Having been the surprise appointment (more than a few raised eyebrows by the media) I had some massive shoes to fill. My predecessors, Jurgen Klopp and Roberto Mancini both lasted one season each as both finished in 8th and provided no silverware, you could imagine I am worried that I will only last one season myself at the most.
Sort out the staffing
Given the tat which had been signed in the previous two seasons, my main focus was to massively strengthen the scouting setup. I approached three scouts from West Ham, who I had brought to the Hammers during my tenure and added a further three in the summer, whilst sacking two scouts in the process.
The coaching setup was also restructured with six new faces including Frank Ribery and Anti Niemi to coach technique and goalkeepers respectively.
I was giving myself a goal of getting the squad I wanted within three seasons, but attention to the first team was required. There was a healthy budget of 50m available for me to spend along with part of any money earned from players sales going to bolster that figure. But there were initial complications...
There were two trouble causers in the squad already, both of who were causing ripples about my appointment within days. No surprises this was Mario Balotelli and a Brazillian full back called Dodo, signed by Mancini the previous season. Balotelli no doubt was allowed to stick around because of Mancini who had also bizarrely sold Benteke for 6.5m to Man City the previous season.
These two were moved on quickly, and I wasn't bothered how much I got for them. Balotelli went to Swansea for 13m with Dodo going for 4.4m to Newcastle.
The club was rocked by a request from Emre Can to leave, understandably wanting to play in the Champions League, I was hoping to build a team around him but could get a good price for him and I didn't want a player at the club who wasn't focused on the team. PSG came in quickly, snapping him up for 40m.
Others out of the door
Money was raised by the sales of;
- Lazar Markovic (10m to Palermo)
- Luis Alberto (5.25m to Bournemouth)
- Adam Bogdan (2.5m to Middlesborough)
- Martin Skrtel (1.3m to Real Sociedad)
were the main departures with;
- Kevin Stewart (275k to Wolves)
- Sergi Canos (250k to Frosinone)
a lot of the "promising youth players" being released as they were never going to make the first team, with those that had the potential being loaned out such as;
- Pedro Chirivella to Charlton
- Alan to Flamengo
- Cristo Gonzalez to Eibar (see below)
- Reece Oxford to Celtic (see below)
- Tyler Roberts to Sunderland
- Kyle Hardy to Southend
It was worrying that Kyle Hardy was the only up and coming Scouser in the squad, a squad that lacked a scouse identity since Carragher and Gerrard.
Sorry, not talking about the talent show (for those old enough to remember), Having raised nearly a further 75m, I had over 100m to spend on players. I wasn't going to rush in though just to spend it in a scattergun approach, I was keen to get the right player for the positions that needed strengthening, regardless of the cost.
I had major reservations about the Goalkeeping spot. Mignolet wasn't bad but not a number one. Bogdan as earlier mentioned was sold, so as a minimum I needed someone to challenge Mignolet. A year earlier I got Geronimo Rulli on a free from Real Sociedad, he was a cracking keeper and wanted to leave West Ham after their relegation. 22m was the price to tease him away from West Ham, a lot of money for a keeper, but he was a model professional, controlled his box well and rather influential.
My next two purchases were with the future in mind. I returned to West Ham to pick up Reece Oxford, a potential star Centre Back in the making and at 10.75m for an 18-year-old could be seemed as a risk, he wasn't quite ready for our first team so he went on loan to Celtic for the season. Cristo Gonzalez was the other hot prospect arrival, coming in from Real Sociedad for 2m, able to play anywhere up front or on the wing, Eibar took him on a season-long loan to play in their first team.
I rolled back the clock with the next signing, needing steel and winner in that defensive midfield role, I signed Javier Mascherano for 1.5m back from Barcelona, my plan to sit him front of the back four and kick anything that came his way.
Finally some firepower was required. Sturridge, whilst a quality player was already injured when I joined, Ings was in and out with injuries as well so that left me with Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino. I didn't see either as a striker and planned to use them wide in a front three along with Coutinho and Lallana (when they didn't play centre mid), so I was very surprised and delighted that Real Madrid didn't want Alvaro Morata and even more so that he agreed to join us. 41m was the fee, but worth every penny I thought.
77m spent and 77m raised meant I had barely spent any of my transfer budget, I was happy to retain this for anything required in January