While Harry Kane’s move to Bayern Munich stole the headlines in the build-up to the start of the 2023-24 Premier League season, there was another major transfer saga rumbling on as big six rivals Chelsea and Liverpool went to battle off the field before their blockbuster clash on the pitch at Stamford Bridge on August 13 ended in another stalemate.
The Blues attempted to outbid the Reds in the race for Southampton’s highly-rated youngster Romeo Lavia, so what did Liverpool do in retaliation? Turned their attention to long-time Chelsea target Moises Caicedo and agreed a British record transfer fee of £110 million for the Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder.
It’s a deal that would have seen Liverpool’s previous club-record fee of £75m for Vigil van Dijk smashed to pieces and also result in Caicedo becoming the most expensive player in Premier League history — surpassing World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez’s move from Benfica to Chelsea for £106.5m in January and topping Declan Rice’s £105m switch to Arsenal earlier this window.
It’s not often in Liverpool’s nature to try and pull off a deal of such magnitude. However, after their turbulent campaign last season and the desperate need for new recruits in midfield, Jurgen Klopp’s side are in danger of being left behind by their rivals in the Premier League betting for a second year in a row and they simply can’t afford to miss out on Champions League football for another season.
The aforementioned Lavia would be the cheaper option, but Liverpool mustn’t have thought he is worth more than the £45m offer they had rejected by the Saints, and if they are going to spend big on a new midfielder to replace Saudi Pro League recruits Fabinho and former club captain Jordan Henderson, they made it clear they would rather fork out the additional budget for Caicedo.
But what is it about the 21-year-old that had Liverpool ready to break their transfer policy and set a new Premier League record fee? Well, if you’ve watched him play for Brighton for the last year and a half, you would know why and if he keeps getting better and better as he has done this far, the £110m the Reds were willing to pay for his services would have proven value for money as he has plenty of years ahead of him.
Caicedo’s Premier League experience also outweighs that of Lavia, with the Ecuadorian featuring 45 times in the top flight for the Seagulls and playing a major role in Brighton finishing in the European football spots for the first time ever last season while Lavia has just 29 Premier League appearances to his name and his sole campaign to date ending in relegation to the Championship.
Having already earned 32 caps for Ecuador, Caicedo is also very experienced at international level despite his tender age. In contrast, Lavia had only made one appearance for Belgium and while Caicedo has two years on the 19-year-old, it’s still a big difference and potentially a defining factor in Liverpool’s decision to switch targets when Southampton ramped the price up too high.
The £52m generated for the aforementioned sales of Henderson and Fabinho also played their part. There’s an argument that Liverpool would have never raked in that much money for the midfield duo had it not been for the rise of the Saudi Pro League, but the Reds have benefited and the finances to even bid for Caicedo wouldn’t have made available by owners Fenway Sports Group without those transfers.
After signing more attacking midfielders in the form of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai earlier this summer, a more defensive-minded midfielder is exactly what Liverpool needs — that was apparent in 1-1 draw with Chelsea — and it made perfect sense for Liverpool to go all in for Caicedo’s signature.
In the end, though, the 21-year-old pulled the plug on a move to Anfield when he told the Brighton bosses that he would rather join Chelsea, and the Blues swept in to secure Caicedo’s services for a mammoth £115m in a bid to make them more favourable in the Premier League betting tips.
Is he worth more than the likes of Rice or Fernandez? Probably not when you consider one has six years of Premier League experience and the other played a vital role in his country winning the World Cup, but that’s just how the English market works in the modern era.