Split Opinion: Liverpool may be faced with a transfer choice of a marquee addition now or a proper summer shot at Jude Bellingham. Two writers have their say.
Liverpool wasted no time in the January transfer window, moving to acquire Cody Gakpo from PSV. There was much intrigue as he made his debut, and the hope is that he will be a positive influence both for the rest of the season and in years to come.
But the game against Wolves proved the limitations of signing another attacker. Jürgen Klopp has undoubtedly had his struggles in the front line, with Liverpool beset by injuries and his two main forwards plagued by missed big chances, and yet it is the midfield where the problems look chronic.
Sure enough, despite a bright enough start for Gakpo in the FA Cup, Wolves were able to carve through the Liverpool side, scoring twice and very nearly snatching it at the death. That brought with it a fresh wave of speculation about whether there will be more January transfer activity, this time addressing the middle of the park.
But with Liverpool seemingly intent on making a play for Jude Bellingham in the summer, FSG are faced with a conundrum. If they are not intending to go for two elite new midfielders, they must decide whether to stick or twist.
Ultimately, Liverpool clearly need more than one midfield addition. But nor is is unreasonable to suggest that making a big January splash could impact the chances of landing Bellingham. So what are FSG to do? Two of our writers have their say here — let us know who you agree with in the comments below.
Bellingham is worth the wait” – James Martin
The starting point for this debate is simple. Which is better: no midfielder now but Bellingham in the summer, or a good midfielder now but no Bellingham?
Perhaps this very question has given members of the Liverpool transfer department some sleepless nights, but the answer is actually quite simple. Bellingham is 19 years old, and already world class. Whoever signs him will be banking the potential for more than a decade of elite service. Against that backdrop, one more mediocre half-season looks like a more than fair price to pay.
That arithmetic holds true at more or less any club in the world, but Liverpool have extra motivation. The midfield is their big weak point at the minute, and its major problem is that it has been allowed to get too old. It is almost literally crying out for Bellingham, and no substitute available in January would be able to hold a candle to him in the long term.
Unfortunately, the real rules of the transfer market don’t follow this hypothetical, and Liverpool cannot guarantee that they land Jude Bellingham by waiting in January. Throwing that element of a gamble into the mix, it’s a much harder call to make, especially as a finish outside the Champions League places this season could even end up influencing the Borussia Dortmund man’s final destination.
But ultimately, Bellingham is worth the risk. Even if Liverpool do miss out on him in the summer, having waited in January, they will arguably have done the right thing by maximizing their shot at signing him. He’s Klopp’s choice, he’s a generational talent, and he’s as close to a magic fix as it gets. FSG knows that they have to try, and for that they cannot be faulted, even if there is a whole other argument to be made about why the owners actually need to bankroll two midfield moves.
“Liverpool’s midfield needs solutions now” – Ben Bocsak
Bellingham is a fantastic player, but is he really going to want to come to Liverpool if the club is playing in the Europa League? I think the answer here is obvious, and right now that’s the danger Klopp’s side are in.
The midfield is a liability, and it will cost Liverpool points for the rest of the season. Back in the 2020/21 campaign, an Alisson header rescued Liverpool from a similar issue in defence, but should the club be relying on another miracle when the Premier League is even more competitive than it was during that campaign? It’s a risk too big, and a season without Champions League football can be a slippery slope.
Bellingham won’t fix all of Liverpool’s problems either. He is just one very talented midfielder but the Reds still need at least one more considering the amount of potential departures at the end of the season and the overall age of the squad. So the strategy shouldn’t be Bellingham or bust for Liverpool, it should be addressing a very obvious and blatant problem right now in order to avoid turning it into a bigger problem in the future.
To put it metaphorically, if you had a lump on your body, would you wait six months to get it checked out by the doctors or would you make an appointment with a practitioner immediately? Ignorance may be bliss, but in the long run it can have lasting effects. Here’s another one, if you found something rotten in your kitchen, would you clean it up straight away or wait six months, letting the stench and the rot spread and spoil even more?
That’s the current state of Liverpool’s midfield.
And while Bellingham is a talented player, he is somewhat overhyped by the British media. There are plenty of young and competent midfielders out there who are just as well, if not better suited to Liverpool, and who might be available for better value — and, crucially, in January.