The signing of Fabio Borini from Roma is a statement of intent; not so much in price and reputation but moreso in how the new Liverpool will play their football. An agile, versatile, creative forward with great pace and good finishing, capable of popping up out wide, through the middle, dropping into channels or getting in behind defenders, the Italian offers the sort of technical fluency that Rogers has come to love and preach.
So how did our previous ten managers fare with their first signings? We thought we’d have a trip down memory lane…
1) Bill Shankly
Think back to Shanks’ finest signings; Yeats, St John, Toshack, Keegan, Thompson – all household names but the same can’t be said for his first Liverpool purchase, an £8,000 swoop for Scottish winger Sammy Reid. Things didn’t work out for Sammy with an injury-hit first season, and he was soon back up north of the border with Falkirk, but his name will always remain in LFC folklore.
2) Bob Paisley
Few Liverpool managers have made as good a first signing as Paisley did with a certain Phil Neal and, needless to say, none have proved to have been as successful in terms of trophies won. Signed from Northampton Town for £66,000, Neal was Mr Consistency at Anfield and was virtually an ever-present for eight seasons.
3) Joe Fagan
With Hansen and Lawrenson a formidable partnership, centre-half wasn’t an area of particular weakness but with sparse competition and cover, Joe stirred it up with the signing of Gary Gillespie from Coventry for £325,000. He hardly figured in his first season but soon went on to establish himself as a brilliant Liverpool centre-half alongside Jocky with Lawro switched to full-back. Few will forget the hat-trick he scored against Birmingham with Molby relieving his penalty duties to let Gary step up and seal his treble.
4) Kenny Dalglish
Steve McMahon arrived from Aston Villa for £300,000 and proved to be an inspired piece of business from Kenny, helping to fill the void left by Souness. He started his career at Woodison and in his third game for Liverpool, he returned there to notch the winner in a 3-2 triumph. A proper hard-man but with technical ability in abundance, he was a real rarity and scored plenty of goals arriving from midfield.
The first signing of Souness’ ill-fated reign was cultured centre-half Mark Wright who had been hugely impressive in England’s back three at Italia ‘90 but his Liverpool career was tainted with numerous injuries which led to loss of form. Still, the £2.2m signing from Derby had some great moments in a red shirt, particularly skippering the side to FA Cup success in 1992 and had an excellent twilight season in 1995/96 which got him back in the England setup only to miss out on Euro ’96 through injury once again.
6) Roy Evans
Some believe Phil Babb and John Scales to be Roy Evans’ first signings after both were announced together in September 1994 but a few months earlier the acquisition of Danish goalkeeper Michael Stensgaard was in fact Roy’s primary purchase. Bought as understudy to David James, the Dane never got a kick… quite literally, and moved on three years later having never appeared in the Liverpool first team. He was forced to retire some years later after an ironing-board-related injury!
7) Gerard Houllier
For the record, the Evans-Houllier joint managerial era saw Vegard Heggem arrive as their first coalition signing but just months later, Roy was gone and Houllier’s first independent purchase was Jean-Michel Ferri for £1.5m from Istanbulspor. However, the French midfielder appeared for just 50 minutes in a red shirt before leaving for Sochaux the following summer, and is often mentioned when it comes to debates of signings that didn’t quite work out as planned…
8) Rafa Benitez
Little-known Spanish full-back Josemi was the new face in the Rafalution, arriving from Malaga for £2m and the early signs were promising but suspension and injury led to Steve Finnan getting a look-in at right-back and he never looked back. Still, Josemi will always have his name in Liverpool folklore having been on the teamsheet in Istanbul as a substitute.
9) Roy Hodgson
Milan Jovanovic was the first new player through Woy’s door but considering his deal was agreed by Rafa before his departure, we see the free signing of Joe Cole as Hodgson’s first. It’s ironic that Joe’s LFC career might finally be getting underway after a poor first season marred by injury which gave him a lease of life with Lille last season on loan. He’s back, looking sharp in pre-season, and may force his way into Brendan Rogers’ plans.
10) Kenny Dalglish
In Luis Suarez, it’s fitting that Kenny has left in his legacy a gifted, livewire no.7 who gets fans off their seats just like the King did in his heyday. Dalglish’s second stint as manager saw him immediately identify a lack of cutting edge up front and purchased El Pistolero for £22m from Ajax and will continue to be a vital figure in the new Liverpool under Rogers.