Pitchside Europe

Moneyball or Risky Business? Liverpool flops in the Henry era

Pitchside Europe

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John W Henry (Reuters)

John W Henry (Reuters)

After some wasteful spending at the end of the Rafa Benitez era and the start of Roy Hodgson's brief regime, Liverpool fans might have been expecting some smarter investment when John W. Henry's Fenway Sports Group took control of the club in October 2010.

Henry crops up as a character in Michael Lewis's already seminal 2003 book 'Moneyball' which profiled Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland As baseball team. Beane mastered the art of finding undervalued players in the market by analysing oft-overlooked statistical trends and patterns.

When Henry bought the Boston Red Sox in 2002, he wanted to implement a similar approach and even offered Beane the GM job at the Red Sox, only to be turned down.

Unperturbed, Henry stuffed his front office with "numbers guys" and the team went on to win their first World Series in 86 years in 2004. They repeated the trick in 2007.

Similar patterns are emerging at Anfield. This summer Liverpool have targeted young players with high potential sell-on value and the club also confirmed that all signings from now on will be decided by committee and not solely by manager Brendan Rodgers.

All teams and managers have hits and misses in the transfer market, but implementing such a policy at Liverpool seemed more necessary than most because even in Henry's Moneyball era, there have been some spectacular flops. This was highlighted again this week when Stewart Downing was sold to West Ham for a reported fee of £5m just two years after the club spent £20m on him from Aston Villa.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing - but here are the signings in Henry era (mostly brought in by Kenny Dalglish) that you suspect the club wish had never happened:

Andy Carroll – Bought from Newcastle for £35m in January 2011, sold to West Ham this summer for £15m

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Carroll's signing was anything but Moneyball. Bought in a panicked rush on transfer deadline day after the sale of Fernando Torres, he would go on to score just six Premier League goals for Liverpool in 44 appearances. Foul-mouthed quotes from then Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias were later leaked which summed up the whole deal:

"He's worth f*** all. It is about control. We had the control. We knew the Torres deal was there…So £30m? F*** off! Don’t waste my time - and I slammed the phone down. £35m? Everybody including Pardew all agreed. We got it all up front and then they never paid us on time and we charged them 12 grand f****** interest."

Stewart Downing – Bought from Aston Villa in June 2011 for £20m, sold to West Ham this summer for £5m

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It was not that long ago that Tottenham were rumoured to be set to bid £15m and Gareth Bale for Stewart Downing. Obviously that looks ridiculous now, but West Ham have every right to think they've got a bargain in Downing – a man who's played 34 times for England and is still only 29. However, seven goals and 11 assists from Downing's 79 games at the Anfield club is a paltry amount considering the fee they paid.

Jordan Henderson – Bought from Sunderland in June 2011 for £16m (could rise to £20m), still at club

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Henderson is still only 23 and could become a good Liverpool player - but he has never really been anything more than a squad player in his two seasons at the club. He is certainly not the £16m superstar Liverpool thought they had unearthed.

Joe Allen – Bought from Swansea City in August 2012 for £15m, still at club

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Very similar signing to Henderson, they are both 23 and likely to challenge each other for the one spot in the team. Allen is another serviceable, unspectacular player bought at an overinflated price.

Fabio Borini – Bought from Roma in July 2012 for £10.5m, still at club

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Borini struggled with injuries in his first season at Anfield, but the signs were not good even before he got hurt as he netted just once. Rodgers worked with both Allen and Borini at Swansea and they now seem like 'safety net' signings the manager brought in when he arrived. Their limited impact is probably one of the key reasons why Rodgers no longer calls all the shots and it is transfers-by-committee at Anfield.

Charlie Adam – Bought from Blackpool for £6.75m in July 2011, sold to Stoke for £4m in August 2012

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Adam shone as a big fish in a little pond at Blackpool. Despite then becoming a regular at Anfield, he always looked just a little off the pace in a Liverpool shirt. A Dalglish signing who clearly did not figure in Rodgers's plans, he was swiftly moved on to Stoke after little over a year at Anfield.

Sebastian Coates – Bought from Nacional for £7m in August 2011, still at club

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The young Uruguayan defender arrived at Anfield with a big reputation. The Independent declared that: "For a fee of less than half the price of Phil Jones, the Merseysiders have bagged themselves twice the player." However, while Jones has won a title with United and become a key player for England, Coates has failed to convince at Liverpool and there has been talk he could be moved on this summer.

Oussama Assaidi – Bought from Heerenveen for £2.4m in August 2012, still at the club

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When Rodgers signed Assaidi last summer he said he was a player that "would excite the fans". Well, the fans have not really got to know him too much as he has made only four substitute appearances in the league and a few cup starts. Not a bank-breaking signing, but at 24 it is hard to see him as one for the future either. Has been linked with a loan move to QPR.

Alexander Doni – Signed on a free transfer from Roma in July 2011, released in January 2013

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It seems strange that a free transfer back-up goalkeeper should be on this list, but Doni was on a reported wage of £85,000-a-week during his Liverpool career. If those figures are to be believed, that means he pocketed over £6.6m while at Anfield. He played just four times.

Nuri Sahin – Signed on one-year loan deal from Real Madrid in August 2012, loan terminated in January 2013

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Nuri Sahin, Liverpool (Reuters)

Nuri Sahin, Liverpool (Reuters)

Liverpool were fighting with Arsenal for the former Dortmund star, then at Real Madrid, last summer. They managed to clinch a deal for the Turkish international because they were willing to pay a larger chunk of his reported £115,000-a-week wages and a £1.6m loan fee. He made just 12 appearances with Liverpool, though, and seemed to struggle with the pace of the English game. He's now back with Dortmund on loan.

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