Alisson a boost for Liverpool but Premier League title talk is premature
Liverpool's move for Alisson Becker triggered a massive reaction among supporters. This was the clearest indication to them that Liverpool meant business at last, perhaps even enough to end a 28-year league title drought.
That seems presumptuous, though, completely ignoring the reigning champions and their 100 points. And Manchester City haven't stood still either, signing Leicester's Riyad Mahrez. They've sold nobody and can look forward to a full season from Benjamin Mendy this time around. Liverpool already have a fair amount of ground to make up.
The Reds' latest big move will add around £60 million to what was already a significant increase in Jurgen Klopp's spending at the club. It's almost like he's served his apprenticeship. Even his success at Borussia Dortmund and two cup finals for Liverpool in his first eight months weren't enough to prise open each club's coffers.
Having significantly improved Liverpool since the cup final, it's now been deemed time to cut loose and spend whatever it takes so Klopp can make the crucial next step forward. Before Alisson, the ambition might still have been consolidation. It was unlikely they'd get to the Champions League final again but reaching another knockout stage would've been acceptable. Remaining in the top four of the Premier League would have been the priority, assuming Chelsea and Arsenal would make serious attempts to clamber above the Reds.
Without challenging for the title yet, Klopp has moved Liverpool into a similar position to Gerard Houllier in 2002, Rafa Benitez in 2009 and Brendan Rodgers in 2014; runners-up who were spoken of as future title winners. That's why some supporters will hold fire on the supercharged optimism, for now at least.
Liverpool's spending indicates a seismic shift in ambition, but it's wiser to reflect on what they also lost in 2018. As team carried on performing well for the second half of last season, it's almost forgotten they sold Philippe Coutinho in January. As the squad looked tired and depleted by May, his absence was felt more. There were also times Liverpool found themselves deadlocked in matches and looked around in vain for some Brazilian magic from outside the area.
They've also lost Klopp's trusted assistant Zeljko Buvac, and no-one knows how much that will influence the team in the future. Emre Can left for Juventus and there's been sad news about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who's now expected to miss virtually all of the coming season because of injury. Adam Lallana had a poor, injury-ravaged campaign in 2017-18 and it wasn't a given he would return to his previous excellent form under Klopp.
Loris Karius' mistakes against Real Madrid in the Champions League final pretty much demanded a change of goalkeeper anyway. If it hadn't been Alisson, it must surely would be somebody else.
Given all these departures, absences and failures Liverpool couldn't afford to do nothing. Football is unforgiving and you need to keep spending just to remain at par. Progress requires much more.
There is also the theory that their amazing forwards dragged Liverpool beyond their true level last season. A huge 91 goals were scored collectively by Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. It's so rare that people were bound to speculate on whether the Reds could count upon it again. Salah may re-join the ranks of the mortals next season, although that was often predicted throughout his miracle debut year and he was only eventually stopped by Sergio Ramos' wrestling hold.
It's great to see fans bumptious and optimistic, but a calmer more clinical analysis on what's happened in 2018 may avoid disappointment further down the line. Of course, if Liverpool aren't done spending yet and Lyon's Nabil Fekir also came, forget trying to stifle optimism. It would gain express-train momentum by then and probably couldn't be stopped anyway.
Liverpool's ability to keep opponents from scoring was the biggest headache last year. Record fees for a centre-back and goalkeeper are real statements of intent. Is simple expenditure enough? Last season, Klopp needed to affect minor change in game management, where Liverpool were a few goals ahead but still clung desperately to victory before the final whistle -- not always successfully. Meddling with a working formula has its dangers. Klopp may just opt out, claiming superior footballers in positions once considered weak improves matters anyway.
But whether you're preaching caution or telling Liverpool to make more space in their trophy cabinet, you can't deny how exciting the new season looks. The manager has been backed properly and few can complain about lack of spending now. It's not Manchester City levels certainly, but there was never a chance of that happening.
Gradual improvement, the sale of Coutinho and a lucrative Champions League run brought all this about and Klopp deserves this belated acknowledgement of his excellent efforts.
If he does not have another good season, it will come as a major shock. In fact, much more than "good" will be expected.