There comes a point in the transfer window, around this time in August as we approach the latter stages, that chaos begins to rein.
Rational thinking flies out of the window as clubs seek to get their business done before the deadline; fees inflate, the rumour mill goes into overdrive and the previously unexpected becomes infinitely possible.
Generally, Liverpool stay clear of the madness. Last year our business was done before we even entered August so we’ve almost become used to quiet ends to the transfer window, to having our squad settled well in advance of the season’s start.
It might make for an unexciting deadline day but I’d happily take not having to worry about being blindsided by one of our best players being poached in the closing stages of the window over any sense of excitement that comes with being in the thick of the fray when it slams shut.
But this year looks like it could be very different to recent years.
I’m not going to get into the potential incomings. Whether you support Liverpool or not, it is blindingly obvious that we are short in certain areas of the squad having fallen short with a couple of our high-profile targets this summer.
Whatever Jurgen Klopp, brilliant as he is, says publicly won’t change that; he clearly feels the same or he would not have prioritised the signings of Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk this summer.
Suggesting that a seemingly back-in-favour Alberto Moreno at left-back and playing James Milner in a midfield role that he has never looked comfortable in at Liverpool is like having two new signings at his disposal is simply papering over the cracks and will do nothing to convince anyone that we are not in need of further incomings.
We have the money, we have the need to do business; there is absolutely no reason why Liverpool shouldn’t be looking to bring in at least a couple of good signings before the end of the month.
Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson and Dominic Solanke all look like great, intelligent recruits; we need more of them if we’re going to challenge on four fronts next season.
But the concern now isn’t simply who we could bring to the club in what remains of August.
If Philippe Coutinho is not a Liverpool player on September 1st, there will be an understandable backlash.
Klopp has gone on record to say that the Brazilian will not be sold this summer, that manager and owners are firmly aligned in their stance that no amount of money will tempt them into parting ways with Liverpool’s current prized asset.
And yet the Barcelona propaganda machine continues unabated. We know their tactics, we’ve seen time and again how they and Real Madrid use the media in Spain as a negotiating tool, feeding them false information to stoke the flames of speculation and unsettle rival clubs and players.
Liverpool have rejected Philippe Coutinho's transfer request, which was sent via email to Sporting Director Michael Edwards earlier today. pic.twitter.com/Sw2T2NvimF
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) August 11, 2017
They’re doing it again, suggesting that there is some willingness at Liverpool to sell Coutinho against Klopp’s wishes, that the player has already agreed terms with Barcelona and has been issued with an ultimatum by them to either make the move happen now or risk missing out on a transfer to Camp Nou altogether.
Liverpool simply have to stand firm in the face of such tactics.
Klopp has gone a long way to doing what he pledged to do when he was unveiled at Anfield as our manager and turned doubters amongst our support into believers.
He’s imposed his infectious personality and style on our club, is building a fast, fluid and enthralling squad and led us to a top four finish in his first full season at the club.
Selling Coutinho now carries the very real risk of undoing much of that excellent work by giving our fanbase a reason to once again doubt the ambitions of our club.
Let’s be clear: Coutinho is not going to end his career at Liverpool. He is going to move on, most likely to Barcelona, though perhaps he could now be tempted to join his good friend Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain, in a mega-money transfer. It will happen.
But it cannot happen this summer.
If it were still June and we had time to pursue and sign genuine top-quality replacements then it might be more slightly more palatable; an argument could be made that selling our best player when we’re on the verge of reclaiming our seat at the top table of European football is inexcusable and should not even be contemplated. But when either Barcelona or Real Madrid want a player, they more often than not get them.
But their former’s pursuit of Coutinho has just come too late in the window for a sale to be in any way justifiable.
We’ve so far failed to sign the two players that Klopp put at the top of his shortlist going into the summer; what would selling our best player accomplish when this transfer window has hardly been a resounding success for Liverpool so far?
We have to stick to the stance that Klopp has gone public with and continue to resist any attempts by Barcelona to lure Coutinho away. It has been reported that the Brazilian would like an amicable exit from Anfield.
Barcelona have been interested in Coutinho for years, that won’t change if they can’t get him this summer.
I have not been a critic of Fenway Sports Group but if Coutinho were to depart for Spain this month, it is difficult to envisage any other outcome than a considerable outcry from supporters against an ownership that has repeatedly pledged that they intend to put Liverpool in the strongest possible position to compete for and win silverware.
To do that, we need to add further quality to our current best players; selling Coutinho would send a very different message about the sum of our ambition as a club.
It’s been a strange summer, veering from one recruitment setback to another. To an extent, the setbacks in our pursuits of Keita and van Dijk have overshadowed the good work we have done in this transfer window and if you were to ask anyone associated with Liverpool, including Klopp, for their honest appraisal of how things have transpired, I think they would all say that they had anticipated a far more straightforward few months than we have seen.
Klopp on Coutinho not for sale stance: "I said it a few times but it wasn't clear. "When FSG say something like this it's 100% clear." pic.twitter.com/nIEuqhSviD
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) August 11, 2017
The current situation with Coutinho has been an unwelcome late development in a window that could still turn out to be a great one for the club. Whether that turns out to be the case is now greatly dependent on whether Coutinho is still a Liverpool player on September 1st.
I’m happy to take Klopp at his word that there is simply no possibility of Coutinho leaving this summer.
For one thing, to sell him now would undermine the manager’s position; having been so effusive in his insistence that our best player will not be going anywhere, I do believe that the owners have a responsibility to back Klopp and refuse to sanction a sale, even if Barcelona exert further pressure on Liverpool through the media.
Given that Coutinho signed a new long-term contract with the club earlier this year, one that does not have a release clause, we hold all of the cards and so, short of the player waging a bitter campaign to force a move through, there is nothing that can or should compel us to sell this summer.
Our focus now has to be on recruitment, on adding at least a couple of quality options to what Klopp already has.
The current swell of publicity and speculation over Coutinho’s future really couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time with the beginning of a new season now upon us and a vitally important Champion’s League qualifier so close at hand.
We’ve already lost Adam Lallana to injury, the last thing we need now are questions hanging over the head of our most important player.
Ideally, Barcelona will sign someone else to replace Neymar in the coming days, perhaps Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele given that he appears to figure highly on their list of targets. That would more or less put the speculation surrounding Coutinho to rest, end this little media furore and allow us to focus on more pressing matters at hand.
Getting back to the business of competitive business will hopefully overshadow the gloomy outlook amongst some of our support at our relative lack of activity in the transfer activity thus far in the window.
Three points on Saturday and victory over in Hoffenheim next Tuesday will go a long way to lifting the mood and it is imperative that we get off to as strong a start to the season as we did last season.
And in the coming weeks, we will hopefully see Klopp seek to improve the squad sufficiently that we will have the quality and strength in depth to maintain that good start so that we are not bemoaning not doing more this summer, as we did last season when injuries took their toll.
Coutinho has to be at the forefront of our efforts to further progress under Klopp this season. His departure this summer simply cannot be allowed and Liverpool have to remain resolute in their stance that, this time, Barcelona will not be getting their way as they usually do.
Failure to do that, capitulating at any point between now and the end of the window, would raise serious doubts amongst even the most ardent of believers.