After weeks of speculation, scouting on Youtube and visions of where he might line up in Liverpool's starting XI, Memphis Depay did the inevitable and signed for Manchester United.
The Red Devils always seemed to have the upper hand over their North West rivals: a likely (and now all but confirmed) return to Champions League football and a manager previously described as a 'non-biological father' to the 21-year-old Dutch winger, Louis van Gaal.
Yet, for some reason it was Liverpool's name being shouted the loudest in association with Depay. Whether this was a club tactic (a 'hey, if we keep getting people to bang on about it he'll know we're really interested' kind of thing) or United engineering a smokescreen that would allow their own business to be subtly conducted, I don't know. Either way, it's left the Reds looking the all-too-familiar fool in the transfer market, which, incidentally, isn't even properly open yet.
Of course, this is not a new thing. Liverpool's public pursuit of Alexis Sanchez a year ago only enhanced the feeling of disappointment when the Chilean eventually plumped for Arsenal instead. Sanchez's claim that geography formed the most important part of his decision-making softened the blow a bit, but would he have been so keen on the capital had one of the two Manchester clubs made their move? Perhaps not.
Such setbacks aren't specific to this season, either. Henrik Mkhitaryan, Mohamed Salah and even Gareth Barry during his Aston Villa days were all known Kop targets, only to snub the Reds in favour of Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively. The pull of Liverpool is not what it was in the 1970s and '80s.
Naturally, manager Brendan Rodgers tried to save face, denying the club were ever interested in Depay. The Ulsterman told Sky Sports: "He's obviously a very talented young player but we have Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic in those positions. We're well covered, especially on the left-hand side." But no-one believes that for a second.
So what then? Do Liverpool need to lower their sights in the transfer market? Well, no. If everyone did that then Shrek would have never got together with Princess Fiona, the Beast with Belle, or Jay-Z with Beyonce Knowles. But no-one should feel it is the club's God-given right to land such big names and securing good players must be the priority regardless of their stature.
Casting aside what is an almost unrivalled history, there is not a great deal for the top players to find appealing about Liverpool at present. A season rife with failure means another heavy recruitment drive is required, but without Steven Gerrard (off to LA Galaxy), Luis Suarez (performing well in a Barcelona team that matches his individual ability) and Jamie Carragher (two years retired) there isn't the stable base there once was at Anfield. One season out of five in the Champions League hardly yells 'this year was a blip'. It would therefore be inaccurate to presume that big names would even want to move to Liverpool.
On the plus side, the Reds know exactly where they stand as they enter this summer's break, unlike last year, when Suarez's departure wasn't officially confirmed until mid-July. This resulted in a panicked scurrying around for strikers that eventually led to Mario Balotelli's arrival from a suspiciously grateful AC Milan. Gerrard's January departure announcement has at least given Rodgers plenty of time to seek out a replacement. Likewise, Glen Johnson's exit has been anticipated for a while and there's no doubt the Balotelli episode will have encouraged the Reds boss to review last summer's Suarez-replacement list once more. This time he has the whole off-season to produce.
Rodgers, or whoever the most prominent name in this transfer committee thing so happens to be, could do worse than to consider Liverpool's past transfer successes before conducting his summer business. Names such as Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres and Suarez, to name but a few; each one could have been considered a risk at the time of their arrival, whether they were unfashionable (Agger), out of favour (Mascherano) or simply unproven in the Premier League (the rest). Suarez too, was a gamble because of his temperament. Other teams were deterred as a result of those things, but Liverpool pursued and were subsequently rewarded.
If the Reds are to climb back into the top four next season they can't be afraid to take a few risks, though concluding their business quietly and effectively - the way United did with Depay - is paramount. Liverpool shouting their mouths off is likely to get them nowhere and, as history shows, usually ends in disappointment.
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