Liverpool have developed a reputation for making good use of the January transfer window, but they haven’t got things right every single time.
Among the mid-season arrivals at Anfield in the recent past, you have some less-than-illustrious names including Steven Caulker and Paul Jones. However, the brilliance still outweighs the ‘hmm’ signings.
We’ve gone through every transfer window since the system came in place back in 2002-03 and picked out the 11 most impressive buys. Here they are, in ascending order of greatness. New arrival Takumi Minamino will do well if he leaves having made a dent in this list.
11. Robbie Fowler
After a lightbulb moment in a pub, Rafa Benitez opted to bring Fowler back to Anfield in January 2006, and it went pretty well.
In a move which would later be mimicked by Didier Drogba’s second Chelsea stint, fan favourite Fowler joined on a free from Manchester City and immediately had the supporter-base on side.
His initial short-term deal became an 18-month stint, and an overall record of 10 goals in 37 games represented a comparable rate of scoring to his time at City but not, obviously, his first spell at Liverpool.
10. Fernando Morientes
Morientes wasn’t eligible to play in the Champions League after joining from Real Madrid in January 2005, but he still made a solid impact.
We’re not just talking about the 15 domestic appearances which helped ease some of the pressure on Milan Baros and co, though that helped, as did the nine goals in all competitions in his one full season.
More important, though, was his non-playing role in Istanbul, where he played a big part in helping team-mate Neil Mellor join in with the celebrations.
9. Alvaro Arbeloa
Another Spaniard to join mid-season, Arbeloa arrived from Deportivo La Coruna in 2007 and was available for the Reds’ run to that season’s Champions League final.
A reliable defensive option for two full seasons after, the right-back was always likely to be tempted back to Real Madrid when a second chance for success at the Bernabeu presented itself, but it’s hard to fault his output at Anfield.
Just don’t talk about his 2016 return to the Premier League with West Ham.
8. Maxi Rodriguez
There can’t be too many better January bargains than Liverpool’s recruitment of Maxi Rodriguez on a free transfer back in 2010, and it says a lot about the longevity or outright quality of the others on this list that he’s so low down.
The Argentina international joined from Atletico Madrid in Rafa Benitez’s final season, but his best work came during Kenny Dalglish’s time back in charge at Anfield.
The highlight was undoubtedly a run of seven goals in three games towards the end of the 2010-11 season, including hat-tricks against Birmingham City and Fulham, and he ended with 17 for the Reds before moving back to Argentina in 2012.
7. Martin Skrtel
Back in 2008, when Liverpool signed a relatively unheralded 23-year-old centre-back from Zenit, their fans probably weren’t sure what they were letting themselves in four.
Eight years and a handful of goals at either end later, the Anfield faithful found themselves in the unexpected position of being sure they’d miss him when he was gone.
The Slovakian wasn’t always the best defender in the Reds’ team, but there were countless occasions where he was the most important.
6. Daniel Agger
Liverpool will forever wonder what might have been possible if Agger had stayed fit for longer and properly forged a partnership with Skrtel earlier in his tenure.
The Dane played in 25 league games just once in his first five full seasons after joining from Brondby in 2006, with that campaign bringing one of the best goals scored by any defender in English football.
He left in 2014 still having played more than 200 games in a Liverpool shirt, and when he was available he was able to show exactly what encouraged Liverpool to invest in him to begin with.
5. Javier Mascherano
It’s hard to get a feel for just how good Mascherano was at Liverpool unless you saw him in action.
The Argentine joined from West Ham in 2007 while compatriot Carlos Tevez remained in east London for a few more months and played more than 100 times for the Reds in just over three years.
The highlight of Mascherarno’s time at Anfield came in the 2008-09 season, when he combined with Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso in one of Liverpool’s best midfields of the Premier League era as they ran Manchester United close in the title race.
4. Daniel Sturridge
When Sturridge joined from Chelsea in 2013, there was no sign he’d be so prolific in his first full season.
The former Chelsea striker had scored 24 goals in his entire professional career before joining Brendan Rodgers’ squad but matched that in 2013-14 alone after hitting 11 in his first half-season at Liverpool.
An eventual return of just 67 goals almost feels underwhelming given the injury-hit nature of his final Reds seasons, but one goal every 129 minutes in the Premier League isn’t to be sniffed at.
3. Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho would be top of most clubs’ lists, but Liverpool aren’t most clubs.
The Brazilian was instrumental in Liverpool’s rise into the Champions League spots, having joined from Inter for just £8.5million in the same window which saw Sturridge arrive on Merseyside.
If the nine-figure fee from Barcelona wasn’t proof enough of his influence, a look at pretty much every one of his 54 goals from midfield ought to do the trick.
2. Luis Suarez
Sure, Suarez wasn’t around for as long as Coutinho, but we can’t really look past that 2013-14 season.
Not that the Uruguayan’s earlier years were poor, with a 23-goal league campaign for a team which came seventh giving us a glimpse of what we could expect.
That 13-14 campaign, though. He provided a goal or an assist every 69 minutes, ever so nearly dragging Liverpool to that elusive title.
1. Virgil van Dijk
Sure, recency bias might be at play, but would you look at that Premier League table.
Van Dijk has been the missing piece of the puzzle, helping Liverpool reach the Champions League final in his first half-season, a victorious final in his first full one, and – well, come back to us at the end of the current campaign.
At times, it’s hard to think how Liverpool got anything done without the Dutchman, who has helped turn them from a good side into a truly great one.