Richard Hughes' 'opportunistic' comments are not a sign of desperation, they are a sign of smart business

In any other walk of life, being opportunistic would be viewed as a positive. Yet the reaction to Richard Hughes, Liverpool’s latest sporting director, saying the Reds will look to be 'opportunistic' during this summer transfer window has been the complete opposite. 

Hughes, speaking to the press on the first day of pre-season alongside new manager Arne Slot, said: “We need to improve; we need to improve on the training pitch first and foremost, as Arne said. With the window open, we'll always be opportunistic if we can.” 

A lot of people have jumped on this and positioned it as a negative. 

The Reds should know what they need to do and with the window open, they should be doing everything they can to get these done as quickly as possible. 

READ MORE: Fans concerned about Hughes' 'opportunistic' comment

Obviously, this isn’t the opinion of every supporter, but the vocal majority online appear to have decided this opportunistic approach is wrong and it is the key reason why, with pre-season already underway, no new players have arrived at Anfield. 

But when you really look at Liverpool’s business under FSG, how different is this approach to the norm? 

The Reds have always been opportunistic. 

Moneyball means finding undervalued talent

Not because they don’t plan properly but because it ties in with their model. The Moneyball approach is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean Liverpool only want cheap players. The skill is finding undervalued talent. 

The best way to find these players is by reacting to the market. It is the best value-for-money approach. Liverpool will assess the situation and weigh up the pros and cons of such a move before deciding whether there’s a place in the squad. 

It makes the most sense. Why would you want to spend £70 million on a player when you could bring in someone with a similar profile for a fraction of the price purely because they want to leave their current club? 

Luis Diaz of Colombia

Luis Diaz of Colombia celebrates after Colombia scores a goal 0-1 during the friendly game between Spain and Colombia at London Stadium, London, England Richard Callis/SPP PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxBRAxMEX Copyright: xRichardxCallis/SPPx spp-en-RiCa-rmc220324-0916

Another thing to consider here is that reacting to an opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean it is a spur-of-the-moment decision. More often than not, there’s been a lot of work done behind the scenes to get Liverpool into a favourable position to capitalise.

The analysts and scouts will know a contract is up or talks over a renewal are due. They’ll hear about clubs potentially making a move that could free up someone already within their squad, and they’ll talk to the right people to understand what is going on and how they might be able to leverage it. 

Liverpool have, generally speaking, always been opportunistic in the market. 

Liverpool's opportunistic track record

Just look at the deals to bring the likes of Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dominic Solanke,  Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keita, Takumi Minamino, Luis Diaz and Alexis Mac Allister to the club. 

Suarez had disciplinary issues in The Netherlands and it put off other clubs.  So the Reds capitalised to bring him to Anfield with very little competition. Coutinho wasn’t getting an opportunity at Inter and Sturridge wasn’t getting minutes at Chelsea.

Matip was available on a free at the end of the season due to his contract situation so Liverpool got him tied to a deal. Oxlade-Chamberlain was available after entering the final 12 months of his Arsenal contract and Liverpool, even though the general consensus is they overpaid, got the player they wanted. 

Solanke arrived on a free and was sold for a big profit. Shaqiri was available for a knockdown price due to Stoke’s relegation. Keita divides opinion but the club clearly reacted to the situation to get him despite interest from other clubs, structuring a deal that allowed RB Leipzig to keep him for 12 months. They could’ve passed on that and potentially lost him, but they reacted to the opportunity.

Did the gamble pay off? That is subjective.  

Alexis Mac Allister

Alexis Mac Allister

Minamino is another who had a release clause and Liverpool used their relationship with the Red Bull network to get this deal done. Diaz was on the precipice of signing for Spurs before the Reds hijacked the deal, knowing full well what their Premier League rivals had offered Porto.  That one screamed ‘opportunistic’. 

And while the club desperately needed a midfield overhaul last summer, the Mac Allister signing was perhaps the definition of opportunistic. The Reds did the groundwork to discover the required fee to pry him away from Brighton and it allowed them to get their man for £35 million while others spent treble that on inferior players. 

The many,  many examples show that Liverpool do in fact have a plan. They do the groundwork and reacting to market opportunities allows them to bring in value-for-money signings at an extraordinary rate. 

It isn’t desperate business. It is smart business. And that is exactly what helped Liverpool win everything under Jurgen Klopp. 

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