Liverpool have signed some players who have brought a great deal of excitement to fans before they’ve even kicked a ball. But some of them haven’t gone on to have the impact many supporters had hoped, perhaps expected, that they would. I’m going to take a look at some of the players in this category and look to see where it went wrong for them.
“We have signed a world class player.” said manager Gerard Houllier when he completed a free transfer deal with Spanish giants Barcelona to bring the Finland international to Anfield. “It has always been my dream to play for Liverpool.” responded the attacker, whose hero was Kenny Dalglish when growing up. It looked to be a match made in heaven for the player and the club. Litmanen had forged a reputation as one of the most feared number 10s in Europe while at Dutch giants Ajax. His manager at the Amsterdam ArenA left for Barcelona and insisted that his star player followed him there. But things didn’t work out for Litmanen in Spain and he was delighted to be given the opportunity to call it quits at the Camp Nou and get a fresh start on Merseyside. Things started off well for him in early 2001, but he broke his wrist on international duty against England at Anfield and was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign. That saw him sit out all three of the cup finals won by the team and he never really got going again. He reportedly had issues training due to ankle problems, but he did show signs of a good understanding with striker Robbie Fowler when the pair played together. That partnership struggled to get much game time due to the form of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey up top. Litmanen was allowed to return to Ajax in the Summer of 2002 after just eighteen months at Anfield. He scored nine goals in forty-three appearances, which wasn’t the kind of return the fans had hoped for when he arrived. It was a real shame to see such a fantastic player resigned to being a mere footnote in the history of Liverpool Football Club.
The Australian was another boyhood Red and that saw him turn down interest from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and AC Milan to make the move to Anfield in the Summer of 2003. After eight years at Leeds United, where he had become of the best wingers in Europe, he joined Liverpool and took the famous number 7 shirt. Expectations on his shoulders were high and he set about living up to them by scoring his first goal in the Merseyside derby as Liverpool beat Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park. He had a decent, if unspectacular, first campaign as a Liverpool player in the 2003/4 season – and it turned out to be his best at the club. He failed to find the net in his first fourteen outings in the 2004/5 season, which was blighted by injuries. But Rafa Benitez, who took over from Houllier in the Summer of 2004, believed in Kewell and opted to hand him a shock start in the Champions League final in 2005. Many fans were amazed to see the Spaniard prefer to use Kewell instead of being more cautious with Dietmar Hamann in midfield. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off, with Kewell limping off in the first-half as the Reds went 3-0 down. Hamann came on at half-time for right-back Steve Finnan and the rest, as they say, is history. There were even accusations made by some fans that Kewell had faked the injury as he didn’t fancy it. He went on to score the odd goal here and there over the next few years, but he never managed to stay fit enough to hold down a regular spot in the side. His contract expired in the Summer of 2008 and he left to join Galatasaray on a free transfer – a move which did not go down well with Leeds fans.
The Spain international arrived at Anfield in January 2015 and much was expected of him. He had shown his goalscoring prowess at La Liga giants Real Madrid before being loaned to French side Monaco. He was the catalyst for their run to the 2004 Champions League final, which they lost, as he helped to beat Chelsea in the semi finals. He had scored on every debut so far in his career when he prepared to make his first start for the club against Manchester United at Anfield. But that’s where is run ended as he struggled to make much impact in a 1-0 loss. His fortunes picked up the next month, however, as he found the net in a 2-1 win over Charlton Athletic and a 3-1 success against Fulham. He was unfortunately cup tied and could not play a part in the Champions League run, so he was limited to domestic duty in his first six months at the club. He lasted just eighteen months at Anfield before he returned to his homeland to join La Liga side Valencia in the Summer of 2006. He found the net just twelve times during his spell with the club and that was not what supporters had hoped or expected from a player who was known as one of the best goalscorers in the game when he signed. He never hit the heights he had reached prior to his time at Anfield in his three seasons at the Mestalla and his career ended with a quiet season in France with Marseille, where he scored just once.
Cole arrived at Anfield in the Summer of 2010 from Chelsea, where he had won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups. A lot of supporters were delighted with the signing and thought that he could recapture his best form from his days at Stamford Bridge. But his Premier League debut set the tone for his spell at the club when he was sent off after forty-five minutes for a rash challenge on Laurent Koscielny. He then missed a penalty against Trabzonspor before spending the rest of the season in and out of the side. He left for a relatively successful loan season with French club Lille in August 2011 before returning to Anfield in the Summer of 2012 when Brendan Rodgers took over from Kenny Dalglish. Rodgers gave Cole the chance to prove himself, but he rejoined boyhood club West Ham in January 2013 shortly after scoring against them in a 3-2 at Upton Park the month before. Some fans had predicted that Cole would be a flop after seeing his form decline at Chelsea, but he still went down as a big disappointment for the club.
The Italy international arrived at the club in the Summer of 2014 as a replacement for Luis Suarez. Liverpool paid AC Milan £16m to sign the troubled striker and it raised more than a few eyebrows. Manager Brendan Rodgers spoke positively about his new forward and stated his belief that he had turned over a new leaf and would work hard for the team. He was going to be yet another coach let down by Balotelli despite a promising debut in a 3-0 away win over Spurs at White Hart Lane. Balotelli scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win over Ludogorets in the Champions League group stage the following month but caused controversy when he swapped shirts with Real Madrid defender Pepe at half-time in a later game. Controversy was always close at hand for the former Manchester City man and he was fined and suspended for one game after being charged with making racist and anti-Semitic references in December of 2014. Things had picked up for him briefly when he helped to inspire a late League Cup win over Swansea City at Anfield in October, but it wasn’t to prove the catalyst for better things. A late penalty to earn a 1-0 win over Besiktas in the Europea league in February 2015 followed up the winner in a 3-2 win over Spurs at Anfield, his first and only league goal for the club. It meant that he had scored just four goals in twenty-eight appearances for the club – with each coming in a different competition. He was loaned to former club AC Milan in the Summer of 2015 before being allowed to join Nice for free in 2016. He was the antithesis of Luis Suarez, the man he was supposed to replace, and of what Jurgen Klopp wants from a forward. Whether he was a disappointment depends on your expectations when he signed. Personally, I thought he was a nailed on failure the day he joined the club, but I know many fans who genuinely thought he could realise his potential with us.
Arriving from Tottenham in the summer of 2008, Robbie Keane was an expensive buy for the club at £20 million. Big things were expected of him. Keane did have some memorable moments in the red shirt, such as a debut goal in the Champion’s League against PSV Eindhoven and a magnificent strike in a draw against Arsenal. However, he didn’t fit into Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool squad and ended up moving back to Tottenham six months later for £13 million. His Liverpool record stood at five goals in 19 appearances.
The Italian arrived as a replacement for Real Madrid fan favourite Xabi Alonso. Aquilani cost £20 million from Roma in 2009. Undoubtedly talented, he had big shoes to fill and it was hoped that he would prove a worthy successor to Alonso. However, this did not come to come to pass as Aquilani had constant injuries and never quite reached the fitness levels required for the Premier League. Aquilani scored two goals in 28 appearances for the Reds. The midfielder was later allowed to embark on a series of loan spells to try and rebuild his career before eventually joining Fiorentina for £7 million in 2012.
Signed as a replacement for Fernando Torres, Carroll arrived at the same time as Luis Suarez. However, he did not quite hit the same heights as Suarez. He is the most expensive signing on this list having arrived for £35 million from Newcastle in 2011. A big old-fashioned centre-forward, he had his moments in the red shirt, including an incredible performance against Manchester City and scoring the winner in an FA Cup semi-final against Everton. However, the highlights stopped there. Carroll had several fitness problems and couldn’t get a in decent run with the squad. During his time at Liverpool, Carroll scored 11 goals in 58 games. The arrival of Brendan Rodgers in 2012 sealed his exit. Carroll eventually returned to former club West Ham for £15 million where he continues to be plagued by injuries.
Arriving to much fanfare after scoring for Senegal at the 2002 World Cup, Diouf was seen as a brilliant transfer for Liverpool. The player cost £10 million from Lens. Diouf started his Reds career on a high scoring twice on his debut against Southampton but then followed that up with disappointing performances and controversies for the rest of his time at the club. In his defence, Diouf was mostly stationed to the right of midfield which as an attacker wasn’t his best position; however, his on-field behaviour such as spitting at a Celtic fan in a UEFA Cup tie did not particularly help his case. Diouf then went on to attain the unfortunate record of being the only Liverpool number 9 to fail to score a goal for an entire season of 2003/2004. His record for the club is six goals in 80 appearances. He left the club in 2004 for Bolton for an undisclosed fee with many at Liverpool not particularly saddened by his departure.