positive for his future. I think what he’s done for Liverpool means he deserves the right to do something to help him at this moment.”
Divock Origi – £11.37million
A successful signing isn’t always about longevity or instant impact. Sometimes it’s about moments, and few do moments better than Origi.
Most Liverpool fans couldn’t put a number on the comeback win over Barcelona in 2019. If they did, it would certainly dwarf the sum paid to Lille five years earlier for a man who had child prodigy status at the time.
“He’s one of the most important players I’ve ever had,” said Klopp as he prepared to bid farewell to the Belgian at the end of this season. “Wherever he goes he will be 100 per cent successful. I remember so many things when I think of various goals, ups and downs. He is without a doubt a Liverpool legend.”
James Milner – Free
Brendan Rodger’s last window in charge was more of a hit-and-miss, with some memorable signings helping to hasten his departure. However, he also brought in big-money star Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez – who narrowly misses out on this top 10 – and Milner on a free transfer.
The England international was 30 when he arrived. While he was part of City’s 2012 and 2014 title wins, someone with nearly 400 top-flight games under their belt doesn’t scream “long-term prospects.”
We couldn’t have been more wrong. Milner has played 35 or more games in all his seasons at Liverpool, whether at midfield or full-back, and continues to defy the aging process to remain a key part of Klopp’s fitness-intensive squad.
Joel Matip – Free
action pics via Reuters)
In Klopp’s first summer window, he turned to the Bundesliga in a big way. But while Karius, Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger have long since moved on, Matip remains an integral part of the Reds.
The former Schalke defender was a clever free transfer agent and, despite some injury woes, has emerged as a key player who has been able to keep up with an improving Liverpool side. In fact, he has played more in the 2021/22 season than in any previous season since joining England.
“Joel’s journey at Liverpool is one I love and I’m delighted that he has shown his commitment to us by signing this new long-term deal,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com of the centre-back during the 2019 season signed a new contract. 20 title winning campaign. “As the team has evolved and gotten better, so has Joel.”
Andy Robertson – £8.1million
In the early Klopp years, Liverpool used the stars of the relegated teams for a while. Gini Wijnaldum arrived from Newcastle United in 2016 and Xherdan Shaqiri traded Stoke for Anfield in 2018, but Robertson – meanwhile signed from Hull City – has claims to be one of Liverpool’s best bargains.
The Scotland left-back impressed for Marco Silva’s relegated Tigers but that was no guarantee he would be able to repeat the trick when expectations were higher. In fact, his first training session under Klopp was so intense that he vomited.
However, five years after his arrival, Robertson is a true star. He’s won everything there is to win for the club, playing more than 200 games and making the position of left-back his own and few would be surprised if he adds another Champions League winner’s medal in Paris.