You don’t have to make the Champions League or win a title every season to be regarded as a big club on a European scale, but missing out on European competition for the second time in three years is a bit much, and this makes keeping Luis Suarez while being able to complete the signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Shakhtar more important that it usually should be.
Shakhtar Donetsk have won the Ukranian championship four years in a row, and are a constant figure in the Champions League, sometimes even making it past the group stage. They have an average attendance of over 41,000, and can compete with most of the European clubs in terms of wages and signing fees.
The current Shakhtar head coach, Lucescu, wasn’t wrong saying Liverpool aren’t the kind of club Mkhitaryan should be aiming for. After all, he’s not going to get paid a whole lot more than what Shakhtar can eventually offer him, and if it’s Champions League football he has his heart set on, staying in the Ukraine provides a much better chance. There’s a good chance that they’re actually a better club than Liverpool altogether.
The Premier League might no longer be the best in Europe, but it has a certain allure, even with less stars in it. Many players around the world grow up dreaming to play for its clubs, and Liverpool are still a name that means something, even if it doesn’t show on the table or in any of the European competitions for the last four years.
Turning into a feeder club is out of the question. When they sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea it made sense – his future seemed bleak with all those injuries he couldn’t avoid, and Chelsea were offering an insane amount of money. The problem was what Liverpool did with that money, first and foremost splashing it on Andy Carroll, turning out to be one huge waste, eventually selling him to West Ham after getting nothing in return.
Mkhitaryan isn’t making things easy, but signing him will mean Liverpool are on their way back up, at least their image is. Brendan Rodgers started cleaning house and setting some sort of new style and attacking scheme for the team, he hopes will start paying dividends this season. Getting a player like Mkhitaryan seems crucial to his plans.
And so is keeping Luis Suarez, the only real world class player left on this squad, which boasted quite a few not too long ago. Suarez wants out, presumably because of the way the English press & media have been treating him. But it may have to do with Liverpool finishing outside the top 4 for four straight seasons, and him witnessing this underachievement for three straight years. At some point, being one of the best strikers in the world has to come with playing for titles and in the Champions League.
Liverpool might not win both battles, but losing them both would be a real hit to morale and the ego of the club, who needs wins off the pitch as much as it needs wins on it.