Liverpool have today announced the signing of England international Joe Cole on a free transfer.
The former Chelsea star was out of contract at Stamford Bridge and therefore free to choose his destination from any offers in front of him, with Tottenham or Arsenal having looked his most likely destination before the World Cup.
Ultimately though it was Liverpool who said the right things and made the right offer, the player signing on a four-year deal – although he does still need to undergo a medical.
Cole is the club’s third new arrival of the summer, joining Jonjo Shelvey and Milan Jovanovic – both of whom signed before the previous manager left but will play their debut season under the new first team coach Roy Hodgson.
28-year-old Cole was a product of the West Ham youth academy, before moving onto Chelsea where he won the league three times along with two FA Cups. He was recently on duty in South Africa with his England and now Liverpool team-mates Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, and also his former Chelsea team-mate Glen Johnson.
Of the four players signed by Liverpool in 2010, Cole is the third one to be signed on a free transfer. There will undoubtedly be a hefty signing-on fee to pay, not to mention a contract that is more lucrative than it might have been had he been signed for a fee from his former club, but in terms of straightforward transfer fees Liverpool’s transfer fund is heavily in profit since the turn of the year.
Of the four players signed this year – Argentine international Maxi Rodriguez, Shelvey, Javanovic and Cole – only Shelvey cost the club a transfer fee, which was £1.7m.
Players sold and released since January 1st include Dossena (£4.7m), Voronin (£1.8m), Mihaylov (£1.5m), San José (£2.6m), Aurélio (Free) and Benayoun (£6m). A deal that sees Emiliano Insua move to Fiorentina for around £5m is expected to be finalised in the next 48 hours, which would see Liverpool’s income from transfers in 2010 reach £21.6m
Overall that leaves Liverpool with a profit on transfer fees of just under £20m in the seven months of the year so far.
The club chose to start talking about transfer spending as being inclusive of signing-on fees, agent fees and player pay-rises (also known as contract renewals) last summer, something fans had not seen done before and something done without making any adjustments to figures for previous years. No doubt they’ll make the same claims this summer without being too specific about the true level of spending.
Although the club insist that transfer fees don’t get spent on paying down debt, it does seems more and more likely that wages are now being paid by the income from player sales. Income from other sources, traditionally used to boost the transfer kitty after other costs had been taken into consideration, now seems to be heading directly to RBS, the bank to which Liverpool (and its parent company) are in a considerable amount of debt.
A report in yesterday’s Sunday Times suggested the transfer budget before sales would be a paltry £3m this summer. But despite the embarrassment of that figure so soon after co-owner Tom Hicks predicted a “big” transfer window there should still be a lot to spend this summer. That £20m transfer-fee profit so far in 2010 should be added to the money recouped for Javier Mascherano who looks almost certain to move for a fee of at least £25m, which added to the generous £3m (presumably the amount left after paying off the old manager and the club of the new manager) should leave a remaining budget of £48m.
Few fans actually expect to see the club spending anywhere near that £48m this summer.
In many ways Liverpool are fortunate that Joe Cole became a free agent this summer, it may well have bene the only way a quality player could be in reach of Liverpool’s RBS-trimmed transfer budget. That kind of quality will by and large be out of Liverpool’s reach until Tom Hicks and George Gillett finally sell their stake in a club they admitted they can’t take any further.
It remains to be seen how Cole will be deployed, but he can certainly play in any of the positions former Red Yossi Benayoun was deployed in before his move to Chelsea last week, a move that netted Liverpool in the region of £6m. Cole certainly represents an improvement on the Israeli international, and with the Premier League’s new quota rules coming into play from this season his “home grown” status is a further bonus. He’s expected to be handed the number seven shirt.
With the imminent departure of Emiliano Insua, in a deal that was put in motion before the appointment of Roy Hodgson, Liverpool now need to look at finding some left-backs. Daniel Agger covered the role towards the end of last season with Insua and Aurelio both injured. Youngster Martin Kelly can play left-back but would be far more suited as cover for right-back Glen Johnson.
What still isn’t clear is how much say in the buying and selling of players the new manager Roy Hodgson actually has. No doubt someone at the club will strive to clarify the way transfers work under the new set-up before too long.