The 55-year-old spent two years at Anfield where he won the First Division title in 1987/88 and the FA Cup in 1988/89 with the Reds during a difficult period of time in the club’s history.
The former Republic of Ireland international made over 80 appearances for Liverpool and scored 50 goals before moving to Spain to join Real Sociedad in 1989 for £1 million.
Aldridge keeps a keen eye on the club’s affairs and has been a strong advocate of current manager Brendan Rodgers who has overseen the resurgence of the club once considered the most successful club in Europe. Aldridge asserted his belief that Liverpool have bought ‘grade B’ players over the last few years but insisted they can bring in the very best this summer as they edge closer to Champions League qualification and still remain firmly in the race for the Premier League title.
“Liverpool need to build on this successful season by keeping Luis Suarez and bringing in the grade A players. For many years, when we’ve been out of the Champions League, we’ve had to buy grade B players,” he explained.
“We haven’t been able to lure those top players in because you can’t give them Champions League football, which we hopefully will be able to.”
Whilst Liverpool haven’t necessarily brought in huge names at Anfield in recent years, I don’t think the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho could be considered ‘grade B’.
It’s fair that all three came in for less than £25 million with the latter two costing just £20.5 million between them in January 2013 but these players Rodgers has brought in have become ‘grade A’ players under the manager.
The opposite could be said of players who came in at huge cost to the club – Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing cost the club £55 million between them and were sold off for £21.5 million representing more than a 50% loss in just a couple of years.
But, looking at the players the Reds have brought in over the last five years and the money spent on them especially, I don’t think you could accuse Liverpool of having to bring in ‘grade B’ players. There is, of course, truth in Aldridge’s assertion that not being involved in the Champions League has limited the club’s ability to attract world-class players but they’ve only been out of the Champions League for four years.
They have brought in £234.95 million worth of talent in that same period – Suarez, Jose Enrique, Sebastian Coates, Jordan Henderson, Coutinho, Sturridge, Joe Allen, Fabio Borini, Simon Mignolet, and Mamadou Sakho among others. They may consider Charlie Adam, Downing, Carroll and perhaps Raul Merieles to be ‘grade B’ players now but at the time they were more that willing to pay a premium for these players who were considered either rising stars or experienced internationals. They spent £73.5 million on those players and I find it hard to believe they considered them ‘grade B’ at the time.
Meanwhile, it’s perhaps been the ‘grade A’ players that have been sold in that period that has done more damage than the ‘grade B’ players who have come in – Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez, and Dirk Kurt for example, were top players at the time, evidenced by the £98.3 million worth of transfer income from those sales (plus Maxi Rodriguez’ undisclosed fee).
What Aldridge is saying in essence is fair and accurate – Liverpool can, of course, attract world-class players to Anfield with the lure of Champions League football – but I do think it’s a bit of an oversight to say they have been bringing in ‘grade B’ players because of their exclusion from Europe’s top competition.