Ahead of today's game between Spurs and Liverpool , a number of the best journalists on the Merseyside beat have broken the details of Liverpool's failed bid for Dele Alli last summer. Alli grew up a Liverpool fan, idolising Steven Gerrard, and was firmly in favour of a move to his boyhood team. Liverpool then contrived to mess up the deal.
The following details on the deal are per Simon Hughes's (author of the excellent Men In White suits) article for The Independent.
During Liverpool's title-challenging season of 2013/14, Alli was invited for a tour of Liverpool's Melwood training complex. Gerrard was not present: he had the day. Transfer negotiations dragged on until November 2014, when a deal was agreed with MK Dons worth around £3 million. (less than Jose Enrique's annual salary). Brendan Rodgers told Sky in January that he thought Liverpool had the deal done.
The deal looked nailed on: his MK Dons boss Karl Robinson is a product of Liverpool's academy and had advised his teenage midfielder to go to Liverpool, Alli wanted to go to Liverpool, and the Liverpool manager wanted Alli at the club. Yet it all fell apart.
With that set to go ahead, Liverpool suddenly decided to haggle the price down by half, and negotiations stalled. Tony Barret of The Times reports that the reason the move broke down was because of Liverpool's refusal to offer personal terms that were commensurate with a first team player, instead they offered terms equivalent with an Academy prospect. The deal broke down, and Spurs recognised Alli's full potential and signed him for just £5 million.
The deal broke down because of Liverpool's utterly bizarre recruitment over the past couple of seasons. Rodgers clearly wanted Alli, but the transfer committee clearly underestimated his potential, a further indictment of their ability to adequately scout a player. It is further evidence of the discord between coach and committee that has left Liverpool languishing in mid-table since selling Luis Suarez. This is not to say that Rodgers possessed an unfailing eye for potential: his first singing was Fabio Borini, and it was he who signed misfit Christian Benteke at the end of a Liverpool career that began with an insistence the club sell Andy Carroll as he did not fit into the squad's style.
Alli has been a revelation in the Spurs midfield this season, and his partnership with Harry Kane has been extremely fruitful: he has created more goals for Tottenham this year than Christian Eriksen. The remarkable speed at which this partnership has been established is further proof of Alli's ability, and he slotted seamlessly into the English midfield against Germany last weekend.
His arrival at Anfield tonight will be a further reminder to Liverpool fans that their club has been consistently held back as a result of institutional chaos for decades. Momentum from a tilt at the 2002 title was lost following a decision to sign El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao over Nicholas Anelka. Coming close to the 2009 title was an example of Rafa Benitez', Xabi Alonso's, Jamie Carragher's, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres' respective abilities to paper over the absurd crack wrought by George Gillet and Tom Hicks, and poor recruitment put paid to a challenge following 2014's anguish.
Things are now looking up, but this evening will bring a pang of regret to Liverpool fans. Two years ago, Liverpool smashed Spurs 4-0 at Anfield in the midst of that bewildering run to the league. Spurs were a mess under Tim Sherwood, packed with average players upon whom they had wasted the money received from Gareth Bale. Now Spurs arrive with a cohesive team aiming for the league, as Jurgen Klopp is forced to make do with the sub-par legacy of the Suarez transfer fund.
There is obvious hope for Liverpool fans in the sense that Tottenham turned it around under a new manager. Liverpool look like doing the same under Jurgen Klopp, but poor recruitment has wasted something more important the club's money: time.
It could have come together a whole lot sooner had it not been a terrible recruitment policy, an institutional incompetence Liverpool fans are about to see personified in Dele Alli.